Fox glacier to Haast was about a 2 hour drive. I had to give up trying to drive after about an hour as my hangover was getting worse and my head was pounding! So I retreated to the passenger seat to feel sorry for myself! The rain was so horrendous all morning so we had to drive with even more caution. All the fields and the sides of the roads were flooding, with some parts flooding the whole road. There were newly formed waterfalls down the sides of hills and one even blasting into the road! It was pretty crazy for us! I'm sure it was just normal for them here though! We stopped in Haast and went to the iSite to see if we could find out anymore about Mt. Aspiring National Park, which we didn't, but we did find out more about walks and places to stop along the Haast pass highway to Wanaka.
The road from Haast followed the Haast river, which was in serious full flow! We first stopped at Roaring Billy Falls on the route, which was really roaring with the river flowing so fast with the flooding! The rain still wasn't stopping and the path to the waterfall had seriously flooded. We had to wade through water up to our shins and at one point over a bridge, that was well under water, it was up near my knees! The next stop along the highway was Thunder falls, which we could see over the Haast river. The highway then went up over the Gates of Haast, with a sheer gorge and huge boulders, which was the most difficult part of the Haast highway to build.
Haast pass was next, which is 563m above sea level and the lowest crossing over the Southern Alps. The road then followed the Makaroa river. We lastly stopped at the Blue Pools, where we had to cross a very long swing bridge over the river to get to them, which was awful!! Because of the flooding, the blue pools- in a cove at the side of the river- which are suppose to be a very bright blue colour with water so clear it looks like the fish are suspended, were now brown and muddy! So we never saw the beautiful blue pools, just a very fast flowing ferocious river and some brown pools! We had planned on staying in a $6 each a night DOC campsite at Cameron flat just opposite the blue pools but as we still had time we decided to keep going towards Wanaka to a free campsite.
We came to the shores of Lake Wanaka with mountains surrounding us everywhere from Mt. Aspiring National Park. It had brightened up and stopped raining and the views were just amazing! We drove past the camp spot twice as it was down a little steep gravel hill towards the edge of the lake. The camp spot was called Lake Wanaka free campsite, which is exactly what it was. It was right next door to a DOC campsite but the bylaw here in this area is that you can park on any council land out of the towns, unless specified- as long as you are self contained. We were the only people at the spot all night. It was just a large gravel parking area right at the edge of Lake Wanaka, at the very top of the lake. It was such a beautiful spot with the alps surrounding us in every direction! Wow, just wow!
We are still loving every second in the van and half of the time have to shake ourselves to remind us what we are doing and that it is real! The sights we are seeing are just out of this world. I never want them to stop! We are still loving cooking and having our own freedom, though we miss city life sometimes! We pretty much do all our cooking in the van- we have cereal for breakfast, sometimes a cooked breakfast, we make salad or pasta or cous cous or potatoes with tuna for lunch. Nath sometimes makes his speciality of omelette for lunch too. We have all our fruit to snack on, cereal bars, crackers. We get lots of veg for every meal for dinner and then get different meats. We have made all sorts since we have been in the van. I usually do the dinners. We have had curries, pasta dishes, stir fry, steaks, burgers, sausages and gravy, lamb, pork, fish- we are never short of a good meal! I think we eat better than we bother to cook at home!
On the 27th we woke to a lovely day with the sun out and had a beautiful drive down to Wanaka through the mountains by Lake Wanaka and then Lake Hawea. We say this a lot, but some of the best sights we have seen! We rang and cancelled our glacier trip and they told us that they were out today as the weather forecast had been wrong and they had a lovely morning- not the worst day like it was predicated. We decided that it would be best to go from Christchurch though instead of driving back up when it may not be on at all and then we have no choice but to wait around until it is.
We spent most of the day in Stuart Lanhborough's Puzzling World, which was a lot of mind boggling fun! It was an attraction dedicated to puzzles. There was a massive outdoor maze where you could try to complete one of two mazes- we went for the hardest of finding all four corner towers but in the order of yellow, green, blue, red- it was suppose to take between 60 and 90 minutes. We ended up finding every corner but the yellow one first so once we found the yellow, we had to then find the others again in the right order. It was sooo confusing!! I think I would have given up with frustration if it wasn't for Nath! It was an achievement once we completed it though and it was a good laugh going round in circles not having a clue! We completed it in 60 minutes as well so not bad! At the park there was also a cafe room that had hundreds of different puzzles in to try and complete. I think I completed one! The toilets were even done out as an attraction- one roman toilets and the other as though the floor was disappearing. There were then 5 different rooms of illusions. The tilted room was by far the funniest. I haven't laughed and cried that much in ages! We both went dizzy and were very confused but it was just hilarious! Things were going up that you thought should be coming down. We didn't have a clue what was going on!
After Puzzling World we went into Wanaka town and had a walk around. The town overlooked Lake Wanaka with the alps in the background. It was beautiful! Wanaka clearly doesn't get given enough credit. We weren't expecting this at all! Mt. Aspiring and some other of the surrounding alps had a little snow on, which was lovely. It really was a lovely little town with the lake and mountains, and as autumn was coming to an end all the leaves were bright orange and red. I had never seen trees look so beautiful and full of colourful leaves! It looked like we were driving through a scene in a film!
We stayed overnight at Diamond Lake car park. There were a few other vans there too, most not self contained, which wasn't allowed! The non self contained people really annoy me! If this trip has reinforced one thing for me, that's respect, and most of these people don't have it! That's why they stop all the free camping and take things away, because people disrespect the rules, which is a shame for everyone else. It was just a car park to stay in overnight but it was right next to the track for the Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain which we are doing tomorrow and it was right next to Mt. Aspiring National Park, with stunning views. We were literally surrounded with mountains from every angle! A beautiful place to stay! It started raining again later on but hopefully it will be okay for us to go walking tomorrow or the waterproofs will be out!
We had a lovely surprise when we woke up on the 28th, snow capped mountains surrounding us! The rain had turned to snow at about 800-1000m so all the big mountains were topped with snow which was amazing!! We were both so excited like little kids! We did a walk around Diamond Lake and up Rocky Mountain (775m) for the day which was great. At the top we got fantastic views of the alps, including Mt. Aspiring, views of Lake Wanaka and of Diamond Lake on the way up. We spent about an hour at the top just in awe of what were surrounded by. The Himalayas and Tongariro are probably my best sights in my life and this one just got added to the list! We were 360 surrounded by beautiful mountains, most of them snow capped, even in the distance all you could see for miles and miles were mountains! A day I will never forget! One of the best things was there was only me and Nath up there so it was so peaceful! Apart from Wanaka, there were no towns or houses for that matter in sight. The area was just so unbuilt, it was lovely and unspoilt!
After the lovely walk it was still only lunch time as we had set off for the walk at 8am. We had another walk in town and then set off for Arrowtown via the Crown Range Road. Wanaka, it's been more than a pleasure!
Just before we left Wanaka we got an email from STA saying that they had flight change dates for us. There weren't any flights that wouldn't cost us with our flight changer until June but there were three flights, 22nd, 26th and 28th that would only cost us £32 for both of us to change to. We decided we would go for the 26th, which would be 11 days more than we originally booked in the van. We would just need to pay for the flight and then pay to extend the van at £25 a day. Exciting times! We can't get enough of NZ!