Day Trip to the West Coast

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October 26th 2012
Published: March 18th 2013
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Souht Island First Visit


Christchurch International Airport to Hokitika Airfield
This was the first ever day trip i did. This was also my first ever visit to the South Island. A whole new part of NZ to explore.
The plan for today was, fly from Tauranga to Christchurch, fly over to Hokitika, catch a bus to Greymouth, shuttle over the alps to Christchurch, fly home to Tauranga. Why?? Because, I LOVE IT!!

I arrived at the small but functional Tauranga airport just before the minimum checkin time of 6.00am (yikes!!!!). I had requested seat 12A, right at the back of our high winged Bombardier Q300, operated by Air New Zealand subsidy Air Nelson. I really didn't have time to use the Koru Lounge, but i was thirsty so ran up for a glass of water. For those not from NZ and unfamiliar with a Koru Lounge, it is Air New Zealands premier Star Alliance Lounges. New Zealand has a few major ones in places like Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown, and smaller ones at smaller airports like Tauranga. Boarding was called ontime and I made our way out onto the tarmac. The weather was cloudy, otherwise fine. I stowed my day bag in the overhead locker and buckled my seat belt. Usually, due to my Star Alliance Status, i can sit in the premium area of the aircraft at the front. But for this trip, i shaped it up a little, and chose a seat at the back.

We took off ontime and climbed to 22.000ft. Unfortunately there was a bit of condensation on the inside of the window, which turned to ice, making visibility through 12As window low. It started to cloud over at around Turangi, and stayed that way till just north of Kaikoura. By that time, the view out of my window was looking out at the sea. Suddenly something caught my attention. Around 2.000ft below us i could see another Air New Zealand subsidy aircraft. A Mount Cook Airlines ATR 72-500 which I found out later was heading to Christchurch from Palmerston North. The flight attendant did one run through with the coffee, tea and biscuits, and two runs through with the water. I listened to my Ipod, dozed, and read the Inflight Magazine.

We hit a bump will the FA was handing out the lollies on descent, and Lollies tumbled all over me. She apologized, but it was no biggie. I helped collect MOST (emphasis on the most, some were slipped into my bag rather cheekily) of the sweets and then we prepared for landing. Banks Peninsular slowly drifted into view. We descended over the eastern suburbs and New Brighton. From the air, the earthquake damage was still very very visible, especially the liquefaction. As i had not been to Christchurch ever (or the South), i was looking forward to touch down. We landed from the south and taxied to gate 10. Being at the back, i was one of the last to deplane. What did i do to to commemorate my first step on South Island soil?? Did i kiss the ground or weep uncontrollably?? Nah, i planted my foot heavily on the damp concrete and rushed inside out of the 3 degrees chill. The flight down from Tauranga, took 1hr50mins to do over 700kms.

Inside the terminal there was some major reconstruction work going on, it was looking pretty nice 😊
I looked up at the departures/arrival board. My flight to Hokitika was ontime, due to depart in 2hrs. It was still to early to check in, so i took a walk around the
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Tasman Sea
airports industrial area. The chill in the air forced me into a McDonalds located a few kms from the terminal. I had a hot drink and a bite to eat before heading out into the cold. When i left Tauranga at 6am, it was a Tropical 17degrees, i was wearing a Tshirt and Shorts, Jandels!! Next day trip, i would be better prepared i vowed!

Back at the terminal, check in was open. I had preselected seat 5A, i confirmed this on the self check in machine and out spat my boarding pass to Hokitika. I went up to the Koru Lounge, to see what was on offer. The breakfast options were being cleared away, and a array of muffins/slices/cakes started to get layed out. As i tucked into Muffin, boarding was called.

"Air New Zealand and the Star Alliance welcomes customers traveling to Hokitika on flight NZ2762 to start the boarding process through gate 7. We invite Star Alliance Gold and Koru members to board now or at their leisure"

I made my way down to the Gate, scanning my boarding pass and making my way out to the tiny Beechcraft 1900D, operated by another Air
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Hokitika to Greymouth
New Zealand subsidy Eagle Airways. We departed from gate 7 ontime, and taxied out to the runway for a northwest departure. I looked around, there was only 5 people on the flight.

