After loading up in the morning we drove across the Southern Alps via the Haast Pass to Westland. We then drove along the coast with occasional interruptions as we crossed glacial moraines.


Lake Hawea

Because of the protected status of Lake Wanaka, the highway travels up Lake Hawea, which parallels Wanaka for a number of miles. The highway then crosses west  to continue to the Haast Pass.

This view is looking east across Hawea.


Access to Haast Pass

The Makarora River feeds Lake Wanaka from the southern side of Haast Pass.

A gold prospector called Charles Cameron is believed to be the first European to find the pass. He crossed over in January 1863, burying his powder flask to the west of the pass. Close behind him came Julius von Haast, who named the pass after himself and claimed to be the first European to have travelled through it, however the discovery of Cameron's flask discredited this claim.


Thunder Creek Falls

As we traveled over Haast Pass, Chas told us the story of the road connecting Wanaka and the West Coast. It was completed in the 1960s. As a young teenager he had helped out during holidays on the road construction. The road wasn't fully paved until the 1990s!

On the northern/western side of the pass we stopped to view Thunder Creek Falls, also known as the Ninety Foot Falls. It was a great opportunity to get off the bus, stretch our legs, and get our bearings after the twisty mountain roads.

Jim & I usually sit towards the middle of the bus, but on these curvy roads I got up early for a front seat!


Haast Visitors' Center

As we neared the coast, we stopped at the Haast Visitors' Center. The Center had exhibits on early exploration and settlement.

It was surrounded by this wetland.


Painted Gull

A very odd sight at the Visitors' Center was this juvenile gull who had run afoul of some kind of paint or dye. At first we thought it was blood, but the bird didn't seem harmed in any way -- just discolored.

Nevertheless it was an unnerving sight.


Ship Creek

After leaving the Visitors' Center, our next stop was Ship Creek where there is a protected podocarp forest.

The forest is located in a swampy area, but the Department of Conservation has built a boardwalk to allow access to the interior. Fittingly for a swampy area on the western side of the mountains, it was raining. That did not dampen our enthusiasm for seeing this wonderful forest preserve.

The large tree here is a kahikatea, New Zealand's tallest tree with a lineage that dates back to the Jurassic era.

These trees produce massive amounts of fruit, which supports numerous birds.


Tree Stump

A number of trees in the forest had died and fallen. Chas said that the insect damage seen here would have occurred after the death of the tree. It did not kill it.

The tree was brought down in a controlled fashion to minimize damage to the preserve's infrastructure.


Fallen tree

The tree has already begun to deteriorate and return the nutrients to the forest.

Although there were plenty of birds singing in the woods, I didn't get any pictures of any. One that we watched for a while was a New Zealand Tomtit.


Grove

This "clearing" in the swampy preserve allows enough light for a great variety of undergrowth.

The forest looks Jurassic, doesn't it?


Butter boxes

The kahikatea was widely harvested to construct containers like these.

The wood was not useful for construction, but it had a unique characteristic: it had no resin and no odor. It was used to make shipping containers for the butter and cheese that New Zealand exported to the rest of the world. Even though the butter made a long journey in a refrigerated ship these goods would not pick up any off-flavors from the wood.

Once the product was unpacked at its destination the wood was discarded.


Filmy fern

Thin translucent ferns are found throughout rain forests such as this. Called filmy ferns, sometimes they are only one cell thick.


Kidney Fern

Kidney Fern is so called because of its shape. The raindrops on the far side of the fern can be clearly seen.


Filmy fern

Another kind of delicate fern.


Orchids

A variety of epiphytes, including orchids, grow in the trees. The orchid is probably Raupeka.


Chas

At the end of our forest walk is a short path to the Tasman Sea.

Chas may look as if he is pensively gazing into the sea, but he is really searching to see if there are dolphins to point out to us.

There were some far offshore, but I never could get a picture of them.


Sealers' IslandThe island seen far away at the right of the picture has an interesting story. Four sealers were left there by a ship, which planned to return for them a few months later. The sealers were to kill as many fur seals as they could and preserve the skins.

Unfortunately the ship sank with all hands. It took four years before the sealers were found -- quite by accident. The majority of the preserved skins survived as well as the men.

At one point they managed to build a boat and come to the mainland, but there was less there for them than on their island, so they returned.


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