Thursday, January 7, 2010

Arthur's Pass

We awoke to a blustery and rainy morning in Hokitika. The wind was whistling across the Tasman and as I went to check out the receptionist told me that the road we had travelled up yesterday from Haast to Fox glacier had been closed due to flooding. Fortunately the highway to the east was open however I expected it was going to be a very wet and dismal trip across Arthur's Pass to Christchurch.
To be perfectly honest I had been both "dreading" and "looking forward" to this last leg of our trip for some time. "Dreading" because I am an extremely anxious passenger particularly when travelling up steep mountain ranges and "looking forward" because I had read so much about this journey and seen pictures of the viaduct and magnificent scenery. I knew it was going to be something special. As we headed east from Hokitika the rivers and waterways we crossed were all running a bunker and the rain was teeming down. All along the side of the road there were small waterfalls and riverlets coming down off the mountains. Although the visibility was very low we still managed to get a good look at the countryside. As we started climbing my nervousness started to escalate particularly when I saw signs like "Warning - extremely steep ascents" and "Road not suitable for towing vehicles". OMG - I'm sure we're not going to make it! To his credit Matthew did an excellent job in traversing this tricky road and we were rewarded with outstanding views. What an amazing engineering effort the construction of this road. After one final very steep ascent and drive across the viaduct (with waterfalls spraying out above one of the tunnels) we finally saw the sign for Arthur's Pass. Whew! We had made it. It was absolutely pouring by this stage as we pulled into the Arthur's Pass cafe for a late breakfast. I felt so sorry for a bedraggled and wet Kea which was taking shelter on the cafe railings. After a coffee and pannini we were ready to continue on with the journey. The trip through to Springfield was stunning as we traversed beautiful valleys and then climbed around magnificent mountains. Finally we were on the Canterbury Plains - flat ground thank goodness! We arrived in Christchurch around 12.30 p.m. and managed to find a parking spot close to Hertz. As the car wasn't due to be dropped off until 4 p.m. we decided to have a bit of a look around the Mall. We were both very impressed with what we saw of Christchurch and would have liked the opportunity to have spent a bit more time in this beautiful city.
Dropped the car back to Hertz and then got a taxi to the Sudima Hotel at the airport. We had to be up at 3 a.m. the next morning for our 6 a.m. flight so figured it would be best to have an early night.

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