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The Silk Route - World Travel: New Zealand: Castle Hill; Arthur's Pass to Hokitika
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New Zealand: Arthur's Pass to Hokitika
February 2017

To Castle Hill Arthur's Pass Hokitika
Castle Hill


Some stunning scenery crossing the South Island via Arthur's Pass.

To Castle Hill

Sheffield Pie Shop
Sheffield Pie Shop

It was a beautiful day for flying when we flew into Christchurch from Wellington. We collected our car and set off over the vast Canterbury Plains.

Sheffield Pie Shop
From the Sheffield Pie Shop.
The train runs across the Canterbury Plains and up over the mountains - if an avalanche or flooding hasn't cut the line!
To Castle Rocks

First stop was for lunch at the Famous Sheffield Pie Shop, which we can highly recommend. We had chicken in a creamy mushroom and bacon sauce, and chicken, apricot and camembert - both excellent and the best pies we had anywhere in New Zealand. The mountains already look massive - huge, bald masses in the distance.

 

To Castle Rocks
To Castle Rocks

 

We stopped at the rocky limestone landscape of Castle Hill, to stretch our legs in this dramatic scenery.

Castle Rocks
Castle Rocks
Castle Rocks
Castle Rocks

 

At the end of the track the limestone outcrops rise high along a ridge.

Castle Rocks
Castle Rocks

 

The views over the golden plain to the mountains are beautiful.

 

Castle Rocks
Castle Rocks





Castle Rocks

 

Arthur's Pass

To Arthur's Pass
More dramatic scenery as we drove on to Arthur's Pass.

Arthur's Pass
Devil's Punchbowl Falls from across the Bealey River.

 

We continued up the road, climbing to Arthur's Pass - not a difficult road really. This route was used by Maoris to reach the west and only discovered by a European, Arthur Dobson, in 1864, driven by the need to reach the gold mining fields of Westland.

The small town of Arthur's Pass is 4km from the actual pass. We checked in to the Alpine Motel and chatted with the owner for a while. he told us that the trains had not been running from Christchurch for the past two weeks because fires had destroyed the wooden supports of two bridges.

Arthur's Pass
Distinctive red rocks, the colour caused by iron oxide.
Arthur's Pass
Lupins (right) are becoming something of a problem in the wild.

 

We went for a walk along the river and to the Devil's Punchbowl Falls which had plenty of water coming down!


Arthur's Pass
Arthur's Pass
Arthur's Pass
Devil's Punchbowl Falls

In Maori the falls are called "Te Tautea o Hinekakai". To the local Maori people, the Ngai Tahu, the long drops of white water resembled the white threads of flax, used to weave clothing and matting. Hinekakai was a famous ancestral Maori weaver.

Flax was prepared by scraping the upper surface of the leaves with a sharp shell to remove the sap and tough fibres. The resulting fibre was steeped in water then beaten to soften it. mountain flax, wharariki, produces a particularly white, silky thread.1

Arthur's Pass
Lichen and mosses on the forest floor.
Arthur's Pass
Lichen-festooned tree.

 

We got back to the Wobbly Kea in Arthur's Pass for dinner just before torrential rain began. We had an enjoyable meal - very generous portions - before heading back to our room.

Keas are alpine parrots - we only saw one while we were here. There are kiwis in this region too, but since' they're nocturnal we didn't have any chance of seeing them!

The following morning we set off early, making a short detour to the Otira Viaduct lookout point. The viaduct carries the highway high over the valley - an impressive piece of engineering.

Arthur's Pass
Otira Viaduct

On the west side of Arthur's Pass the road travels through the dramatic Otiri Gorge. - something rail travellers miss as the train runs through an 8.5km tunnel at this point.

Arthur's Pass

 

Hokitika

Hokitika

The Otiri Gorge eventually opens out into a river plain edged with mountains. The plain becomes wider and wider, a silver thread of river running through it. It's really beautiful scenery but there's absolutely nowhere to stop and take photographs.

Turning south we passed through a lot of forest before stopping at Hokitika on the coast for an excellent coffee and a fresh-baked muffin at Stella's.

Hokitika

The beach here is fantastic. A stretch of grey sand and pebbles littered with driftwood from small chunks to whole tree roots. There had been a driftwood sculpture competition here a month before and remnants of the entries remained. There was a good crashing surf up too!

Hokitika

 

 

Hokitika
Driving south from Hokitika.

 

After buying boozy fruit fudge at Sweet Alice's Fudge Kitchen we headed out.

We stopped at the Bushman's Centre which was completely deserted and felt very unwelcoming. Sadly, the Puke Pub opposite was closed.

We continued south, heading for Franz Josef and adventures on the glaciers!

 

References

  1. Department of Conservation information board.