Thursday, January 12, 2012

Haast pass and Lake Wanaka

Franz Josef marked the end of our planned itinerary, in the sense that bookings had been arranged in advance. We were now wandering, and could stop wherever whimsy took us.  Subject to finding accommodation, of course.  We are traveling in a campervan, which increases our flexibility, but since our van is not equipped with a WC, we have to stay at campgrounds. 
Naturally, this made me a bit nervous, as I am more of a planner than Dan and I have an inclination to want to book things in advance. I had agreed to the more carefree itinerary, in part out of an attraction to being free of plans and itinerary, but also because I was so darn busy wrapping things up before our holiday.  But being free of planned accomodation was making me a little anxious, and thus, I was kind of on a mission to motor onto the Wanaka area, so that we might optomize our chances of getting into a campground.  

We drove down the west coast, then turned inland at the gorgeous town of Haast.  This was in the most striking setting:  huge huge flat floodplains abutting giant pointy mountains, one after the other.  It was really glorious, and we were traveling on a gloriously sunny day, somewhat unusual for a region that measures its rain in the meters, not inches.  I feel some regret at not stopping at Haast, but instead we drove on up into the  mountains of Haast pass.
We did stop at a few roadside hike/view attractions, like the above waterfall. 

After passing a few campgrounds, we pulled into a completely empty national park (DOC) campground.  So much for my worries about booking ahead. It was right on the lake with striking views (above is sunrise the next day).  

There was a trail directly across the road from the campsite and we climbed into the hills, admiring the expansive views over the lake.
We also did a ride back towards the pass, to stop at the blue pools attraction which I'd previously blown by in my hurry to get to the campground.  The blue pools are a series of kind of swimming holes on the blue river, and they were very intensely blue apparently due to the clarity of the water and depth of the pools.  You can see one of the pools in the photo above, kind of.

I turned around and rode home at this point, while Dan continued to the pass and back.  There was a super stiff headwind, but I just plodded along and it was really no problem at all. I was pleased to log my longest ride since I hurt my knee!

The next day, we drove into the town of Wanaka and immediately secured a campsite in a nice, low-key campground directly on the lake about 6k out of town.  Above is the photo from our campsite that I shot this am.  There is an unpaved trail connecting the campground to the town and we had a blast riding into town. While it was mostly highly rideable on a road bike, there were some deeper sand bits that provided a bit of a challenge. We've decided to stay here a couple of days and take in some hiking and riding before moving onto the te anau area.
I am feeling a bit more relaxed about our prospects in terms of finding campgrounds and the like, and a bit sheepish about all of my anxiety in this regard (poor Dan bearing the brunt of it). Also, a bit puzzled about the dire warnings on the travel forums about the necessity of advance bookings during the New Zealand summer tourist season! We will see how we do at Te Anau, which is also a major destination


Corner Gardener Sue said...

What an adventure you are having! I think it would be fun to take off without knowing for sure where I'd end up, but would also like to make sure there would be room for me once I got there, so I can identify with your dilemma. I love your photos, especially the waterfall.

Thanks for replying to my question about Gelfoam. Mine is all dissolved now, and the new skin on the finger is fine as long as I don't bump it.

NadiaMac said...

Thanks for the comment! We are almost at the end of the trip and haven't had a bit of trouble getting into campgrounds, even relatively late in the day!