We were fairly efficient this morning and managed to hit the road by 8am, a little later than we wanted, but still with plenty of time up our sleeve. Traffic was a bit ‘rush hour’, but it didn’t last long and we were pretty soon on the open road. Unfortunately, the skies were also open and we had a lot of rain, low cloud and mist on the mountains. Still, we enjoyed what we could see!
We had some holdups with road works - including clearing land slip debris, which was a reminded of the challenges of driving these roads in winter - but still made good time. We arrived in Arthur’s Pass around 10:30, which seemed like a good time for a cup of coffee! While we were there, the KiwiRail Alpine Explorer passed through, on its way from Christchurch to Greymouth, which was a little bit of excitement.
Even more exciting was the end of the rain! This happened just in time as we wanted to take a walk up to the Devil’s Punchbowl, a magnificent waterfall, just off the highway. This walk was rated as ‘easy’, which was just what we needed for a stretch, but I think the person who assigned that rating is a sadist! It is indeed a beautiful walk through rainforest, but it includes about a thousand steps!! Still, the views were magnificent and when we got to the waterfall, we were not disappointed. They are awesome and the viewing platform is very close.
Just beyond Arthurs Pass is a lookout over the Otiro Viaduct, a rather magnificent road bridge that has cut out a section of the old road known as Death’s Corner. When you look at the route the old road took, which is still visible, the moniker is well earned - scary! At this lookout, we also had a lovely encounter with some local wildlife. A couple of Keas, an endangered mountain parrot, wandered around the carpark and even came right up to my camera! They are very inquisitive birds and were not the least afraid of all the humans.
I’m breaking the report here and will continue the day in part two, mainly to keep the map in order! On to part 2...