Road Tripping Through the Haast Pass
West Coast, you’ve been more than amazing! You’ve been wild. You’ve been untamed! From the Oparara Arches of the Kahurangi National Park and presenting our own radio show in Karamea to getting on top and within the glaciers and jet boating into a World Heritage Area. We even have our very own bone pendants and jade pendants carved by your’s truly to commemorate our time here. Our West Coast road trip comes to an end today, but we are pretty stoked for the journey ahead. Next stop, the Otago region. More specifically, Wanaka.
New Zealand being just too beautiful again
Why do we keep getting so surprised by New Zealand? We find ourselves ducking our heads down for a better view of the mountains standing high and mighty above us. The beginning of the journey mostly follows alongside the clearest of rivers with a hint of blue – glacial melt water. Over yonder, there are mountains as far as the eye can see. We are well and truly nestled in the Southern Alps.
Believe us, we stop the van whenever we can to stand outside and take in the incredible views. We don’t think we’ll ever get bored of this.
Despite taking a few unscheduled stops thanks to New Zealand’s annoying beauty, we do have a couple of places we want to stop at: Thunder Creek Falls and the Blue Pools of Haast.
Thunder Creek Falls
Thunder Creek Falls is halfway through the Haast Pass Road, with plenty of room for parking (always a bonus)! We don’t expect to be here long with only a 2-minute walk down to the waterfall.
As we are filming a video series for next year, Robin whips out the action cam and gimble (camera-steadying device) to film our quick walk through the mountainous rainforest. We emerge at the lookout across the way from a long thin waterfall tumbling into the clear and bluish water below. After taking a few daft photos of us pretending to swallow the waterfall, we walk down to the river bed for a closer look.
The river is full of rocks and boulders of all sorts of colours, lines and patterns.
Robin is p*ssed!
“I’m going to that one over there,” Robin points to a large boulder connected with stepping stones.
After he’s done his filming, he takes a different stepping stone route to get back, thinking: “Hum, this stepping stone looks a bit unstable…” He tests it with too much pressure and tumbles into the water, gimbal and action cam floating away. He grabs it quickly, despite getting absolutely drenched… He… is… p*ssed!
One of those days…
Operation dry the expensive camera gear in the campervan begins. After that, there’s not much we can do than head back on the road and hope for the best.
Robin is still raging but then anxiety creeps in when he realises we might not have enough fuel to get to the pass. What is happening?! It’s seriously one of those days!
An uncomfortable ride to the gas station
We pass the Blue Pools, too afraid to stop, and finally make it to the nearest gas station in Makarora. We can unclench, we can breathe again, we can sigh with relief…
Luckily for dumb and dumber here, we are not too far away from the Blue Pools, so off we go back up the road. We will see this pristine blue water, Goddammit!
Two swingbridges… TWO!
The Blue Pools of Haast are only a 30-minutes (more like 15-minute) walk from the car park. It’s an easy track through the forest a lot more different than the dense and lush rainforest we’ve been experiencing lately on the West Coast. The tree are more sparce with much taller and wider trees. Honestly, it feels like we are steadily moving into a different country throughout the day.
A huge appeal to many New Zealand walks are swingbridges. We don’t know why, but they just somehow look good. This walk simply blows our minds because there are TWO SWINGBRIDGES. Oh my Gawwdd!
The Blue Pools of Haast
The first one passes the shallow clear and blue waters below, a hint of the blueness we are about to feast our eyes on. Then a boardwalk continues on the forest to the big one: the main swingbridge of the Blue Pools. Oh yes, that IS blue water!
We had a misconception that the Blue Pools of Haast would look exactly like Hokitika Gorge. How wrong we are! Unlike the opaque milky blue waters in Hokitika Gorge, the Haast Blue Pools are a dark yet transparent blue. We can see all the way to the bottom of the river, even in the deepest sections. The Blue Pools run from a rock-filled river, creating rapids on the way down to this steep and deep section before the water gets back to being shallow.
Checking out that clear blue water!
Buzzing at the Blue Pools
It’s the school holidays in New Zealand and Australia so the Blue Pools are buzzing with families, especially by a pebble-filled riverbank under the swingbridge. Children are trying to put every single pebble back into the river as they profusely throw them in, while “expert” skimmers show off their skills. The artistic types have left pebble towers for everyone to marvel at.
After a wander about, we have no time to lose. Onwards to Wanaka!
Driving into a different country
Once again, the scenery dramatically changes when we get over the pass and alongside Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea – both huge lakes where the road swaps between the two all the way to Wanaka.
Of course, we stop for photos when we can, but, Jeez! It is so warm! Now that we have got over the mountains and away from the coast, the heat is just accumulating here. Yes, we definitely feel like we’re in a different country.
Welcome to Wanaka
That is further emphasised when we arrive in Wanaka and a lot of people are in their’s T-shirts and shorts… Have we finally left the chill of winter? Is that what’s happening here?!
We join the people sitting outside of the lakeside bars, such as Kai Whakapai, for a taste of a local beer and to mingle with the locals. It’s an easygoing vibe we are happy to get used to for the next six days we’re staying in this Central Otago town.
The Wanaka fun officially begins tomorrow with a ferrata climbing session! Join us then!
Ending the day with a beer in the sun!
Ending the day with a beer in the sun!
Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
Ending the day with a beer in the sun! Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
Really? After the gimble incident? Ok, then! Check out these articles for more gap year inspiration!
- 9 West Coast Must-Dos
- Mt Aspiring National Park – Guide for Backpackers
- Natural Wonders of New Zealand
Until tomorrow’s post, check us out on HerePin for more travel tips and recommendations. Of course, we’re on Facebook. Why would you ask that? Plus, we’re on Instagram. #BackpackerGuideNZ to be featured!
See you tomorrow!