The year 2009 looks like a year of travels for me. As far as work is concerned, I have travels scheduled across the country at least once a month and in some cases, more than once a month. I will be heading off to South Africa middle of the year, then there is the trip to the Pacific Islands and Australia after that. If all goes according to plan, might even be heading back to Malaysia later in the year.
As soon as we came back from our holidays in the South Island, I was off to Tauranga for a field visit. From one end of the country, I went to the other end, Haast. Not exactly the end but it is literally almost at the end of the road as far as the West Coast of the South Island is concerned.
I was taken aback when I arrived at Haast, a township with a population of under 300 people and not so many sheep either. The town has no cell phone coverage, so if your car broke down in the middle of the road you will not be able to call AA for help. The town is not on the main power grid so electricity is at best as good as it gets. There are several backpackers and campsites but one hotel, one restaurant and bar, one minimarket, one petrol station and that’s it! No banks, no ATM machines. A stroll down the minimarket aisles, I found no fresh vegetable or meat. So I asked a local how do you get fresh produce. The answer was rather simple – either grow it, hunt it or trade it.
One evening I went down to the beach and found myself sitting all alone for hours. Not a soul for miles and miles either way. You could literally be washed out to sea or fall dead and no one would have noticed. This is the perfect place to run away to. There is no cell phone coverage, newspapers arrive after lunch, there is only one radio station and sometimes you can hardly even tune into it. If you can't wind down here, there is no where else you could do it.
Despite the isolation or perhaps due to the isolation, the environment is pristine. The landscape is stunning. Nature at its best. There is a sanctuary a few kilometres south of Haast and if you wait patiently and don’t mind the constant stinging of the sandflies, you are bound to see at least several native birds. Take a drive down to Jackson Bay, where the road suddenly comes to an abrupt end, you are more than likely to catch a glimpse of the Crested Penguins that call this part of the country home.
Here are some photos I took while in Haast.
This is just the beginning. There are still many parts of the country I have yet to see and am looking forward to seeing.
I am off to Northland on Monday.