Once again on the road. Change of scenery. Sheer rock walls covered in ochre-colored lichen. Waterfalls. Swift-moving rapids. Clouds clinging to Mt Aspiring mountain range (I’m navigator, I have a detailed map on my lap), a rainbow stretched across the valley floor. It’s raining somewhere. Oh wait it’s now raining on us. A forest of beech trees goes by. It stops raining. Periodically the road brings us close to the Makarora River, then the Haast River. We’re engulfed in heavy mist and cool air as we approach Haast Junction close to the West Coast on SH6.
Time to stop for a snack (it’s a long drive, remember?). We grab something neither of us can remember at Makarora Cafe and push on to Fox Glacier. We’ve picked up a flyer for a helicopter ride over Fox or Franz Joseph Glacier thinking it would be a fabulous experience. Now it’s really raining. We stop at the town of Fox Glacier for lunch at Cafe Neve. No one is flying because of the weather. Drat. We drive up to Lake Matheson because I’d heard it’s the most photographed Lake in NZ and we walk out to the jetty but it’s raining pretty hard and I only get a couple shots. We keep going, heading for Hokitika. One last minute stop at Bushman’s Center Cafe (yes it’s one of those Cafes, the character part of cafe). Wouldn’t you stop to try one of Pete’s Possum Pies? Unfortunately the kitchen was closed and Jim missed his opportunity.
We arrived at Birdsong hostel just North of Hokitika late in the day in pouring rain. Great location across the street from the Tasman Sea – or so we thought. We got out of the car to check in and whew! what’s that smell? Too polite to comment we checked in but the smell was really strong. According to the NZ Herald on Dec. 28: “stinking sewage ponds at the northern entrance to town… locals, say it is the worst they can remember… high waste loading from some local industries and a previous pipe blockage had affected the oxygen levels in the ponds…as they warmed, the bottom layer mixed with other layers and produced both gases and solids on the surface of the ponds.” And we thought Pinot Lodge was our worst hostel. So it’s raining sheep and cattle outside, it’s dark, there’s no fridge space for our food, this hostel is packed with families and small children who have just spent all day inside celebrating a birthday with lots of cake AND there are only two toilets, both in the same room with the two showers. The wind is blowing from the North and we have two windows facing North and West. Need I say more?
We left at first light the next morning.