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Trip over New Year 2008/2009
Dunedin – Haast – Karamea – Arthur's Pass – Dunedin
Day 1

This time we managed to start earlier and we did not take the Mercedes van; we took the Fiat. First the Fiat is higher, so we did not have to bend our backs when we prepared our beds, like we had to in the Mercedes. And second there is more space so that there is beside the mattress space for 2 boxes filled with food, a camping cooker, a pot, some plates and cutlery, dish towel etc. (after our experience with the Mercedes and NZ camping areas we took with us a bit more.........)

This time the journey went to Wanaka, where we refilled and then drove pass Alberttown towards Lake Hawea.

From Lake Hawea it is only 1000 m to Lake Wanaka, that's the one where the town Wanaka is loacated at the end. The lake are a bit special; the surface of Lake Hawea is 48 m higher above sea level than the surface of Lake Wanaka. The reason is that Lake Hawea is dammed at the end. And something else, the ground of Lake Wanaka is 50 m below sea level.
I have no photo from Lake Wanaka, only one where John is looking devotional at a memorial tablet at that place where you reach Lake Wanaka coming from Lake Hawea. After a short rest we went on towards Haast, first along the lake and then slowly into the mountains. The Haast Pass is in comparison to other passes not very high, "only" 562 m, but the country side is nice to look at, most of all the "Gate to Haast". The area and the river are named after Julius von Haast, an Austrian Geologist who explored and mapped the New Zealand Alp’s and the West Coast on behalf of the governor from Canterbury (the neighbours in the north of Otago)

The River Haast under the bridge "The Gate to Haast". There was already less water coming down the mountain in December but when I came here 5 - 6 weeks later with my Mum and Thekla (my friend) the water was just only running slowly between the rocks, not that "wild" as here.
From the bridge onwards it is only going downhill. And then, big surprise - right out of the mountains there is only flat land no hilly country like at the Otago side. Just end of the mountains and flat land.
Haast itself is not really a town or even village; it is more a region with some scattered farms and a few Motels, a petrol station and a little shop for groceries.

As you can see here - flat land and then...........Oops, mountains and real ones, over 1000 m high, everything below are called hills here in New Zealand.

From Haast we drove north. Right after Haast we had to cross a bridge, the longest one lane bridge I have seen in New Zealand. There are many one lane bridges at the Westcoast. Not only one lane for cars there were at least two where also trains cross the bridge, so we had not only to look for traffic coming towards us, we also had to watch out for trains.

The bridge has two passing bays.
Actually John wanted to stay over night at a lake but it was not permitted. To have picnic or let a boat into the water, yes, but to stay over night - no. So we followed the road further north. Between Fox Glacier and Franz Joseph Glacier we found a nice camping area at a river, even though the place was crowded - for New Zealand circumstances. Here we tried the camping cocker for the first time and cooked our own potatoes, grown in a water bucket in our garden and ate them with butter. It tasted very nice. And the plague of the Westcoast appeared, the sand flies. Sand flies look like fruit flies or day flies, small and harmless. But these beasts have something from a bloodthirstily horse fly. But whereas the horse flies in Germany only bite if you are sweating, these beast bit everywhere where they can find blank skin. In spite of the fact that John bought a lotion that should scared Sand flies away (with tea tree-oil, does not even work against German mosquitoes!) these creatures were looking for a change to strike. But they got only a little chance because I pulled on socks immediately. It was not very warm that evening anyway.
The picture is taken at a lookout point that is called Knight Point. It is between Haast and the Fox Glacier, near Bruce Bay. On the map there where the road makes a hard turn towards inland.
Day 2

On the second day we went up the Westcoast, first through Franz Josef, it is touristic pure. From here
you can:
 1. flight up to the glacier with a helicopter
2. make a guided tour on the glacier
3. or take a walk on the track to the edge of the glacier or better climb. The way up goes over a field with stones through a creek bed, after rain the creek becomes a river and the way to the glacier is blocked. Some ludicrous tourists still go on the track with Flip-Flops.....................
I took this picture when I was there with my Mum and Thekla. With John we only drove pass the town.
There are many interesting things to see at the Westcoast, for example the next picture.
It is at the border between South Westland and Southland what today is just one province that is called Westcoast. The tablet is also a memorial tablet for the engineers, the worker are forgotten thereby they did the hardest part of the work.   
Next stop Hokitika, in fact just a little habour for fishing boats. After there was found gold at the end of the 19th century and coal mining started at the Westcoast the place became a town. But today it has shrunk. The coal with easy access is exhausted and for the rest the cost for the mining are/were in comparison to the price for coal far too high. But the coal mining at the Westcoast is increasing again. But the profit goes only to Westport and Greymouth. These towns are closer to the mining areas. The mining is done today mainly as open-cast mining (but not only as I learned 2010). After the coal is stope the government tries to recreate the nature but there are still scares in the landscape.

