Sunday, October 20, 2013

NZ - Hokatika to Queenstown

When I plan these trips, I do so months in advance, sometimes six months or so. Usually things turn out fine but occasionally a wrench is thrown into the gears and we have to adjust. We had planned to drive on route 6 from Hokatika to Queenstown via the Haast Pass. This is already a long drive at almost 500 km. Before I went to bed I checked the forecast and road conditions for the Haast Pass and the prognosis was not good. The road was already closed between 6pm and 8am every day because of rock falls and the forecast called for 1 or 2 inches of rain the next day. I was searching for a backup plan.

The next morning, we checked the NZ Highways web site for the state of the road and it was closed and the next update would be at 11 am. We went to plan B which took us over the mountains east of Greymouth through the Arthur's Pass and then south through the inland centre of the South Island. This route would be close to 700 kilometers.

There was no other option. We had booked and paid for three nights accommodation in Queenstown and who knew when the Haast Pass would open.

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It was not raining when we set off about 8:15 am but the clouds were very low.

As we drove up to the pass it started to rain and taking photos became difficult since the camera would focus on the drops on the windscreen. Marianne took lots of photos but not too many turned out which was a pity since this drive is incredible.

Water pouring off the roof over the road. Already I was really pleased that we were driving this route. 

Another of these one lane bridges across rivers that are former glaciers.

Mountains everywhere.

We were stopped for a while at a place where there had been a rock fall. The bloke operating the stop / go sign was constantly dodging small rocks that were rolling down the mountain side.

This truck had a revolving brush that it used to sweep away the small rocks that had fallen onto the road.

We were now driving south along the eastern side of the alps. It was magnificent driving whooshing along these easy yet empty roads.

The mountains are always there. The day we flew into Christchurch there had been very strong winds and there were numerous trees knocked over.

Tall hedges to protect the crops from the strong cold winds that descend from the snow covered mountains.

The water in the lakes has the most curious light blue colour. It's almost iridescent and quite startling.

As we drove further south the vegetation became more sparse on the hill sides. It is so cold here that few indigenous species of tree can survive.

This lake is probably a dam and not natural. The water is predominantly used for hydro electricity though some is used for irrigation.

Eventually after about nine hours we reached our motel in Queenstown and this was the view.

It was a long day's drive but one of the best I have ever done in my life. The scenery was interesting all the way and the actual driving experience was incredible. No doubt the drive through the Haast Pass would have been great as well but I felt no sense of disappointment.

Of course I needed a nap when we reached the motel.

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