Rivers, Creeks, Waterfalls and Lakes From Haast to Wanaka
Haast Pass Highway is claimed by many to be the most scenic route on the South Island.
HAAST TO WANAKA, NEW ZEALAND
We turned inland at Haast Village and drove Highway 6 clipping the corner of Mount Aspiring National Park; tonight’s destination … Wanaka.
In her youth, Sherrie and her family loved to camp. Her father would take pictures with their Brownie camera and later with a 33mm movie camera. Once the films were developed the family would tease her father, Les, saying they were good, but that the majority of the pictures were of rivers, creeks, waterfalls and lakes … and, occasionally, family members standing in front, and slightly to one side, of these scenic beauties.
Today, Sherrie’s father would be proud of her; it was a day of rivers, creeks, waterfalls and lakes.
The road initially paralleled the Haast River and our first stop was to take a look at Roaring Billy Falls. A short walk through the temperate rainforest brought us to the late summer near-dry riverbed of the Haast River. If you are one who enjoys ‘skipping rocks’ you’ll appreciate the endless selection of ‘skippers’ on offer here.
On to Pleasant Flat with views of Mount Hooker and a short pleasant walk beside a stream.
After a few more miles Thunder Creek Falls, with its impressive 92 foot drop, greeted us.
The Haast Pass Highway is considered by many to be the most scenic route on the South Island. Most of the suggested sights are a short easy walk from a parking area. Just getting from Haast to Wanaka is in itself a beautiful drive.
At our next stop some made-by-man scenery. Fanning out along the river bottom below Fantail Falls were stacks of river rocks … not the work of Mother Nature but carefully and artistically assembled by those who came to see the falls and have some fun. It was a sight we have witnessed in many parts of the world. We watched others, both young and old, construct their piles of stone and joined them.
New arrivals asked Sherrie if it was a religious custom.
“No,” she responded, “just people having fun. Join in!” And they did.
Blue Pools drew us to a halt. We walked down a forest path but when the trail came to a swing bridge over a gorge Sherrie stopped in her tracks. Sherrie ‘doesn’t do’ suspension bridges. Terry took the camera, went across the bridge and took a picture of Sherrie from the other side.
Most of the walking trails, rest stops and viewpoints are well signed and taking time to read them added a depth of history and understanding to our New Zealand experiences.
Today’s picnic was beside a lake. Here we learned about “Makarora Jack”. His real name was John Hendry Lange and he lived on the land where we now lunched. Jack maintained this road for 21 years, using a wheelbarrow, pick and shovel. He was responsible for a 25km section between Makarora Station and The Neck and moved about by bike from his base; a Ministry of Works and Development hut (at the lake). In 1968 he retired and was allowed to live on this piece of land keeping animals for company – a few sheep, turkeys and hens, a cat and dog. Over time three workers’ huts were joined together to expand his living quarters into a small cottage.
After passing the town of Makarora Highway 6 changes from being called ‘Haast Pass Highway’ to ‘Makarora Lake – Hawea Road’. We had a keener appreciation for the road Jack cared for as we drove alongside Lake Wanaka and through ‘The Neck’ (a short half-mile mountain pass with a view of different lakes on either side. Fascinating to have two such beautiful lakes set in a landscape near devoid of green foliage.
Driving the Cardrona Valley we saw another sight somewhat similar to the Haast River’s ‘monuments’ of stones. This time artistic expression hung on a fence … no particular fence … just a section of sheep fence. Bras. Yep, bras. White, black, red, pink, small, large, lacey and plain bras – cross my heart. Bras hanging, by one end of the back clasp, like tinsel on a bra-zarre Christmas tree. It apparently started in 1999 when sometime between Christmas and New Year’s four bras first appeared on the fence; and so it began.
Following the shore of Lake Hawea we stopped at in the town of Hawea for a single-scoop ice cream cone and lucked out when a big fellow, probably not the owner and possibly new to the ice cream cone business, made us whoppers. In fact, he was pressing the (hard) ice cream into Terry’s cone with such determination, he broke the cone.
Wanaka was our stop for the night. Wanaka is a resort town neighboring Mount Aspiring National Park with its glaciers, beech forests and alpine lakes. A ski resort by winter and popular in summer for wilderness fun and water sports on New Zealand’s fourth largest lake, Lake Wanaka.
Aside from all the natural and physical fun options in and around Wanaka there is a baffling attraction which will give your brain and your funny-bone a workout.
SIGHTSEEING IN WANAKA
WANAKA INFORMATION CENTER
Visit Wanaka’s website and discover all there is to do any day of the year; for any age and interest. This site is an accredited member of New Zealand’s official Visitor Information Network (i-SITE) endorsed by Tourism New Zealand; they can assist you with accommodations, local activities and transport.
It’s a Puzzling World and this place will mess with your head no matter your age. Be fascinated and baffled by the world of illusion. You may well come away with a new perspective on reality and definitely with a smile. Remember the public toilets before you leave.
Address: 188 Wanaka-Luggate Hwy (Hwy 84), Wanaka
Phone +64 03 433 7489