The day from Haast turned out to be a fantastic day, passing through thick temperate rain forest almost the entire day. The rest of the time, I was passing remote deserted beaches with waves lapping gently from the (ususally rough) Tazman Sea. I say rain forest, there wasn’t much rain, and hasn’t been for months by the looks of it. When leaving Haast, the owner of the hostel said not to worry about water ‘loads of it up the west coast’ he said. The reality was somewhat different. Most of the streams and rivers have dried up completely, often leaving a trickle of stagnant water, the only rivers with water being the main ones.
I overtook a number of cyclists also touring (many of which over 60) and passed several coming the other way, including a French gentleman who wouldn’t stop talking and a 21 year old German lad, who looked even younger than I did at that age… Anyhow, it turns out this section of the west coast is pretty flat, so I pressed on to Fox Glacier, breaking my distance record in NZ by a whole 0.2km! (123.7km) The hostel at Fox Glacier is another corker – it has hot tub and sauna, which I made full use of today, taking a day off. I also popped up to the Fox Glacier itself. It was interesting cycling up the valley seeing the trees get smaller, indicating I was getting closer to where the retreating glacier now sits (as obviously large trees don’t grow overnight). The last 1/2 mile up to the face of the glacier was strewn with rocks and no vegetation at all.
Today, I made my way further north to the town of Franz Josef, which being on the backpacker bus circuit had a funky coffee shop with everyone plugged into their laptops/smart phones. Not quite the wild west coast! A little further north, I turned off the main highway, down to Okarito, which was recommended to me by a friend back home (thanks Jo!). It takes relaxed to a totally different level. There’s not much there in the way of services, but the fresh water lagoon and fantastic empty beach more than make up for it. Apparently it was a bit of a boom town back in the gold rush days with over 30 hotels and 2 banks. There is now only 1 hostel, a community run campsite and a canoe hire business which looks like it’s recently branched out and is now starting to make people cups of coffee too. It’s quite busy in the campsite though – at least 20 people. We’ve doubled the population of the village by the looks of it!