To Hanmer Springs -- 220 KM - 10/28/05
Today was a transition from the West coast across the Southern Alps at Lewis Pass to the Eastern plateau. Climbing the western side the mountain slopes looked more like a dry fall than a spring foliage. Everything was a dull brownish green with none of the light and bright green normally seen in new leaves. Pretty much a travel day with not much to grab your attention. Trees close to the road were typical rain-forest with lots of moss. We saw something on the side of the road about 40km into the drive. My guess was a Possum "in the wild". We've seen literally hundreds on the road - all dead greasy spots. It was the same color as the road kill skins, but had long legs, was skinny, and a scruffty looking fur. Some even thought it a small lamb. Mostly they are night creatures, but the NZ Possum is not a marsupial, and is more like a weasel or mink than a US O'Possum. They have decimated the native Kiwi population and there is a major campaign to eradicate them by poision "1080" baits. Don't know what that is but lots of signs are posted.
Later we passed through Reefton, called the Town of Light, as it's the first town in the southern hemisphere that sunlight strikes each day. Strange since it's so far inland and is not on top of a mountain, but rather on the western side of the mountain. Probably a new "fact" generated by the computer program that plots daylight around the globe. We also stopped at "Waterfall Track", which was a 500 meter hike up hill. Thought for a while it was going to be a waterfall made up of hundreds of 1 foot falls. Finally a quite different falls appeared. Dropping several hundred feet, the first half looked more like a heavy mist than a water stream. It was so far away from the mountain side that green vegetation grew behind it. The second half the water came back together as a waterfall stream. Well worth the hike, but too difficult a climb for many. Had a big fancy sign, but parking limited to 2-3 Maui's.
Lewis Pass is something you'll miss if you blink. No special climb or descent. Descending the east side vegetation changed to evergreen forest and then to dry, low shrubs. Looked much like parts of the eastern rockies.
Hanmer Springs is built around a hot spring which has been developed as a commercial tourist attraction. Much like Gatlinburg, a complete offering of things to glean tourist dollars has built up around the spring. The major attraction has grown to at least a dozen separate pools with varying water temperatures from as low as 90 to over 106 degrees. Entrance to the springs is included in the tour, so most took advantage of the opportunity to become sulphur flavored prunes.