Drive from Haast to Mt Cook, NZ

March 2, 2014

Haast Pass

After a gorgeous sunset the evening before and a star filled night we woke to low gray clouds and a forecast of rain and drizzle until Tuesday – the day after tomorrow.

Haast Pass

A pity on a day when we would be crossing the Haast Pass and driving up the valley to Mt Cook. When I planned our trip to New Zealand I expected we would have bouts of bad weather, but the sun lover that I am, I still hate a day of low clouds when crossing through mountains.

Lake Wanaka/Hawea

To our surprise about an hour into our drive we started seeing rays of sunshine poking through the mist and by the time we reached Lake Wanaka there were definite patches of blue.

Lake Wanaka/Hawea Lake Wanaka/Hawea Lake Wanaka/Hawea

The drive along the lakes and valleys winds up, down and around wide open hills with minimal vegetation. The kind of landscape where on a clear day you can see forever. On a clear yet turbulent day we watched the patches of rain sweep across the mountains. One of the most fun and spectacular drives I’ve seen anywhere.

Route 8 towards Twizel Route 8 towards Twizel Route 8 towards Twizel Route 8 towards Twizel

Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki

As we approached Mt Cook, however, we were heading directly into the eye of the storm, as it were. Fog, rain, drizzle and mist plagued the rest of the drive into the village and the rest of the afternoon.

Aoraki Court Motel - Mt Cook Village

Aoraki Court Motel – Mt Cook Village

My guess is with the prominence of dry golden hills on the east side of the mountains and heavy annual rainfall on the west side, this is not an uncommon occurrence.

Route 8 towards Twizel

Whether someone would consider the drive to Mt Cook a scenic drive would depend on the time of year, the weather and personal preference for open, drier scenes compared to lush, green landscapes. Some maybe be disappointed by the “brown” hills. I would also, however, mention that the day’s drive along the three lakes was the most “coastline” we’ve seen on a drive anywhere in New Zealand thus far.

Feeding the Birds by the Lake in Wanaka

Feeding the Birds by the Lake in Wanaka

Lunch in WanakaSpeights Ale House – a chain a large clean open plan brewery pubs that serves quality food.

Wanaka - Speights Ale House

We tasted the Cajun chicken on fresh pita bread served with a carrot salad and mayo – a pile of tender moist chicken, good and spicy but more of a general chili hot rather than a true Cajun spice.

Wanaka - Speights Ale House

Warm chickpea salad with late summer veggies – zucchini, peppers and red onion with feta and mint. Tasty and well done.

Wanaka - Speights Ale House

The restaurant has a convenient location just across from the lake with plenty of outdoor seating both in front and on a sheltered side patio, especially nice for those wanting to soak up the rays on a sunny day.

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