No rain, sunny days forecast for the next week, and no landslides closing the roads.
Buy sandfly repellant, though in typical Wanaka style, nothing with DEET in it seems to be available, so I go for the natural ingredient one. Here's hoping it's enough.
Heading out of Wanaka it's overcast and grey, and moody over Lake Hawea.
But further north the sun begins to shine as I head up the Haast Pass. There's some impressive waterfalls and rock gorges to visit, including the thunderous Gates of Haast which is crossed by bridge and then it's a winding journey down to the coast.
Haast itself isn't much, so I bypass it and head south along the coast to Jackson Bay. This is the furthest south you can get to by car on the West Coast, you need a boat to go further.
Jackson Bay has a small fishing port, pretty enough for a few photos, but it's sleepy and the only cafe in town is closed, so it's back up the road to the main highway and a search for whitebait patties at Curly Tree. Whitebait are a west coast delicacy, and are fingerling fish making their way from their spawning place to the sea, and right now they're in season. Whitebait patties, cooked by Curly Tree's owner Tony, are a pile of the fingerlings mixed with just enough egg to form a pattie, then cooked on a hotplate and served on a piece of bread. If you don't like looking at tiny fish you might find it a little off-putting, but if that doesn't bother you, it just tastes like a fish fillet. Yep, yummy. (sorry, forgot to take a photo, I was enjoying Tony's sales pitch too much)
I then continued north, through lush forests, farmland, and over single lane bridges, arriving in Fox Glacier just as the sun set. Only one sandfly bite for the whole day.
After an awesome sleep in a hostel I woke myself up after dreaming that a large spider jumped on me. I may have woken up my room mates with the scream as well!! Never mind, time to get up and go see some sights.
First stop Lake Matheson. This is a brown coloured lake that provides perfect reflections of the nearby alps, which just so happen to be the highest peaks in NZ. Mt Cook is incredibly close to the West Coast and haunts the horizon all day, even as I head further north. With perfect blue skies and no wind, I get some spectacular photos.
After carrot cake and coffee in the cafe, it's off down the road to Gillespie Beach. This involves driving along a twisting dirt road through lush green rainforest to a driftwood strewn pebble beach. It's wild and deserted, my kind of place. Still no sandflies.....
After lunch on the beach I drive back to the highway, stopping to take a shot of Fox Glacier coming down the valley, then turn north for Franz Joseph Glacier. I have no interest in visiting either glacier on this trip, as both have receded quite a way that the only way to get up close now is by guided tour or helicopter! I skied Tasman Glacier back in 2013, that experience is still pretty fresh.
With a full tank of fuel my next stop is Okarito, a small village with a lagoon and big sea cliffs. The tide is too high to do the beach walk so I headed up the trig to get some great aerial views. I'd definitely like to come back to this little spot for a few days, do some kayaking, walking and fishing, but it's dead at the moment with the only tourist shop in town closed up for the winter. The old boathouse on the lagoon has a small museum inside, and makes a good photo op.
The rest of the day I drive north in the fading light to Hokitika. The sky is orange as I arrive in town, a little late to get the camera out, but I'm staying two nights.