Wanaka and west

We leave the dry eastern slopes and encounter the rainforest of the west coast.

We finished our hike at Aoraki around noon and drove south along the alps until we reached Wanaka [location].  This is the route to the west coast, indeed, the only route this far south, but nonetheless we bypass the entire Fiordland and Southland regions. They are gorgeous, I’m told, but with our limited time (and a severe weather warning for deep snow in that region) we skipped it on this trip. Read on!

Rainforest! The southern alps are a strong rain shadow. Haast pass, South Island, New Zealand.

We stayed overnight at Wanaka, but first stopped in at Puzzling World, a fun place with illusions and puzzles and a giant, two-story outdoor maze. It was great fun and we spent two hours working our way through the maze.  We reached all four corners – which was the goal – but never did properly find our way back out of the maze. (We had to duck under a wall at one point, as it was getting dark.)

John and Andy are standing straight up, but the room is not! At Puzzling World in Wanaka, New Zealand.

The drive west from Wanaka was spectacular, rugged snow-capped peaks presiding over deep lake valleys and dry grassland. Then over the Haast pass, where we were suddenly struck with the effects of rainshadow: rainforest (see photo).  The rainfall on the west of the alps is something like 7m per year, whereas east of the alps it may only be 1m. (I need to verify these figures).

Downward… a view back to the alps, now with forested slopes. South Island, New Zealand.

Down the other side, we stopped at Thunder Creek falls, very impressive, and at the confluence of the Haast river with the Landsborough river for one more look at the rugged wilderness.  Next: the west coast. Meanwhile, check out the photo gallery!

Thunder Creek falls. South Island, New Zealand.

This post was transferred from MobileMe to WordPress in 2021, with an effort to retain the content as close to the original as possible; I recognize that some comments may now seem dated or some links may now be broken.

Author: dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, husband, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.

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