Hokitika is now just a little but more than a supply station for the farms in the surroundings, there is a petrol station, 2 supermarkets and a factory. The factory is producing jade decorating and jewelleries and this factory keeps the town alive. Many tourist buy jade jewelleries direct from the factory because they think it is cheaper here than in the souvenir shops. Mainly Japanese, who are taken  with coaches everywhere in New Zealand what Touri must have seen.
By the way, the fisher man is standing here in memorial to all the people who left at sea and for all these who risk there live to save others off shore.
Next stop Greymouth, also not a very special town, beside the fact that the coal is shipped on ships here. Please don't imaging the harbour like the Hamburg harbour, it is more like the harbour in Lauenburg, okay, perhaps twice as big. This town also is more a supply station for the famers around - not much going on here.
And then, finally, after a quite long distance on the road, the Pancake rocks in the Paparua National Park. Famous because it is invade by tourist but it is really worth looking at. The picture can only show a part of it. They pictures can't show the movement of the water and the roar of the sea at the shore.
With some phantasy you can see animals or human in these rocks. 
Properly you can see on the photo why the rocks called pancake rocks. If you have a close look you can see that the rocks are in layers, laying on each other like pancake on a plate. As John wanted to go to Karamea the same day (and me too) we drove on quite quickly. One because of the tourist but it was also very windy so far outside, nearly off shore. Next stop Westport. John told me on the way up that he has been in Westport twice and twice it was not only raining, it was pouring. Yes, it was drizzling when we reach Westport but at least we could see something from this exciting town. Actually like the both other town at the Westcoast. So let's go on. The first time the road was absolutely straight and plan. Very unusually for New Zealand, somehow it is always going uphill or downhill. But that was only to keep you in good faith followed by a real surprise. Just when you got use to the easy driving mountains appear again. Without any warning it goes up from 0 to 420 m above sea level over a road not wider then the dyke in Curslack towards Altengamme behind the "Blaue Brücke" (=blue bridge) and curves just as much as the dyke has but more narrow. 
Here the good part of the road
And the view from the highest point. It is worth going up here. But the best was to came, when we drove on. Suddenly a sign said "Attention - One Lane ahead" and behind the next corner suddenly the half of the road was missing, it just went down the hillside and next to the one small lane a big hole - next stop at least 100 m deeper - thanks very much. Then a high valley, here was a farm, very lonely, at least 20 km to the next neighbour. Then the mountains disappeared from the coast and flat land was there again, just like in Haast. And it looked nearly like the Vierlande, the green land was round like little hills. Only the canals for drying the land were missing, surely something that would be good for the country. John told me it is raining 200 days a year at the Westcoast.
Finally we reach Karamea, a motel, a dairy work (in the middle of nowhere), a camping area and two or three houses. But we wanted to go further, just as far as you can go with a car at the Westcoast. That was 10 km further north. But here the world really ends, from here on you can only walk over a track to the east coast (Golden Bay). And here is a camping area like the areas in the national park at Milford Sound. And of course my friends were already there, the sand flies and real mass of them. We hardly had left the von when John’s feet were covered with sand flies which attacked him immediately. Finally the lotion against sand flies worked for 10 minutes then I had to spray on a new portion. But the place was so beautiful. For me the one of the most beautiful places I have seen in New Zealand - the more annoying the sand flies.
The sea at the end of the world (Tasman Sea, at the other side is Australia). Also there is a river and for the first and only time I saw a sign "swimming forbidden". I guest because of the groundswell or/and the drift (or the sharks?). But I think even Kiwis and tourist are not that stupid. Every normal thinking person would have stayed out of the water here. 
Unfortunately John left the side door from the van open. It has been a warm day and the evening was mild too (for New Zealand). Of course the sand flies used the chance and entered the van, at least hundred, maybe more. After we had finished the hunt for the sand flies I walked to the beach and got this wonderful sunset as reward.
Day 3

Last night John left the door from the van a bit open and either the sand flies came in again through the door or some got hidden somewhere in the van. However, that night I got at least 40 to 50 bites from these little guys. Furthermore it had rained over night, actually no surprise, and John’s side got a wee bit wet.

