152km 1738 m elevation
The Haast region is so spectacular it has been awarded the status of being a "World Heritage" area. I whole heartedly agree with this decision, it is truely breathtaking. Haast village lies near the mouth of the Haast river, and my morning was spent tracing this river back to its source near Haast Pass. As I rounded one corner the mountain tops beside me reared up, looking both strangely close and impossibly massive.
The Haast river valley starts quite wide, following a gentle incline up to Pleasant Flat. Some friends from the U.S.A. visited here who had some previous visitors warn them that ‘in NZ there is a photo opportunity around every corner’. What they didn't tell them was how many corners there are!
I made quite slow progress to the Haast River Bridge due to multiple photos, a decent snack stop and a fairly brisk headwind. Although this part is still along SH6 the trucks have disappeared, and buses don’t seem to be in so much of a hurry.
At the Bridge there are huge boulders in the river bed, and the valley narrows in sharply. From there it is a 10km climb to the pass, and is where the incline suddenly increases so I was in granny gear for the next three km. If that gradient had continued it would have been a fairly solid day at the office but at Fantail Falls it levels off, and the scenery was enough to distract me from most of the discomfort. The pain is in places you might not expect, the legs feel fatigue for sure but for me it’s being in the one position for climbing that makes my butt sore and back ache.
The Haast pass is called Tioripatea which means ‘the way is clear’. The descent down the other side to Makarora was good fun, but the headwinds continued all the way to Lake Hawea township. Some of the hills following the road along Wanaka and Hawea lakesides were a good challenge for tired legs, but I’d refuelled the tank in Wonderland at Makarora so made it to Lake Hawea where I inhaled a cookie time and trumpet. Carb craving is a thing.
The Hawea river track was just gorgeous, the perfect antidote to SH 6, taking me through to Albert town where I was met by my friend Kathryn, who guided me back to their place where her partner Steve had dinner underway.
She knows me well and has stocked up on a huge variety of gluten free treats. With a satisfied tummy and full heart, I stumbled off to bed, ready for a bonus day off in one of the most beautiful parts of the country.
Means "The way is clear"
Lake Hawea, from "The Neck"