We had already abandoned any idea of helicopters as we looked out at a flooded scene this morning. 300 mls of rain were flashing to the sea down the swollen rivers. Whole branches and small trees were whirling in the chocolate swhirls.

We said goodbye to Tim and Vanessa, the owners, and headed in the rain. Once over the township’s hundred metre long crazy Bailey bridge, we got half a kilometre south towards Fox Glacier before coming the the ‘ROAD CLOSED’ sign.

Around we went, and after a brief and non-too-encouraging discussion with the lady at the information office, we shot back to the cottages. The Gibbs very kindly let us camp back in the cabin while we waited for the road to clear. As they cleaned around us, we chatted and it turned out that Vanessa’s sister lived in Allambie Heights and her sone was a St Augustine’s student – Chris Readman.

By the time the Gibbs had returned from Church, the news was better and we were able to leave, rather late, a bit tense, but in much less rain than before.

It was soon clear why the road had been closed. In the steeper sections, landslips and overflowing gutters had deposited stony debris over the roadway – and I was already a bit tentative about the tyres! As we drove on from Fox, the real damage became apparent: washaways, with on section of road completely destroyed. We picked our way through the machinery and workers and drove south.

Gradually the weather improved, but the road remained narrow and often enclosed by the forest walls. Dark, mossy and impenetrable, it was certainly atmospheric but made for claustrophobic driving.

Sorry, Haast, but you gouge travellers! Fuel was $1.90 per litre and a very basic lunch ran to $50. On the other hand, in an area so remote, what else is there?

The drive through the Haast Pass was utterly memorable but quite demanding driving. We have some good pictures and video, but I need to upload a week of entries now, so more later.

Our arrival at Hawea marked an improvement in our weather – still not summer, as the poor Kiwis kept telling us.