Day 24, Jan. 31st
Today we headed off to New Zealand's west coast, the route was over Haast Pass through deep valleys, where glaciers dramatically end, before dropping us down into the rainforest. We stopped along the way first at Kawarau Bridge, the home of commercial Bungee Jumping, then at Aurum, an organic winery and up the road a ways to a fruit stand. This area, north of Queenstown, is the south Island's fruit basket. It has many vineyards and orchards like the Yakama Valley. On over Haast Pass, the vegetation changed and we were in a subtropical rainforest. This is where our trip changed. A fierce storm came sweeping in off the Tasman Sea dropping buckets full of rain and high winds. Our trip to Franz Josef Glacier was canceled, as was a few other minor stops. We were stopped at Hari Hari. The road north, the way were going was blocked. A few minutes later the road we had just used was closed. We were fortunate there were two cafes. One had no electricity and the other was restaurant, a bar, a coffee shop and a bottle shop(liquor store) which was wall to wall people waiting for the road to open. We waited for 5 hours for the road to open before finally cleared to head north. When we arrived at Punakiki, we learned the road had closed again shortly after we made it through. Close to our motel in Punakiki was an interesting rock formation known as Pancake Rocks, thin layers and layers of limestone stacked on top of each other looking like a stack of hotcakes. We visited the old mining town of Reefton, the first town in the southern hemisphere to have public electricity. We got to sample a Whitebate Sandwich along the way. Whitebate is a small translucent fish that migrate to the rainforest rivers and are much sought after when they are running. When the storm abated after two days, we were able to enjoy the beautiful beach, but the storm did damaged a lot of the west coast.