Day 26 – early start from Queenstown for the drive up to the glacier region and our freedom camp at Gillespies Beach. This was to become one of our favourite scenic drives a photographers dream, taking us through the Haast pass and Southern Alps with places of interest to stop along the way.
Thunder Creek Falls – ten minute return easy walk through silver beech forest to a 96m high falls. It was certainly thunderous as it cascaded down into clear turquoise waters viewed from the platform. Unfortunately for me the long-suffering wanted a photo of me standing down on the rocks in front of the fall
By now the sand flies were swarming anytime you stood still for more than a second. My new vocation as the long-sufferings muse was about to fall on stony ground as with every ‘just one more, hang on, almost done’ another few red dots appeared as swaying precariously I frantically swatted them away.
Roaring Billy Falls – our stop for lunch, but first a beautiful forty minute easy return walk through native bush.
Huge tree ferns and silver beech lined the track eventually leading us out into the open.
The stunning clear turquoise waters of the wide Haast River with its gravel bed was in complete contrast to the gleaming whiteness of the boulders we now had to step across – not compulsory, you can see the waterfall from the opening. The waterfall itself nestles partly hidden amongst thick native forest. Walking up along the river gives a better view of the pretty 30m high falls.
We have since found out from Long-sufferings Uncle Roger that his base was here, at Roaring Billy Falls while employed over fifty years ago to help build part of the Haast pass. The falls at that time could be seen almost in their entirety, clear from the now dense forests that surround them.
Gillespies Beach – to get here we had to drive the last ten to fifteen kilometres on narrow gravel roads, with a first come, first served system the small car park was already busy but had room for a few more including us!
Again this area was sand fly heaven, stepping out from Aromoana, nothing less than fully covered – even in the heat – was madness. They were drawn to us like locusts to a crop!
The beach – a graveyard to hundreds of dead tree parts, trunks and branches, bleached white by the sea and sun, some made into sculptures, many providing strategically placed seats for the spectacle of the sunset to come.
And in the morning a beautiful sunrise over Mount Cook to set us on our way….