Collyer House to Queenstown (Otago)
This was a day of travel (and we both had mild colds), but which showed how much contrast New Zealand has to offer. We woke up to more traditional West Coast weather (otherwise known as rain), and then enjoyed the excellent breakfast hospitality of Collyer House (see previous post). Our route took us over the Haast Pass (this is the lowest of the three passes across the Southern Alps) from West Coast into Otago. The other horror of the morning (other than the rain), was being attacked by sand flies whilst trying to get the pictures! The white rental car was clearly very attractive to them, and we ended up covered in the things, despite heavy use of repellent! Fortunately, they can only fly very slowly (you can walk faster than they fly), so a bit a rapid movement spared us the worst.
The West Coast side of the Haast Pass predominantly runs through Beech forest, and at the watershed (the boundary between West Coast and Otago), the scenery (and weather in this case) change dramatically. The forest stops, and scrubby moorland predominates. This is a result of the southern Alps providing a barrier to rainfall on the landward side.
Otago gets about 1/10th of the rainfall of the West Coast, and can’t support the large numbers of trees. As well as breaking away from the forest for the first time since Arthur’s Pass, we broke out into sunshine, which was accompanied by a fierce wind. The road winds along the side of Lake Wanaka, and then crosses a lower watershed to Lake Hawea. Both lakes are really stunning blues, and very large (when compared to lakes in the UK!). I think what really surprised me was the amount of driftwood on shores on these lakes, testament to the climate and also to the lack of man’s influence on the area. See also this photo on my other blog.
Having enjoyed our drive past the lakes and stopped for a bite to eat in Wanaka township, we took a shortcut along New Zealand’s highest paved road, the Crown range road, which reaches a height of 1076m.
Us being us (well, me mainly) parked at the view point there, and despite the slightly threatening cloud-scape and our colds, decided to make the ascent (by foot) of the 1485m Rock Peak. This has a radar station on top of it for controllers of the aeroplanes approaching Queenstown airport. Not somewhere I’d care to land (look closely at the picture, and you’ll see the 737 on approach).
After returning to the hire car, it was a winding drive down to Queenstown, which was certainly the biggest and most bustling place we’d seen for a few days. We would have three days here to recover from the non-stop changes of location, and to explore the local area (and do some laundry). More of that in the next instalment.