Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Road through the Mountains - Arthur's Pass

Punakaiki to Christchurch (Via Arthur's Pass)

We awoke on Wednesday morning with a big drive ahead of us - and excitement about the incredible views we would be seeing on our way back across the South Island to Christchurch.

We heard the crashing waves through the night and woke to an amazing view from our window

Mom and Dad needed their morning coffee - so the boys waited on a cool swing outside the cafe.

Terrific sunshine greeted us

Just 2 minutes up the road from our coffee stop (and the Pancake Rocks) was the "Punakaiki Cavern" - so we thought we should check it out. The cave was empty - and very dark - but ours to explore for as long as we wanted.

Very "Indiana Jones" in there - which Liam loved!

A sign outside explained what we could see inside the cave

Very narrow spaces to squeeze through (we certainly tested our limits!)

Chy-Anne and I both used our iPhone "torches" to light the way and see where we were going.

A very unique place to expore

Bryce and Liam loved it!

We found some small stalactites hanging from the ceiling

We emerged from the cave back into the sunshine

A hidden little treasure right off the highway!

Closer view of a weka bird

And the drive begins...

I tried to restrain myself from continually pulling the car over to take pictures - but it likely worked out to every 30 minutes or so (sometimes more often in the spectacular stretches of Arthur's Pass!) 

After filling the car with petrol in Greymouth (Nick and Katherine's advice because of the lack of options on Arthur's Pass) - we started heading east across the middle of the South Island. 

Towards the beauty of the Southern Alps

Toi Toi Grass - I thought it looked really nice along the roads towards the West Coast - but apparently it is a weed pest (invasive species!)

I'm pretty sure that this pedestrian bridge must have been built specifically for tourists to take photographs - an absolutely breaktaking spot!

This rope footbridge was tricky. It was only a 1 person weight limit - so Bryce and Liam had to go by themselves. Bryce was, of course, apprehensive - but he did it! Way to go, mate!

We continued on the Otira Gorge Road - and drove across a stretch that was a bit of incredible engineering. The waterfall has been diverted over the road and the shelter (on the left) built to divert rock slides from the road and traffic. Wow!

We had our first Kea encounter at the lookout car park. These are the world's only alpine parrot and have quite a reputation for being highly intelligent and mischevious! They like to rip the rubber off of cars and destroy things if left alone near your vehicle. 

The Otira Gorge

We're in the mountains now! Arthur's Pass is NZ's highest altitude settlement and at over 900 metres above sea level - it is quite spectacular to drive through!

Sneaky bird!

After Arthur's Pass village, we continued over journey through - what I think - was the most amazing views of the mountains and surrounding areas. 

I pulled the car over to take the photos shown above and Chy-Anne and the boys spotted some Keas in the nearby Klondyke Corner. 

Chy-Anne noticed that one of the Keas hand string wrapped around its leg - making it difficult to move around. She hatched a plan to lure it closer - to try and free it from the problem. Once the food showed up, the bird seemed to carefully take the string off all by itself. 

I'm pretty sure we were taken in by a trick. I think the Canadians were 'hustled' by a Kea con! Clever things!

There was still snow on the ground in some spots here

We had a look for Kiwi birds - but they're very tough to find 
(they're largely noctural and dwindling in populations).

Keas have incredible colours on their backs and wings - which you can't see unless they take off in flight.

And then we came upon our next 'unscheduled' stop - Castle Hill. Amazing rock formations begin to appear in the hills and mountainsides and we decided that we needed to get out and check it out. 

It was the right!

You really have no idea how big these rocks are - until you are standing in front of them!

A snowball fight broke out - this is just before I got pelted by Liam!

Can you find Chy-Anne, Liam and Bryce in the picture below?

Me and the boys!

We made our way along the path back to the car park - so worth the stop!

We drove for just over an hour - after leaving Castle Hill - and arrived in Christchurch at Katherine and Nick's house. After close to 7 hours in the car - we were ready for a good night's sleep!

Next up: Christchurch City Tour (and the effects of the 2011 earthquake)

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