Day 5: Castle Hill + Arthur’s Pass + Hokitika

Published: January 8th 2012
Edit Blog Post

I wish the car is red, I wish the car is red, I wish the car is red…. And… It turns out to be blue. Well, as long as the rental car can run smoothly, I can live with that ha ha. I told M I’m sorry I forgot my driver’s license, which means he has to drive until end of our South Island circle. “You don’t look genuinely sorry”, he said. I just grin. I sincerely forgot to bring it, but I seriously don’t think he’ll ever let me get behind the wheel anyway.

There are basically 2 paths that you can take to reach Queenstown from Christchurch: via Arthur’s Pass, or via Mount Cook. I chose the combination of both. We will go via Arthur’s Pass first, and after reaching Queenstown we will enroute back to Christchurch via Mount Cook.

In the forums, people already says how scenic Arthur’s Pass is. And indeed! Even before we reached it, we stopped every now and then to take pictures. On the road, you can totally see the different between real Kiwis or tourists. Tourists would stop for pictures. A lot. And the locals would just drive by because they are already used to the gorgeousness of New Zealand.

Soon enough we understand that each time the green sign board from the Department of Conservation appears, that would mean a scenic spot is ahead. And if you see a lot car stops, that means the site is really nice. Not long after, we stopped at Castle Hill Rocks. This place was actually not on my itinerary, but indeed it was a nice surprise. It’s basically giant formations of limestones – kinda reminds of Cappadocia in Turkey which I’ve visited earlier that year. The sky is blue, the wind is blowing, the birds are chirping, wild flowers everywhere, dots of cows on the horizon…. Wow… It’s just beautiful. The difference between Castle Hill in Cappadocia, is in Castle Hill the limestones are not shaped like male genitalia. Seriously. Ha ha ha…. Google it up if you don’t believe me.

The view is just getting better and better. On the side I saw the train tracks as we’re getting nearer to Arthur’s Pass. Actually there’s another way where you can enroute from the east of South Island to it’s west – which is via scenic train. But we decided to drove instead because: a) we went in summer, the mountains are not too dramatic with snow caps, b) you can stop over more with car, c) it’s much cheaper with rental car vs train – believe it or not. In case anyone would like to see the train option, see it here:

I was wondering what’s Arthur’s Pass is all about. Apparently from there you can see the mountains, the crazy blue turquoise river and the field of lupins surrounding it. It’s sooooo gorgeous! I’m so happy we went in the summer as the lupin flowers really added that touch of awesomeness. Lupins are basically wild flowers that grows in many part of South Island in New Zealand. What’s interesting is that they come in different hues: purple, pink, blue, peach, yellow, burgundy, white, etc. Despite of the different colors, they are typically growing side by side and create a beautiful harmony.

We parked our car and walked down to the Waimakariri river. THE WATER IS JUST SO CLEAR! I could literally see right through it. I’m so tempted just to jump and swim there. It’s very cold though. I know I’m not supposed to drink water in wild places like that but I just can’t help myself. Ahhh… so fresh! At that point, for me, the time stands still. I took lots of deep breath and just taking all the gorgeousness in. The fresh water, the breezy fresh air, the gorgeous colorful lupin fields, the mountains, the blue sky, the birds chirping… I just want to forever engrave it in my memory… And my happy level hit 12 out of 10 scales.

M was smiling ear to ear as well. Before the journey, M was having a rough time in his life. It has been a challenging year for him. Hence, I asked him whether he’s happy at the moment. He said he’s just “okay”. I told him, “If you won’t admit you’re happy – I think it’s just your ego, dude ha ha…” Then he replied “Ok fine, it’s just my ego” ha ha ha….

We were way off track vs schedule as we stopped more and longer than we predicted. The only worry that we have is the accommodations in NZ typically are not open for 24 hours. Their reception hour is only for certain times (i.e. from 8 am to 8 pm or so). So we started to be selective with the stops. Very quick ones if it’s so so. Or sometimes we pass at all.

Then we finally enter Hokitika – which is already at the west side of the South Island. Had a very late lunch there. If you join tour groups, typically they will stop at Hokitika because it’s the center of Jade crafts. M bought couple of jade pendants for himself (which ended up to be a good deal as the same item are sold way more expensive in other cities). I bought fridge magnet made out of hand painted stone for 8 NZD. Quite expensive for a rock. But I’m buying the memory, not the rock. Or at least that’s what I told myself. Well, you can always work to get more money. But you’re not in NZ every day.

Just outside Hokitika, we saw several Highland Cattles on the road side. They are basically cows, but with long fur! So cute! From what I’ve heard, they are not breed as much anymore in New Zealand because they got beaten by Angus from maintenance and revenue stand point. M was kind enough to U turn so I can take pictures. I tried to take picture closer (although still outside the fence), but they are apparently very angsty. Had to immediately leave as I was a bit scared those big animals can easily roam over the wood fence if they wanted too. I wish I can speak animal language and calm them down. I really only wanted to take good pictures and means no harm.

Soon enough, we arrived at Franz Josef - our pit stop for the night. It’s a small little village at the foot of Franz Josef Glacier, but they still have couple of cafes and restaurants and also the important grocery stores. Yup, eating out is expensive here. So the economical option is actually to buy fresh produce then cook it at the hostel – where they typically have a common kitchen.

Said goodbye to M before we headed to our separate rooms; and can’t remember anything else. I’m too tired to even have a dream in my sleep. I only remember thinking to myself – am I really in New Zealand? Is this a dream? And then I lost my consciousness.

To view more of my travel pictures – pls go to


Tot: 3.122s; Tpl: 0.039s; cc: 23; qc: 137; dbt: 0.0919s; 3; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.6mb