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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 7 (November 1, 1927)

South Westland and the Waiho

South Westland and the Waiho.

Pre-eminent among the resorts of Westland is the Franz Josef Glacier-the Mecca of all tourists who visit the Coast.

The motor drive from Greymouth is one of absorbing interest both in scenery and in historic association. Between Greymouth and Hokitika, one passes through the once famous Kumara Goldfield and the Six-Mile Diggings. From Kumara to Hokitika, the road traverses miles of “tailings”-mute evidence of the “roaring days of gold.” Were they endowed with human speech, what exciting tales these silent witnesses could relate of the stirring 'seventies!

Leaving Hokitika, the provincial capital, the road passes through Kanieri and Ross, the present railway terminus. Ross township is rich in the lore of the old goldmining days, and is assured of a future as the centre and outlet for a vast dairying district. The Waitaha is crossed some ten miles below Ross, and presently, the beautiful forest-bordered Lake Ianthe comes page 10 suddenly into view, and, as the winding road is descended, fresh glimpses, each presenting some different aspect of this “lady of the forest,” greet the eye.

Next, the Big Wanganui River is reached, and the road lies across the Inter-Wanganui Flat-a prosperous dairying district of which Hari Hari is the chief settlement. Leaving Hari Hari and its fertile plain, one presses further south until the Little Wanganui (Poerua) is crossed, thence to Wataroa, where the route climbs the bush-clothed flanks of Mt. Hercules.

The following six miles or so of road follows the convolutions of the hill, and presents one of the finest stretches of native bush in South Westland. The course is tortuous and full of bends, and may well be termed “the road of a hundred turns.” Fernclad banks and forest aisles lend to this mountain road a charm that is all its own.

Descending, the prospect recalls the oftquoted words of Reeves: “…silver fern fronds.. In cool, green tunnels, though fierce noontide glowed And glittered on the tree tops far below.

A bush scene. Waiho, West Coast, South Island.

A bush scene. Waiho, West Coast, South Island.

There, 'mid the stillness of the mountain-road, We just could hear the valley river flow.”

The Waitangi River is passed, and some miles further on the route skirts the eastern shores of lovely and mysterious Lake Wahapo, on whose broad bosom nestle scores of native game.

Through superb bush avenues, by ferucurtained cliffs and tangled, mossy woods one comes to Okarito Forks. Here the road divides T-wise. To the westward lies Okarito-a name to conjure with-ripe in history and reminiscence.

Once a roaring camp, but now given over to the more prosaic pursuits of timber-milling and cattle-raising.

Turning eastward at Okarito Forks, beautiful Lake Mapourika presently comes into view, and suddenly-

“…through the trees….a snowy gleam Of lonely peak and spectral mountain head, And gulfs that nurse the glacier and the stream.”

If the day be calm, as it usually is in these forest solitudes, one may see the Great Franz Josef Glacier and its sentinel peaks most perfectly reproduced-as in some giant mirror-in the placid water of Mapourika.

It is now but a few short miles to Waiho and the alpine wonders of South Westland.

At Waiho Gorge, the visitor has the choice of a great variety of excursions. The chief attraction is the wonderful Franz Josef Glacier, which, as it descends to well within 700 feet of sealevel, is easily the most accessible of all glaciers in New Zealand or elsewhere, and in its extraordinary setting-it is far below the limit of bush-is a picture of singular beauty. The greenish-blue tinge of the ice, the mysterious depths of the crevasses, the sparkling cascades which bespangle the enclosing mountain-sides, and the snowy heights surrounding, combine to make the spectacle as sublime as it is magnificent.

Waiho Gorge with its first class hosterly forms the base for a score of alpine excursions. Here at hand is a mountaineer's paradise-lordly snow-peaks, extensive ice-fields and rocky crags. High alpine passes connect with the Hermitage and its environs, and provide the finest and most rugged mountain scenery in the Dominion. Experienced guides are available and comfortable huts on the various routes enable the tourist to see this admirable playground to the best advantage.

Distant some twenty miles below the Waiho is the Fox Glacier, which is also readily accessible by road and track. The seventeen miles or so of mountain road between Waiho and the Cook River Flat (whence the track to the glacier commences) is through splendid scenery-none better page 11 exists in New Zealand. The road passes over three successive ridges mantled with virgin forest. The intervening valleys reverberate with the roaring waters of cataracting mountain torrents, while here and there, snowy peak and battlemented height enhance the grandeur and magnificence of the route.

The Fox Glacier is approached by track from the Main South Road (a road that will eventually link Westland with Otago) which takes the visitor right to the terminal face of this “river of ice.”

On the road to Mitchell's, West Coast, South Island.

On the road to Mitchell's, West Coast, South Island.

Recapitulating, the Waiho district offers the tourist and visitor scenery which in variety and form is unexcelled anywhere in the world, while a sojourn in this favoured locality provides one of the finest holidays of a lifetime.