Saturday, March 17, 2012

Haast Pass is Past At Last!

(The pronunciation of Haast rhymes with past)

Ahhh, once again Mr. Sun has graced me with his presence! After yesterday's deluge of rain, the sun was a welcome site this morning! Everyone at the Holiday Park was quite happy. Antoine (a fellow cyclist from France), still had some wet things, but they would soon be dry. Roger, from New York, was happy as he was setting out to do the Copland Track.

I left at 9:00ish this morning. I stopped in the township of Haast at a convenience store to replenish some food. What I wanted was some canned chicken, peanut butter, and some more Scrummy Mix (trail mix). What I was able to get was some Ritz Crackers, a box of Apricot Muesli bars, a tomato and a banana, and a chocolate bar. No chicken to have with pasta. No peanut butter to have with the last pita. No scummy mix. I still have oatmeal and hot chocolate for breakfast. I had bought a block of cheese at the holiday park (the only thing they had besides sodas) last night. I used some for dinner and had put the rest in the fridge. So, I had that too (hence the reason I got the crackers).

Anyway, after a disappointing grocery stop, I headed toward Haast Pass. The sign said 59 km to the pass itself.

It was really strange because the climbing didn't even begin until about 55 km later. It was just flat or rolling along the Haast River. There were several waterfalls visible from the road. The mist floating above the trees made for a very jungly atmosphere. I first pulled off at Roaring Billy Falls. I walked the short track through the forest to the falls. They were actually across the river.

I stopped for a couple of the Muesli bars at the confluence of the Haast and Landsborough Rivers. The rivers were a very clear and beautiful teal color. The sand flies were out in full force, so I didn't linger.

Next stop was at Pleasant Flat DOC. They had restrooms there and drinking water. I filled my water bottle in anticipation of the climbing. It looked like a nice DOC campground, but I had a pass to climb.

Back on the road, I went across the 6th single lane bridge for the day. Pretty much every bridge was a single lane bridge. It just varies as to who has the right of way. I only had to wait to cross once. Not much traffic.

Next up was Thunder Creek Falls. I, again, parked Betsy (and locked her too) and walked the path to the Falls. This was a short 5 minute walk. None of these Falls were really spectacular, but it was a chance to get off the bike and do some walking.

After Thunder Creek, the road finally began to climb in earnest. After going across another single lane bridge, I pulled off to a lookout. Right behind me came Antoine. He said he was going to eat some lunch at the top of the Pass. We headed up the very steep part of the climb. Antoine was soon ahead of me. It was very difficult climbing and the weather had decided to become very sultry and hot (that or the climbing finally brought the sweat out!). I took a brief break at a pullout, then continued up. It flattened slightly after a bit and I was ever so grateful!

Eventually, I came to the last short walk to a waterfall. This one was called Fantail Falls (after the cute little Fantail bird). As I got there, I could see Antoine heading on up the road. Clearly, he too, had stopped at Fantail. I did the short walk then had a chunk of chocolate to give me some energy for the continuing climb.

From Fantail, it was not too much further to the Pass. The road actually flattened out considerably and the last few kilometers went by pretty fast. Soon I was at the actual Haast Pass. There was even a summit sign! I took the necessary photos then headed down. I didn't see Antoine so I figured I had missed him. He had probably finished eating and went on down. But, no. After a short descent and another short uphill, I saw his bike on the side of the road. I pulled off and found him eating his lunch on the other side of the guardrail. He said it was too shady at the Pass (he was right) and he was cold. I pulled out my crackers and cheese and had a snack. After we finished eating, Antoine had to change out his brake pads. The ones he had were worn out. He didn't want to come screaming down the Pass with no brakes. I stayed with him while he fixed the brakes. I knew I didn't have much further to go as I was staying at the first DOC after the Pass. Plus, he was giving me cookies (and I gave him chocolate)! Turns out, he is a semi-newly graduated Radiologist in France. He is between jobs right now and has 3 months before starting work again. He is spending 2 of them in New Zealand.

He got the new brake pads put on and as he was adjusting the spring screw, it popped out. It took us a long time to find the spring and the screw amongst the rocks. I finally found both and Antoine asked me to put it back in. I finally got it back in and the brakes were good to go.

We headed down the Pass at a pretty good clip. I had my Da Brim on, but it was holding pretty steady. before long, we reached Cameron Flat DOC, my planned stop for the night. It was about 5:00 and I was ready to call it a day. Antoine was going to go on to the next one so he would be able to get to Wanaka earlier in the day tomorrow. He wants to do some climbing in Wanaka. Since I seem to get on the road earlier, I may see him again tomorrow.

Since I have very little food left, I will probably pick up some snacks in Makaroa (not too far down the road) then restock for the last few days in Wanaka.

I'm hoping this nice weather holds. It is much dryer now on this side of the mountains so chances are favorable.

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