Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Haast, NZ: The West Coast Hustle

Lingering on the West Coast seemed to us like living on borrowed time.  Rain was inevitable, just like the rising of the sun and moon each day. When the rain finally eased in Fox Glacier, and the forecast was for a couple of fine days, we saw it as an opportunity to finish off this side of the island.

We crossed rivers swollen from the recent rainstorms.  The peaks shyly appeared as the clouds moved about.

We started our cycling day in a strong drizzle that evolved into something resembling rain. But soon it ended, the clouds parted, and blue skies and a favorable wind greeted us when we emerged from the forested inland to the coastline.

Strong storms have piled driftwood on the sand at Bruce Bay.

We were both "on" this day -- and early start, a slight downhill, and wind in our favor had us at 60 kilometers by lunchtime. And the prospect of smoked salmon may also had some influence. Out here, in this stretch of 100 kilometers between services, is a salmon farm, where wonderful things with pink fish are made. And there was a cafe, and we celebrated my birthday eve with a lunch of great density. Ordinarily, high-fat foods are verboten for me. But when asked what to have on my smoked salmon panini, avocado and cheese were chosen to feed that deep hunger that distance cycling brings on.

Ponds at South Westland Salmon Farm near Lake Paringa.
Full bellies and a couple cups of strong New Zealand brewed coffee pushed us over our normal, comfortable 80 kilometer day. A series of steep, curving roads to get over the coastal headlands didn't even seem to slow us down.

View from Knight's Point lookout.  There were no roads to this coastline when it was settled in the 19th century, and cattle were brought in by boat and had to swim ashore, not far from this location.

The final stretch into Haast -- flat road and deep forest on the edge of the coast.
We pulled into the village of Haast by 6:00 pm, 125 kilometers from where we started that day.  A personal record for both of us for distance with fully loaded panniers. 

But the challenge was not over, since it was another day of cycling to get over Haast Pass to get off the Westland side to the rain shadow of the Otago side.  Not a far distance, but a 564 meter ascent from near sea level. No rest for the weary, or for a girl on her birthday.

The day was brilliant from the start -- blue skies, gentle breezes.  And the road was a moderate grade with gentle curves as it headed towards the pass.  A three kilometer stretch of thigh-busting road after the Gates of Haast made me long to be in my forties again, like I was just the day before.  But all good things come to those who persevere, and it was a thrill to reach the pass and the mid-century mark on the same day.

The Haast River meandering its way to the sea.

Spectacular waterfalls still flowed from the recent rains.,

The canyon narrows and the peaks get higher as we work our way towards Haast Pass.

The Gates of Haast, the gorge where the Haast River flows down the steepest gradient along its path. 

The birthday girl chugging up the grade.

The Haast River, almost a creek near its headwaters.

Happy Birthday!
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Monica said...

Happy Birthday to you!

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