Haast: Holed up in Haast...

Thursday November 4, 2010

The New Zealand west coast is known for its wild and windy weather, and this morning bought my first encounter with it. Overnight rain had been predicted, so I wasn't surprised to wake this morning to the sound of rain, and when I stepped outside for an inspection, strong gusty north-west winds too. If this weather pattern continued through the day it would mean riding into a strong headwind and frequent rain squalls, and then the prospect of getting into my tent, wet, cold and miserable.

On the other hand, the rain is expected to be followed by a southerly change that would push me along the coast, and possibly I could make up for lost time. I waited until check out time to see if the conditions would abate, but if anything they grew even more wild, and eventually I had to choose: hit the road or stay another night. There was no sense in going out in such conditions - I chose to stay.

I had been tempted to spend a day in Makarora, but fortunately chose to continue at the last moment. Luckily I did so, otherwise I would either have spent a horrible crossing the Haast Pass, or would have been forced to waste away a second day in Makarora.

The southerly change is expected to pass through this evening, and I'm hoping a following wind will help me cover the route for two planned days travel in one - 120 kilometres to Fox Glacier. Well - fingers crossed. As I type, the rain is beating on the roof once again, and I'm very pleased not to be out cycling in it.

I have whiled away the time reading, and chatting to some whitebait fishermen. It is whitebait season and Haast is full of fishermen hoping for a good catch. Whitebait are the tiny fry of a local fish species, and at this time of the year congregate in huge schools around the river mouths - the fishermen scoop them up with long tapered nets on poles. The tiny fish are pressed whole into patties and fried, and are very a much a local delicacy. I haven't tried them yet, but will no doubt have an opportunity as I travel the west coast over the next week.

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