We took off, without any safety briefing, none at all!!, which surprised me. We climbed to 13.000ft, and made our way over the Southern Alps. I could see dark clouds on the horizon, id better enjoy the scenery while i could!! The towering mountains dwarfed crystal blue lakes and rivers. Snow capped peaks pointed at us. Around half way over, we hit cloud, and didn't lose it until we'd descended to around 2.000ft over Hokitika. We passed low over the town, following the Hokitika river out to the rough Tasman Sea. We then turned inland again for an approach to the runway from the North. We landed pretty violently I thought, almost as if the parking brakes were applied before touchdown, that's what it felt like!! . We taxied to the small but functional terminal, shaped a little like a few A-Frame buildings stuck together. The weather was a bit hazy, but no drizzle. Good flight, but I was puzzeled with the lack of a safety briefing...
Atomic ShuttlesAtomic ShuttlesAtomic Shuttles

Greymouth to Christchurch via Moana and Arthurs Pass

After landing at Hokitika Airfield, i walked out side to the Car Park, to my waiting Taxi. I gave her the address of the bus stop in Town and we departed. Hokitika Airport is the only airport on the West Coast, which is not prone to flooding, due to it been built on a flat topped hill. The Taxi driver talked about the Airport that is trying to get an approval to lengthen the runway to become an International Airport. Tiny Hokitika, a town of only a few thousand, becoming an International Airport!! Wow!!

In town, she dropped me off at the bus shelter. I jumped out, paid her, and then took a look through town. I had 50 minutes before the bus departed, so i had lunch at Stumpers, a bar/cafe on the main drag, before continuing my look around. I had a look through the many art/photo galleries and a look through the Greenstone Jade buildings. After walking along the beach, admiring the impressive swell and driftwood, i glanced at the time and ran back to the bus stop. I boarded the Intercity Bus, which was to take me on the first part of the journey through to Greymouth. Intercity is NZs biggest passenger bus operator, with numerous services in both the North and South Islands. The weather was still hazy, but had yet to produce any precipitation. We crossed over the narrow road/rail Taramakau Bridge, and wound alongside the beach before arriving in Greymouth. At the railway station, the Tranz Alpine train had just arrived from Christchurch.

I only had 10 minutes in Greymouth, hardly time to say boo to a tree.

I checked in with my shuttle driver and boarded the small shuttle. It was so SMALL and CRAMPED. I'm not a huge person, but the belt didn't even fit around me. We set off and immediately the whole shuttle rattled and shook. I was expecting the driver to pull over and fix it, but NOPE, he was obviously used to it. I glanced around the shuttle, it was SO dirty and grimy. I was very unimpressed. Luckily the stunning scenery took my mind off it. We stopped in Arthurs Pass Village for a break, before setting off. Around half and hour later, the sun broke out and we could fully see the glorious towering mountains that surrounded us. In short, it
Arthurs Pass StoreArthurs Pass StoreArthurs Pass Store

Shuttle located mid right
was an amazing trip, spoilt by my mode of transport. I would not be traveling Atomic again in a hurry. The 300km trip to Christchurch started off with lush rainforests and lakes, river valleys, steep gorges, mountain passes, tussock highlands and then finally green farmland.

After 5 hours of traveling on the shuttle, we pulled up outside the Antarctic Centre, my stop. I was jolted to pieces, i was a broken person. My back ached, my ears hurt and i was hunched over. I walked over to the airport and went into the Koru Lounge, where i had a few drinks and a fabulous dinner. I revived me enough, and i was able to forget about the traumatic afternoon which had taken place on the shuttle.........

Boarding was called for my flight back to Tauranga and i made my way out of the lounge and down to Gate 10. The flight attendant welcomed me aboard and i sat down in my seat, 10A, which is an emergency window, with a tad more leg room, than you would otherwise have. The flight filled until there was not one seat left. It was Friday night, and the only direct flight
Sign PostSign PostSign Post

Arthurs Pass
back to Tauranga. The weather was drizzly, breezy and cold. We took off to the North and climbed to 21.000ft. The FA did two runs through with the coffee/tea/water and we watched the sun set over the impressive southern alps. It was completely dark by the time we reached Blenheim, only it's twinkling lights made its presence known. It clouded over a bit, and i saw nothing until we landed in Tauranga. We flew right over my house, which was cool!!! The FA switched the lights off, and no one kept their reading lights on, which made for a cool experience. We landed from the North East and taxied to the Terminal. There were 2 other Q300s parked up for the night. The captain farewelled us personally by shaking our hands whilst disembarking, Nice Job!!!

It was an amazing trip in short, spoilt by the Shuttle trip over the alps. The weather was not perfect, but i think that added to the beauty. My first trip to the South Island was not in vain!! More South Island Day Trips to Come!!

How Much it Cost:

Tauranga to Christchurch Flight: $109
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Arthurs Pass Main Street

Christchurch to Hokitika Flight: $114

Hokitika Taxi: $12

Hokitika to Greymouth Bus: $10

Greymouth to Christchurch Shuttle: $55

Christchurch to Tauranga flight: $109

Food: $30

Total: $439


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