Over the Haast Pass today. The weather's turned beautiful again, blue skies and light winds. Cycling up the valley in the early morning through the forrest and meadows was very pleasant. I actually missed the pass completely. I thought there was 800ft still to go. But then I noticed the river was flowing "uphill", and suddenly there was a steep downhill for several miles. Apparently the top was lower than I thought, but since it was in the trees, it's easy to miss, and there probably weren't any views from there. The climb was easy, anyway, just one fairly long, steep bit.
|Haast Valley||Rainforest, Hapuka Estuary||Okuru River||Sunset, Okuru Beach|
The other side of the pass descended through lush rainforest with ferns, moss covered trees, waterfalls, and dripping cliff gardens. The Haast River valley soon broadened out, to give views of the mountains and river behind. The road was well behaved and descended gently without many ups.
It was about 50 miles to the next civilization, a place called Haast which is a few cafes and motels and one shop scattered over a few km. I'm staying about 5 miles further on (in the wrong direction actually) at the Okuru Beach Homestay.
Okuru Beach is a cluster of about 30 houses at the mouth of the Okuru River. The ride there is on a flat coastal plain with the mountains rising maybe 5 miles off to the left. The B&B is also a craft store (Marianne's side of things) and the house has all sorts of additions like a nice sunny front porch (Derek is a builder). It has a nice feel to it.
A couple of miles past the B&B is the Hapuka Estuary nature walk. This is a walk going from the estuary mud flats into the rain forest with interpretive signs describing the different types of vegetation. Also the fish. The local delicacy is "whitebait". These are tiny fish, about 1- 2 inches long that are served in an omelette. They are caught when they swarm up or down the river (I've forgotten which) in breeding season. According to Derek, catching them is a great sport. This is done in large nets cantilevered into the river on 20ft long structures. He said people pay $10000 for a patch with one of these structures and the fishing license. It wasn't clear to me if this was profitable or just "fun".
The rain forest reminds me of Costa Rica - the same profusion of vegetation in layer upon layer up to the tree tops - although it is temperate rather than tropical. One of the interpretive signs actually pointed out the analogies of the different trees between the two types of rain forests. No monkeys here though.
There was a lovely red sunset.