Travel Diary » Photo Essay: Over Arthurs Pass
In a country that is renowned for it's amazing scenery and spectacular drives, one of the most famous is the drive from the west coast to/from Christchurch across the Southern Alps at Arthurs Pass. It's the highest crossing over the alps and takes you through steep gorges, snow capped mountains, scree covered slopes, wide river beds, waterfalls and rich farming valleys.
The drive between Hokitika/Greymouth and Christchurch across Arthurs Pass takes approximately three hours depending on the conditions. And it is one of those roads where you really do need to be aware of the conditions before setting off. Landslides, ice, heavy rain and fog are common. Since the highest point on the road is just under 1000m and as a friend and native Kiwi, Dave Dean regularly tells us, "Summer in New Zealand is optional", sleet and snow can occur all year round in the pass.
Having done the drive in a small campervan with similar uphill capabilities as a horse and carriage, on a wet, snowy day (although admittedly we were just below the snow-line so we only experienced rain and a little sleet), the drive didn't seem that difficult. It's winding and I'm sure quite treacherous in icy conditions but the road itself is good and the climb is less steep than a lot of roads we've driven on. It's just one of those roads that you need to check the conditions before you leave and remain alert it. If you don't fancy driving over the pass, you can take the Trans-Alpine Railway, which by all accounts offers even more stunning views than you see from the road.
Personally we found the drive across the Haast Pass between Queenstown/Wanaka and Haast on the west coast to be a more stunning drive than Arthurs Pass, but Arthurs Pass was still gorgeous. If we hadn't just done the other drive we would have been completely blown away.
It was raining when we set out from Greymouth. The first hour passed pretty much like this. Paddocks filled with lambs, a wide river and a whole lot of drizzling misty rain. Pretty but the rain stopped it from being spectacular.
As we made our way up the mountains the countryside got wilder. The rain also became heavier and we started seeing snow capped peaks. We spent most of the drive playing 'spot the landslide' (warning: only play this if your kids can count past 100 because they're going to need to count that high).
The highlight was passing through a tunnel designed to stop a rock-slide from covering the road and the nearby waterfall that is now diverted over top of the road.
Finally we hit Arthurs Pass and the town of the same name. It looked like a lovely spot to stop for lunch and enjoy a walk to the nearby waterfalls. Unfortunately for us it was so cold and wet the kids only lasted two minutes out of the car before asking to keep going. You know it's cold when kids that are completely sick of being in a car ask to hop back in and continue driving, especially when there are rocks, sticks and creeks about!
As soon as we cleared the pass the rain stopped and the view ... WOW!
The Castle Hill region was the most scenic in our minds. Snow fields and multi-coloured mountains preceded by plains dotted with thousands of limestone boulders.
If you've seen the Narnia movies (the epic battle scenes amidst lime stone boulders in the first movie) or the Lord of the Rings trilogy, this spot is going to be very familiar.
This week I'm joining Photo Friday at Delicious Baby, always a great place to get travel inspiration for your family.