Day 13 – Fox to Wanaka via the Haast Pass

Today we planned to head from Fox to Wanaka, a 3.5hr drive along the coast and through the Haast Pass (so called because it was discovered by a German explorer called Julius von Haast in 1863). Julius seems to have been a modest fellow as he only named a glacier and a town after himself as well as some bridges, a beach etc. Later, having discovered Franz Josef glacier and berating himself for already naming the much smaller Haast Glacier after himself, he did the next best thing and named it after the Austrian Emperor of the time, Franz Joseph I, I’m guessing he did well out of that!

According to the map there’s not much between Fox and Haast township, so we were merrily driving along not expecting to stop, when I spotted a little turn off to Ship Creek. At this point we were about 1.5hrs into the drive and so we were ready for a little stretch of the legs.
Wow, this place was stunning. We spent an hour on the beach, Laura studying the pebbles whilst I took a load of photos and got a bit wet when a wave crept up on me. If this place isn’t on the map as a ‘sightseeing’ opportunity then how many other stunning places have we missed?
The beach was littered with drift wood and so in my mind, I captioned it as the “place where trees come to die”.

Reluctantly moving on, we entered the Haast Pass and whilst I had been told that it was a “nice, scenic drive”, nothing could have prepared me for this!
Turn after turn, revealed stunning landscape after stunning landscape and I just had to keep pulling over any place I could or risk driving off the road. I was awestruck at the beauty.

Clearing the pass we reached Makarora, a smudge of buildings on an otherwise untouched landscape, that consisted of a cafe, motel and a couple of houses, oh and a helicopter in a field. The cafe was offering some less than appealing canteen style food, it doesn’t exactly have any competition, so we opted for a cheese scone and the usual order of coffee for Lau and Hot chocolate for me and a seat by the log fire. I sat staring at the fire and trying to process what we’d just witnessed, but before long I was back in the driving seat for the final leg into Wanaka.

What I’ve come to realise is that in New Zealand, just when you think you’ve seen something incredible that couldn’t be beaten, you turn a corner and it starts again! We turned a corner and we saw Lake Wanaka on our right hand side……then a few kilometres down the road, Lake Hawea revealed itself on the left hand side….that was it for me. My brain was shutting down, my senses bombarded from every angle, I guess this is what it’s like to be awestruck.

Arriving in Wanaka some 6-6.5hrs after leaving Fox on what was supposed to be a 3.5hr drive, I felt completely drained and emotional.

We wandered along the shoreline of Lake Wanaka into town as the sun set, and we realised we were both ravenous so we bumbled into a bar for dinner, also just in time for Happy Hour in Alivate restaurant and bar. Some very nice craft beers and some ribs helped!

Wandering back to the van, the temperature was noticeably dropping – I think we maybe about to experience what the weather should be like this time of year!


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