From rain and ice to red and gold, it was a day of transition.
We left Franz Josef soon after sunrise yesterday when the mountains were still shrouded with mist and rain, and the glacier’s presence was made known only through the chill in the air.
These misty conditions persisted throughout the drive from Franz Josef to Haast where we paused for morning coffee and refreshment.
At the confluence of the Haast and Landsborough rivers, I could tell this was not normal with very low water flow. This impression was reinforced at the “Gates of Haast” where on every other occasion, I have seen thundering cataracts of water hiding most of the massive boulders that line the river bed. On this occasion, the rocks themselves were showing off their beauty as the remaining white water stumbled down the steep course.
As we emerged into the Otago side of the divide, the weather improved. It was still overcast, but the rain stopped and there were occasional small blue patches.
At Makarora, I pulled over to capture yet another in the seemingly endless supply of picturesque abandoned houses. We drove beside Lake Wanaka, and over the saddle to Lake Hawea, and as we got closer to Hawea township, I marvelled at the increasing brilliance of the season’s colours. Red maples and golden beeches provided the bulk of the colour.
In Wanaka, there is a grove of trees that I suspect belong to the Acacia family and their colours were indescribably luminous.
From there we took the back road by Lake Dunstan heading to Cromwell and then through the Kawarau Gorge to Queenstown. At Lowburn, some reflections demanded to be photographed.
At Cromwell, the many orchards and vineyards were reaching the climax of their autumn colours, and busloads of tourists were making the most of it. So was I.
This is a glorious season to be here.