Not as daunting as the Lindis Pass, but at 81km this was still quite a big day for us. Making sandwiches and filling our water bottles the previous night helped us to get away in an hour and a half and we reached the summit at 10:00. There were no clouds today but initially it was cold enough for gloves. At the top we took a long break chatting with the Dutch and Danish cyclists. The Dutch party of 17 were from Amsterdam – some were just touring South Island, others had first visited the north. Their minibus support carried their lunch and luggage and could carry bikes and riders in the event of illness or breakdown.
After the summit the road gradually descended to Haast with a few uphill stretches, but the headwind struck up again in the afternoon so our early start paid off. Soaring cliffs, spiky palms, huge ferns, lichens and birdsong made this a wonderful day’s cycling. Occasionally the foliage on our right would give way to a vista of the wide bed of the Haast river, the water occupying only a narrow channel.
The fanciful names bestowed on its tributaries kept us amused – Dizzy Creek, Dancing Creek, Roaring Swine Creek, Grassy Creek (it was), Dismal Creek (not on such a lovely day). As we left Mount Aspiring National Park the countryside became suddenly flat and open as we approached Haast, close to the coast. We arrived at 16:00 and took a double room for $38 at the Haast Highway Motel. It’s an associate YHA member and the communal kitchen/lounge area bore the mark of a youth hostel. A good place to stay, with cutlery, crockery and pans provided.