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Published: November 22nd 2013
Thursday November 21st, 2013. Christchurch to Arthur's Pass, Southern Alps, South Island, New Zealand
We awoke very early (despite being so tired last night) as our bodies are still on the European clock. We had a breakfast of Wheat Bix (which M thought would be like the English Wheatabix but aren't), tea, coffee and toast. We went back to the supermarket to use the ATM and get some more supplies. Then we set off on the A73 in the direction of the West Coast of the South Island via the Southern Alps. Our target was to reach Arthur's Pass. The weather was glorious.
As we drove along the highway we spotted a view of the alps just as we entered the town limits of a small place called Aylesbury. The viewpoint stands on the site where a goods train collision occurred in February 1942. We continued along the highway until we came to the small town of Sheffield which is famous for its pie shop. We stopped at this shop and purchased a couple of "cornish pasties" for dinner tonight. Next we had a brief stop at Lake Lydon (famous for bird watching and ice skating in winter) where
we took a few photographs.
We continued along the highway to Castle Hill which is famous for its limestone rock formations known as Kura Tawhiti by New Zealand's native people, the Maori. These are amazing totally natural rock "sculptures". Their sheer size is very impressive. Rock shelters amongst the limestone outcrops were used by early Maori. They were travellers on a network of trails that gave access to rich food and fibre resources in the Waimakariri Basin. Some of the shelters contain rock art drawn by these early inhabitants but we didn't see any. The traditions and knowledge associated with this landscape are still held and valued by present day Maori. Kura Tawhiti now has top-uni status, symbolizing a chiefly cloak of protection. The site is a natural treasure house. The limestone landscape contains classic examples of geological structures formed during the most recent mountain-building period. Beds of fossils are also present and the rock outcrops are home to several species of endemic plants - some of which were only discovered recently. This might not rock everyone's boat, but to M and D, both being geographers, it was heaven.
We continued on until we reached Arthur's pass where
we stopped at the Information Office on the way in to town. Outside the office there were two birds - M pointed out these parrots to D. Once inside the lady recommended two places places for us to stay. M mentioned the birds and was told that they were wild Kea. M rushed out to take a photo but they had gone. She was not a happy bunny as seeing these parrots was one of the things on her NZ bucket list. M purchased a Discover Arthur's Pass Guide for $2NZ. We first went to the guest house called Arthur's that she had recommended but it was closed until 6pm so we tried her second option and found a room at a Youth Hostel called Mountain House. Over lunch of left over pizza from yesterday night we had a chat and decided that it would be a good value option to join the NZ YHA as we could also use the membership in Oz. The membership entitled us to discounts on accommodation and free Internet access in those hostels which had internet connections in NZ. We worked out that we would have got our money back after 3 nights stay
- and after that we were NS$ in!
After lunch the weather worsened (Manchester drizzle). However, being intrepid souls, we looked at the guide that M had purchased and decided to go tramping (that's Kiwi for hiking). There were three walks that we wanted to do before we leave tomorrow. The first was a very short 10 minute walk to Avalanche Creek waterfall which started from the Information Office (M was hoping to see another Kea). It took you over a little bridge from where you could see the waterfall but we continued up the path to a viewing platform which gave us a better view.
The next walk was the Arthur's Pass Historic walk which takes you around the village pointing out various historic sites. We were already at the starting point of this walk which was the bridge at the Avalanche Creek Waterfall. We continued past the first store (Brakes Store) which now houses the Youth Hostel where we are staying. Next we went to Coberger's Shop - the first alpine sports depot in Arthur's Pass. We stopped at the village post office and then we continued past the Tunnelers' cottages in Main Street and the
Schoolhouse. Both the cottages and the school date from 1908 when they were occupied by the workers who were constructing the nearby railway tunnel through the mountain. The school was for their children. The cottages are now holiday homes. We continued on the Punchbowl Power Station site which is the site of the first power house, built in 1909, to generate the electricity for the construction of the railway tunnel. Power was need for lighting, ventilation, air compressors, and for pumping water out of the tunnel. Only the concrete foundations remain and D stood on them for a photo shot.
We started back and at this point abandoned the Historic Walk and took a detour in order to complete the 3rd walk on our list - the climb up to the Devil's Punchbowl waterfall (we were walking right past the path anyway). This spectacular 131 metre fall can be seen from the main road but we decided to walk up the 150 vertical metres (over 300 steps!!!) in order to take a closer look. We made it and M took a good picture of D at the top. D took one of M too but we won't mention that
one. Suffice it to say that M commented that D could never tell her she can't frame a photo properly EVER again.
We had the award winning pasties for dinner - yuk. They really weren't very nice. D went to bed around 10 while M wrote some blogs and followed him around 11 pm.
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