Leaving Westland: Haast Pass to Wānaka - Tackling the West Coast of Te Waipounamu - CycleBlaze

March 24, 2022

Leaving Westland: Haast Pass to Wānaka

We wake to...is that rain? Yes, after 10 dry days on the West Coast,  it's a moist morning in Haast. For those cycling the full distance, it will be a long day in the saddle. Bruce is unsure whether that includes him or not but I have already decided to skip the first 50km, including the ascent of Haast Pass. Google calls it a moderate hill. Google and Bruce are on the same page. I know better though.

Groups of riders take off at different times this morning. The earlybirds, including Bruce, ride into the rain. The whippets, though, huddle in their rooms until they decide it's dry enough. And, yes, the cloud has lifted a little. 

I'm in the bus with a few other hill-phobics as it follows the majestic Haast River through verdant beech forest and up to the 562 metre pass. I spot Bruce's yellow jacket as we reach the summit but he is soon gone. 

Gates of Haast bridge. The road over the pass is one of three that cross the Southern Alps. Although it was an important crossing for Maõri and early Europeans, the road was only sealed in the 1990s. Photo: wikipedia
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The ride to lunch at Makarora is through very different terrain to what we've left behind. We have crossed from the Haast river valley to the Makarora river valley, from rainforest to dry farmland, from the West Coast to Otago. Haast Pass truly is a gateway.

Team Richards re-forms after lunch for the ride down the valley and alongside Lake Wānaka. There's enough ups and downs on the bluffs around the lakeshore to keep my hill-riding hand in, so to speak. By day's end, Strava tells me I've climbed  777 metres.

The highway takes us from one stunning vista to another: Lake Hawea is just as beautiful as its sister-lake.

Lake Wānaka
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Lake Hawea
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The dam at the southern end of  Hawea provides storage capacity for two hydro-electric power stations further south. I part company with Bruce here for the final stretch, having decided to join the three e-mountainbikers on an off-road trail. I've been riding a gravel bike on this tour, with tyres knobbly enough to handle the sometimes rocky terrain, though I can't keep up with the others. 

It's a good choice. The trail is very scenic and I learn later that we've avoided a major hill climb on the main road into Wānaka.

Hawea river trail
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Hawea river trail
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Susan CarpenterI have great memories of riding along the Hawea river trail into Wanaka. At one point we stopped for a rest I jumped in the river for a quick swim, spandex and all. I’m very much enjoying your journal.
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1 year ago
Robyn RichardsTo Susan CarpenterLovely memory, Susan! I bet I know where you swam. Yesterday, we watched from a bridge while surfers bobbed around in the current of a wave pool created somehow artificially by controlling the river's flow.
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1 year ago

The other riders' phones are busy with messages from their non-riding spouses reporting on the luxury accommodation awaiting us. We still have some distance to cover but eventually, covered in dust, we roll into Wānaka and around the lakefront to join them.

Tonight's dinner is outside, with a view of the lake - and a fierce wind that sends yachts scudding across the water and around the buoy in front of us. It must be race night. With just a day to go, we're all aware our own journey is all but over.

Today's ride: 90 km (56 miles)
Total: 715 km (444 miles)

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