We started quite early in the morning just hoping, that we would get a decent breakfast in Karamea. Thank God the motel had also a Café so we got a good breakfast.
 After we managed the neck breaking road back to Westport we needed a rest. Then we looked for a pharmacy because the bites from the sand flies started to cause problems, mainly the bites at my hands were thick swollen, red, hot and itching terrible. The first attempt was not very successful, here they offered me just a cooling gel not what I needed. In a "real" pharmacy the lady gave a salve with cortisone to me (yes, you can buy it here without prescription) - at least it helped a bit.
 As we had seen the coast road we decided to take a side track back. First we drove from Westport towards Nelson with typical New Zealand roads, one lane but not for mischief. Between river and steep going up rock wall is not much space. And it is not possible to blast all rocks and mountains out of the way.
A real unusual phenomena are the rivers at the Westcoast, they all have brown water. At the east coast the rivers have blue or turquoise water. At this place  a river with clear brown water flows into the Buller River, which has more muddy water.
The red stuff is paint not blood.
Both rivers flow a while next to each other before the waters mixed.
Traveling on the road to Nelson we turned at a junction to the south to Reefton and from here over a real nice scenic route to the main road to Arthur's Pass.While we were driving on the side road suddenly a train appeared next to us. In New Zealand more than unusually, here are no passenger trains going anymore. John told me later that it must have been the historical train which goes from Greymouth to Christchurch with a stopover at Arthurs Pass. When we later had our lunch at an Inn (also a historical one) we saw the train again in the plain. In the old days, when the line went through to Christchurch and was pulled by steam engines, the passengers had to leave the train at Otira, just there where, we had our lunch. They had to change to an electrical train which took them through a tunnel up to Arthur's Pass. Here the passengers had to change the train again to another one pulled by an steam engine to carry on to Christchurch.
After a winding drive up hill we reached Arthur's Pass. But John was disappointed, for since he came here the last time the road had become much better and they took off a real dangerous curve. Now there is a lookout point, the name is something with "dead" really encouraging.
Arthur's Pass itself is just another place with tourist attraction, motels, cafés, etc.  
 Up here on the standard national camping area I experienced for the first time to see a Kea in action. The Kea had selected a camper van of a "native tourist" (lives and works in New Zealand) from England and tried with eagerness to demolish the aerial of the van. Of course the owner of the van was not very happy and tried everything to scare the bird of but it did not leave. Fot a short term the Kea tried to attacked our aerial too but it is made out of metal so it was not really interesting for the Kea. After a while the Kea got bored and it took off to another more exciting place. 
Day 4
At the 4th and last day I only wanted to go home. Somehow I did not felt very well. Nevertheless we stop at the end of the mountains, at the change to the hills, to see a formation of rocks which is called Castle Rocks. Because there are no castles and palace in New Zealand these rocks were declared to a castle. With some phantasy you can see in the rocks and stones a castle ruin.......  
The primary concern here surely is to keep the present condition and to avoid further damage from the rocks. "Conversation Area" stands for keeping the present condition. There are also "Recreation Area", that sign stand in area which are reforested, for example in the Catlins the surroundings of the waterfalls.
As we know the coast road from Christchurch to Dunedin well (we did it a few times) we took the route inland via Geraldine. Geraldine is a really cute nice little town where the Canterbury Plains slowly turn into hills. One direction hills and mountains into the other direction only plan farmland, nothing else. 
When we finally reach home the only thing I wanted was a shower, after 4 day without decend washing more than neccessary. But the warm water did not had a good effect. All sand fly bites began to itch so that finally I took some cortisone for release of the itching. After that all the swollen bite at my feet and hands became thinner rapidly. After a new sand fly bite on a tour with my Mom and Thekla my hand became thick and thicker while we were watching. So I came to the conclusion that I am allergic to sand fly bites. But thank God there are no sand flies in Dunedin and my Mom and Thekla took some Authan to New Zealand because I asked for it, it helps quite good against these beasts.


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