Sunrise Mount Aspiring

New Zealand: Day 12 – Mount Aspiring National Park

Granola Delight
Granola Delight

Breakfast

This morning we had a delicious breakfast with numerous treats all prepared by our breakfast chef, Sarah. She is in her early 20s and is from San Luis Obispo, CA.

Talking with her was interesting. I asked her why she chose to work down here in New Zealand. She replied that when she realized she could live any where she wanted to live, she chose the South Island of New Zealand for its beauty. She likes the people here as well, noting that they are much more direct and open. “You can have a conversation with a person you have just met, a conversation you wouldn’t have with another person in the US until you were good friends for 5 – 10 years. People are just more direct and real here.”

Strawberry Scones
Strawberry Scones

My favorite breakfast item was a tough choice between these delicious strawberry scones (not too sweet, in fact, barely sweet at all) and the granola cup with their own honey and cream cheese. Everything was delicious, but these two items were divine!

Sunrise Mount Aspiring
Sunrise Mount Aspiring

Leaving this view was also difficult! We headed out through the small white birch forest, over the “active” runway (which was little more than a well manicured strip of lawn), and through the town for petrol. This RAV4 gets great gas mileage! I also really appreciate the fact that it senses when you are going downhill and need braking and automatically downshifts for you!

The Haast Pass

Along the Road to Haast Pass
180º Pano Along the Road to Haast Pass

Shortly after getting on the one road (the Haast Pass) that goes to our destination, we came upon a sign that the road closes at 4:30pm every day. Apparently a massive slide had blocked the road back in September, and they were still working on the repairs. We should expect delays up to 30 minutes. And a delay there was.

Workers are at the top of the mountain by the edge of the waterfall monitoring the boulders that are loose at the edge. Workers are also below at the roadway. If a boulder becomes dislodged and drops over the edge, they radio from above and have a few minutes to stop the traffic to allow the boulder to crash down the sheer drop off without killing anyone who could otherwise be driving by.

We were instructed to stop the car, turn it off, but not get out of the car. We waited for about 30 minutes while the workers continued their work reinforcing the unstable rock before we were instructed to proceed on what is temporarily a one-way road.

The West Coast Beach, Rain Forest, Mountains

The long drive (290km) was filled with one stunning expanse of gorgeous and unbelievable, and “Stop, I’ve got to get a photo!” after another. This drive took us to the west coast of the south island.

Along the coastline, the foliage is that of rain forest with glacial, snow-capped mountains just a few kilometers away serving as the backdrop to the dramatic jagged coastal beach front–very similar to the drama of the California Pacific coast but lush and green. Only one house appeared anywhere on the beach (or anywhere at all actually)–a small, no, a tiny, empty place for let. No other development of any kind appeared anywhere.

This area is utterly dramatic. I truly felt as though I was in the Jurassic Park movies and a monstrous prehistoric beast was going to step out from behind a 50 foot fern tree just around the bend. I’ve just never seen the juxtaposition of glaciers; snow-capped, jagged mountain ridges; coastal beach; fiords; and rain forest all in one place–one stunning, gorgeous, undeveloped, never-ending place.

Log Cabin with Views

Our lodge this evening is more like a log cabin in its building style: tongue in groove cut timber stacked together to create insulation-free walls. The views are a cross between rain forest and snow-capped mountains. The proprietress recommended we eat at “Alice May” last night.

Alice May Restaurant
Alice May Restaurant
Alice May Restaurant
Alice May Restaurant

We did. It’s an interesting local establishment just off the main beaten path (1 road over from the main street). Today the restaurant is run by some of Alice May’s grandchildren. The story from the menu is fascinating and will be included later.