The southernmost pass over the alps is the Haast Pass, quickly crossing in between the mountains following the Haast river. It is fascinating how different the weather can be on the two sides of the Island: as we started off, the mountains where barely visible behind thick rainclouds. After maybe 20 minutes of driving, the sky was crisp and blue and sunshine greeted us on the westcoast.
As we learned, it often is the other way round, with the West Coast getting all the rain. We were lucky and the clouds got stuck in the east this time.
The whole West Coast is quite remote with only a few settlements along the only highway there. We took the way south first, a beautiful road through the unique West Coast forest to Jackson Bay. There you can find some nice bush walks and a funny Fish& Chips restaurant located in an old caravan.
Heading north to Glacier country are plenty of amazing lookouts over the ocean. Beautiful, yes – but don't linger too long! Getting out of the car for lunch on one of these spots we discovered the West Coast's curse: Sandflies.
They are bad everywhere else, but on the West Coast they are literally everywhere. No matter where you go, you are always surrounded by them. Even being covered completely in insect repellent these little bastards tore us apart. They made it quite a challenge to enjoy nature and we hurried ahead more than anything. Even so, driving along the coast was really cool and we enjoyed the views of yet another completely different landscape. New Zealand is always good for a new discovery, be it a tree you have never seen before, or an interesting bird flying by, or just the amazing shape of the coast and land.
This time of the year, the Glaciers are tame, small and quiet, more grey than white and retreated far into the mountains. They (or rather the good lookouts) are accessible by short and easy walks. We have only been to the smaller one – Fox Glacier. The landscape surrounding it is beautiful, changing from deep, wet bush to vertical cliffs and rough mountain terrain. The walk is about half an hour long from the carpark and offers a great perspective at the masses of ice. The sun carves small streaks and holes into the massive block of ice and shrinks it continuously. On the way there we saw some small pieces floating in the river. Again we imagined how awesome this must look like in winter – when snow covers everything around it and the broken off pieces are huge and show their crystal blue hearts.
Near Fox village is Lake Matheson, also known as the “Mirror Lake”. When we did the (really nice) walk around it, it was too windy to show us a mirrored image of the mountains. Still, the weather was beautiful and even with rippling waters, the lake made for a good view.