Our three days in Wanaka have flown by! We left the lake this morning on our way to Franz Josef. We realized we didn’t take an actual photo of Mount Iron yesterday and since we were driving right by, here it is:
First we drove up “The Neck” a skinny isthmus between Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. Both are long, slim glacially carved lakes surrounded by beautiful mountains.
Haast Pass is another very scenic pass through the mountains. The road was very curvy and fun to drive!
At the Santana Gift Shop in Haast, we bought some Manuka honey. It is only produced in certain regions of New Zealand and Australia. Bees collect pollen from the Manuka shrub (called the tea tree by Captain Cook) which contains methylglyoxal (MGO) giving the honey antibacterial properties. Manuka honey also has antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. No wonder this stuff is so expensive!
The store mainly sells Merino (sheep) and possum wool items. Possum wool is so very very soft! The Australian Bushy Tailed Possum is an introduced species here in New Zealand. They are one of the only mammal species on the islands and are considered a major pest. No live sightings, but we’ve seen hundreds dead on the highway – seems like local sport to run them over!
There was a definite hick feel in Haast. Not sure what the NZ version of a banjo is but I’m sure they play them ‘round these parts. We even saw a local wearing a Trump shirt. Major redneck territory.
We has a great lunch at the Hard Antler Cafe. The inside was decorated with numerous antlers and the bathrooms were signed ‘stags’ and ‘hinds’. The customers were interesting to watch. Missing teeth, gum boots and dreadlocks. There were a couple dogs wandering around looking for scraps. At least the cat was super friendly. His name was Fatty Boom Boom. We had to read his tag twice to confirm we weren’t seeing things.
Nearing Franz Josef, we re-entered the New Zealand rainforest and walked a nice loop through a swampland.
Podocarps are large evergreen coniferous trees with a lineage that stretches back to the time when New Zealand was part of the supercontinent of Gondwanaland. The name podocarp means ‘foot seed’ which refers to the position of the seed at the base of the fruit rather than being enclosed by it. The species we saw today are Kahikatea trees. This pine was formerly the most common tree on the west coast but the damming of rivers and the draining of swamps have caused the forests of kahikatea largely to disappear.
We have settled into our wonderful Rainforest Lodge Tree House complete with private hot tub on our deck. Very decadent!
There are few dinner options in town, so we will make use of our kitchen and make our own meals while in Franz Josef. Tonight is lamb with pear and fig salad!
Tomorrow we are back to hiking.