Mon 24 Nov: It was raining lightly when we set off towards Haast Pass. We stopped to look at some waterfalls, then stopped at Davis Flats for a walk up a Bridle path. The path goes all the way up to Haast Pass, but we were only going to go part of the way. It was a nice track alongside the river, heading gradually upwards. Quite muddy in places, but fairly easy walking. Eventually we crossed the river and headed up through some woods, before finally turning round and heading back the way we came. It was a lovely walk and the high point of the day.
Back in the car and the rain picked up a bit and by the time we reached Haast Pass itself, it was bucketing down. As we drove down the other side the engine started to smell, so we pulled off just after a bridge and left it to cool down, while we went for a look at the river, which was cascading down a narrow gorge.
Back in the car we carried on heading towards Haast, when we had the chance to be heroes. Well, perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration, but it sounds good. We had slowed down significantly because of the torrential rain, but not everyone had been quite so cautious. We came around a bend to find someone flagging us down, and with a huge truck on one side of the road we didn’t have a lot of choice but to stop. In the ditch on the left hand side up to its wheel arches in mud/water was an 18 seat tour bus towing a trailer carrying bikes. The large truck was there to pull it out, which looked as though it was going to be a bit tricky. Our part in the proceedings wasn’t as dramatic – we got to ferry 2 of the stranded passengers into Haast. It turned out that they were part of a group of around 12 Germans who were doing a cycling tour of New Zealand. Given how hilly it was, we were impressed, although they did say that they’d take the bus up the hills, and cycle down them. We dropped them off at a hotel in Haast, and stopped there for lunch, hoping the rain would clear.
By the time we left it was still pelting down, but the Germans’ driver had turned up. They had managed to get his bus out of the ditch, and it only seemed to have minor damage to the front. I think they’d abandoned their plans for the rest of the day because as we left they were getting stuck into large quantities of alcohol and all having a good laugh about their experience. That was in stark contrast to what our 2 passengers had been saying about the driver while they were in our car.
We headed north. The rain did ease up a bit, but had been so heavy the roads were running with water and visibility wasn’t great. Finally we made it to Fox Glacier, and headed into town to find somewhere to stay. Then we checked with Fox Glacier Guiding, with whom we had arranged to do a full day glacier hike the following day. They weren’t very optimistic that it would be going but told us to check back in the morning.
We tried driving down to Lake Matheson, which has spectacular views of Mounts Cook and Tasman on a clear day. This wasn’t a clear day, and the road had so much water on it, that we turned round and opted for an early dinner and a beer in our backpackers instead. We had expected the West Coast to be wet. And it is!