Thursday, March 12: I love all three of our big mountain passes in New Zealand. Each has its own character and challenges, each is quite different from the other two. On the Tour Aotearoa we do two on consecutive days…Haast Pass today and the Crown Range tomorrow.
The Haast is unique among the trio for its long (52km), essentially flat run up the river valley from Haast township before the serious climbing begins. I tootled along this morning, covering the distance in just over 2 1/2 hours before I stopped at Pleasant Flats DoC campground for my first lunch (at 11am) to fuel me up for the climb just around the corner. The photos below are some early morning shots coming up the valley, then from the campground:
While the total climb is 500m over 10km only the first three or four km are really hard work. Thereafter the gradient gets ever easier, with some delightful sights along the way such as Fantail Falls:
The top of the pass is thickly wooded, unlike the barren summits of the Crown Range and Lindis Pass:
…the photo above is another of our “proof of progress” selfies required by the Tour.
From the top, there’s an exhilarating 300m descent over 20km through forest and open country down the Makarora River valley to the eponymous township and cafe. It was 2.30pm when I arrived, perfect timing for my second lunch of the day. This one was a particularly relaxing beanbag lunch with spectacular views:
From Makarora the route travels along the upper reaches of Lake Wanaka:
…before crossing over The Neck, a short low saddle, to Lake Hawea:
…the last 25km from The Neck down to Hawea township completed another sensationally good day of riding, though I was tired and riding slowly for the last few hours, for a total of 133km in 7 1/2 hours ride time plus another 2 hours of stops along the way.
Here in Hawea I’m ensconced in a delightful lakeside campground. But it’s going to be really cold tonight. I reckon I’ll wear at least a beanie (or if it’s not up to the job, a long sleeved Ground Effect shirt wrapped around my head), my merino thermal shirt, down jacket, thick socks and cycling longs, inside my thermal liner, inside my sleeping bag. I’ll let you know tomorrow how well I’ve slept…