• October 24th, 2022
  • WORDS BY Harrison Roach
  • PHOTOS BY Anthony Dodds and Oscar Hetherington

The Haast Pass

We were on our way West for a camp/surf mission with a bush pilot named Blair, and began crossing the Southern Alps just after midnight.

As we chugged through the pass, the vibe in the Land Rover was high as its revs. It had been a big first day - 2 hours in the surf and 14 hours on the road.

With Parker behind the wheel, tunes pumping on the stereo, and cold Speights flowing to those of us who’d finished our stint of driving, we talked story and caught up on each other’s lives. Somewhere on the pass, I started spinning a yarn about hitting a Kangaroo in my ute - next minute, a head flashed into the light by the edge of the Land Rover’s bullbar, “What the fuck was that?” Parker yelled, “surely not a Kangaroo.”

All we'd seen was two big white eyes.

Up ahead, a bloke in a long coat and Wellingtons waved us down by the hazard lights of his truck, “Cattle on the road lads, watch for more cars while I go back to round up the one you almost hit.” We got out of the car with phone torches and noticed twenty black cattle strewn across the road.

Sure enough, the only distinguishable feature was the whites of their eyes.

Inspired by the bloke in his Welly’s, we thought we'd better try and help, and in a short while, we found a toppled farm gate and began ushering the cattle back through to the paddock beyond. With about half of the herd through the gate, another car approached, and it soon became apparent that the light of our phones wasn’t enough to caution the driver. We watched helplessly as one of the heifers got in a fright and rammed the oncoming car. Fortunately, the car was moving slow, and in what appeared to be a bit of a harmless-hoorah for the heifer, it head-but the car’s door before running into the paddock. With more cattle down the road and danger still present, one of the boys went off to wake the nearest farmhouse, and while the rest of us waited, we got talking to the woman who’d just had the run in with the heifer. Her car door was dented, but otherwise everything was fine. She was actually pretty excited, because she was on her way to join the bush pilot named Blair, who had a camp/surf mission on the go with a ragtag group from Roark. Hell of an introduction, Elly. Eventually, the farmer arrived, got the cattle under control, and sent us on our way. By this stage, a few more Speights had been sunk, and it soon became apparent that the time for catching up was over - a new story had begun, and if the first day was anything to go by, it’d be one to remember. The next day we’d be on a couple of bush planes with Blair and Elly, headed into the southern wild, AWOL in Aotearoa.