It started raining some time early in the morning. Now, several hours later having driven through the Haast Pass to the West Coast township of Haast, it seemed to be getting harder. I parked by the Haast Bridge, ate lunch in the car and went for a walk beside the river before starting the drive back to Makarora. On the way, I stopped at Thunder Creek Falls.
The falls are an impressive 28 metres high and the recent heavy rain had left the river level high and the falls heavy with water. By the time I reached the viewing platform for the falls, the rain had gotten harder, heavier, was coming in sideways and for some reason I had only brought an fairly ineffective umbrella.
As I once again followed the Haast River along State Highway 6 (the Haast Pass-Makarora Road), it was at a place called Greenstone Creek that I decided that the rain wasn’t going to stop anytime soon. By the time I got to a place called Harris and Glitterburn Creek I noticed the rain seemed to be getting harder and at Roy’s Creek the river levels seemed a lot higher than earlier. Still, I pressed on back to Makarora, past waterfalls that had names such as Depot, Roaring Billy, Thunder, Diana and Fantail before the steep ascent through the top of the Haast Pass. It was then that the rain turned to snow. Not more than three hours earlier the same road had been covered in nothing more than rain. Now, it was covered in snow, thick mountain snow with large snowflakes that were settling quickly on the ground. Just before the summit of the pass I reached several vans that had stopped and at the summit itself, under the trees a gathering of vans and four-wheels drives were celebrating the winter snowfall with a liquid afternoon tea. Not being able to resist, I stopped for a bit and enjoyed the thick, new fallen snow that covered the pass. It almost seemed impossible to believe that this was the same place I’d driven through, earlier in the day. Late in the afternoon as I arrived back in Makarora the valley was surrounded with snow while beyond the mountains the sun was starting to set. It was all rather pretty.
In the morning it was raining and a light dusting of snow covered the surrounding mountains. The rain had started sometime overnight and it had been pretty hard ever since. After shuffling around my room and sorting myself for the day, I loaded my car and set off for the small West Coast town of Haast. A drive that was around 80 kilometres and would take me over the Haast Pass, a mountain pass in the Southern Alps of the South Island.
The journey to Haast took me just over an hour and it rained all the way. In fact, the closer to the West Coast I got, the harder it rained. By the time I reached the hustle and bustle of Haast, the rain was torrential. I ate lunch in the car by the bridge and contemplated why people might want to live in Haast. With the rain showing no sign of stopping and Haast having very little hustle and no bustle, I headed back to Makarora.
I drove on to Makarora, a place I hadn’t been to in over thirty years. In my early teens, as a family we had taken a holiday up the West Coast of the South Island and we’d stopped in places like Makarora and Haast. I vaguely recall staying in Haast, yet try as I might I couldn’t for the life of me remember visiting Makarora.
As I headed along Stage Highway 6 the sight of Lake Wanaka gave way to the braided Makarora River which starts life in the Southern Alps Mountain Range and flows into the head of Lake Wanaka. Before long I was passing farmland that had been saturated with recent rain and surrounded by peaks that formed part of the Southern Alps, arriving in the tiny settlement of Makarora West and Wonderland. This was going to be my base for the next few days, however upon arrival and after carefully studying a sign in the reception window I discovered that I was a tad early with check-in not available for several hours.
With a bit of time to spare, I pointed the car in the direction of the famous Blue Pools in the Mount Aspiring National Park and set off with the comforting thought that it was a sunny day and I could take my time. I had read that what makes the Blue Pools so striking is the deep, clear water that flows from the Makarora River. Tucked among mature beech and podocarp forest, it is listed as one of the Department of Conservations best short walks in New Zealand. So, you can imagine my disappointment when I arrived at the car park for the Blue Pools only to find a large sign saying the two swing bridges that lead to the Blue Pools were closed due to the bridges having reached the end of their life. It also went on to advise that while the track was open, access to the Blue Pools wasn’t possible. Not wanting to waste a good bush walk, the best I could figure was that a walk through the forest would still be nice and rivers are always pleasant to watch, so I happily set off following the track into the bush. For the next 20 minutes I ambled, I strolled and wandered, listening to the birds, eventually reaching the river and the first swing bridge which was in fact closed and impassable.
I had a look around the river bank for a while, the river was swift and a lovely turquoise colour which hinted at what the Blue Pools must be like. A sign on the bridge warned people not to attempt to cross the river. Clearly the Blue Pools would have to wait for another day. I found my way back to my car and headed back to Makarora and Wonderland.
… from a Small City. My daily musings from Ōtepoti to get you inspired. Read the blog, view the photos, embrace the creativity.
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