When we got to Haast on Wednesday afternoon it had just started drizzling, which quickly turned into showers. We got the tent up during a couple of dry spells before the showers turned into torrential rain. We hid in the aircraft hanger that had been converted into a living room / kitchen area at the campsite and looked in amazement at the NZ Met Office prediction of Thursday being dry. We went to bed to hear the rain hammering down and the end of Philippa’s sleeping bag & Thermarest had even got a tiny bit wet. Naturally she wasn’t too happy and the west coast wasn’t looking like a great option. We were wondering what the hell we were doing here, regardless of the fantastic ride we’d had from Wanaka over to Haast.
Thursday morning dawned and it was clear(ish). Well it wasn’t raining, which was a miracle. I informed Philippa that she’d been spending Thursday cycling 85 km. She didn’t seem impressed. Porridge for breakfast didn’t help. However, we needed to make the most of any vaguely decent weather while on the west coast, so if it’s dry we cycle. Or something like that at least. We left Haast and had to cross the Haast River, the bed of which was about 1 km wide with trees washed up in various places. I dread to think how much rain must fall for the river to be full.
From there on in we rode a lot through dense rainforest, which meant we didn’t get very many views and things didn’t change very much, but it was a novelty riding along through such lush vegetation. Everywhere we looked there were massive spider webs everywhere, streams bubbling away, prehistoric looking ferns and from within the rain forest were weird, strange noises being made by various animals. Within the first 25 km of the day we had a couple of large climbs, giving spectacular views over the sea and cliffs.
Lunch was at Paringa Salmon farm, which is one of the few buildings on the road between Haast and Fox. We’ve no idea why there’s a salmon farm in Paringa, but the lunch was great, as was the fresh salmon we bought and ate for dinner. Their café trade can only be from tourists because Paragina had about five houses. Or possibly six. We didn’t miss any houses because there aren’t any roads that come off the main highway. It’s just dense impenetrable rainforest. So between Haast (a small place) and Fox Glacier, a distance of around 120 km (75 miles), there is pretty much nothing. Tonight we’re camped at Pine Groves, which is a motel about 35 km south of Fox Glacier, but it’s the only place around here. During our 85 km ride we passed one other campsite, but that was a DOC site where you’re allowed to camp for free and you get to spend the evening feeding the local sandflies. They like blood, and have a nasty bite. No thank you.