After leaving Wanaka 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.


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.


kahikatea Trees

After leaving the Visitors' Center, our next stop was at Ship Creek where there is a protected area of 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.


Grove

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

The forest looks Jurassic, doesn't it?


Kidney Fern

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


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.


Lake Matheson

The stunning views are predicated on two things:

Clear skies. It was not to be today. The mountain peaks were shrouded in cloud.

No wind. Although the lake is sheltered from the prevailing breezes, today the wind was from a different direction and ruffled the surface of the lake.

So the view was merely lovely instead of stunning. Ah well. It was an invigorating hike anyway and there were other sights.


Glacial Valley

As we walked past the young forest that had grown up since the 18th century, when the glacier was at its maximum extent in modern times, we reached the valley of the Waiho.

The scale can be estimated by the tiny figures of hikers on the trail at lower right.

The river can on occasion cover the entire graveled bed.


Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

This is the closest we got to the main glacier. The meltwater river can be seen pouring out from underneath the ice.

This is the bitter end of a glacier. Those who were thinking of white snow fields and blue cravasses were disappointed.

There are helicopter rides that take passengers onto the upper glacier, weather permitting. The following day a group of German tourists staying at our hotel was on tenterhooks awaiting clearance for their helicopter flight. They got the green light eventually.


The way out

Now that we've achieved our objective, it's a long walk out of this valley. Plenty of opportunity to ponder the intersection of barrenness and inexhaustible life as lichens, mosses, and plants recolonize the rocks.


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