Nov. 27 Arthur’s Pass. We arrived in Christchurch last evening. I can’t believe our time here is at an end. It has been a wonderful journey but now with our departure in sight I am really excited about going home. This means that soon we will be spending Christmas with our daughters and future son in law, and it will be good to have family and friends close by! We have, however, been busy here seeing places we put off till the last minute. Today we took a shuttle on the historic east-west road thru Arthur’s Pass. You start out viewing cattle and sheep farms outside of Christchurch but gradually the area becomes steeper and steeper as the snow covered Southern Alps grow closer and closer. There were numerous hairpin turns with the shuttle in the lowest gear possible as it attempted to make the grade. After an hour and a half of travel we arrived at the town of Arthur’s Pass which is comprised of 2 eateries, numerous small vacation homes, and the Department of Conservation (DOC) building. By and large, the homes were made of siding and painted various colors with greens predominating. It turns out these were built around 1908 and were the tunnellers’ huts. These workers were hired by the railroad to dig through rock and connect the rail line from Christchurch to Greymouth through the Otira tunnel. This was completed in 1923 with the subsequent selling of the workers’ huts for summer cabins.
While at Arthurs’ Pass we continued with the theme of this journey—hiking, of course. Again, New Zealanders build the trails to fit the mountains so often they are steep. Both the trails we took had this characteristic. The first was to Devil’s Punchbowl falls which reminded me a lot of Multnomah Falls in Oregon.
There were earthquakes here in 1994 and 1995 which pushed trees and rock out of the way and made the falls much more viewable. You could feel the mist on your face as 60 km winds whipped around G’s and my face. The water cascaded and tumbled, spewed and sprayed as it made its way down the sheer rock face. G and I were once again reminded that there is only so much that we as humans control. Nature does not care who you are or what you do. It is unforgiving but not vindictive. Grandeur but deadly. Enough waxing philosophical and now back to the second hike.
Arthur’s Pass Walking Track was, also, to a water fall, Bridal Veil Falls. This was not nearly as impressive as we were positioned quite a ways from it and it was seen in microcosm. We did take a side trail which led to a view of an old swing bridge.
It sagged in the middle like a much loved sofa. It was a photo shot moment. Later on this section of track we passed under power lines held up by an immense metal structure. G cognated that it would not take him very long to scramble to the top. Oh, the air up here makes men crazy! On the way down the hill we passed under them again and this time saw warning signs stating “Danger, do not climb, 66,000volts”. Good thing, G had put off his ascent until our return down trail.
Our transportation back to Christchurch was by the TransAlpine railroad. It was such a treat. G and I had put it on the “maybe” list of thing to do if we had time. We are so glad we did!
You are consumed by greatness as you travel in the railcar looking out. The mountains are so close and so timeless in appearance. The gorge is so deep but still you get glimpses of blue rivers flowing down from the mountains and then braiding onto the plains. There are 15 tunnels on this route and they surprise you when the darkness is lifted and a new scene appears. The train stopped at small towns to let people off and when the conductor blew his whistle,we resumed travel.
November 27 Today we stayed in Christchurch and got ready to leave. We did have time to go to a new exhibit at their museum. This was on the Scott expedition to Antarctica. Man against the elements with nature not caring what the end result was. It was well done and very sobering, especilly made more so by the diary Scott kept until close to his death.