Arthur's Pass

February 2017

The drive from there to Arthur's Pass took us back through the Buller Gorge and along new but very scenic territory.
Arthur's Pass village was smaller than we anticipated, and we were very relieved that we at least had a few vegies, and supplies to see us through the next three nights. We had hoped to find a laundromat, but no such luck, so dirty clothes will go back to Sydney.
We arrived sufficiently early to explore our wonderfully situated 'Woodsmoke Cottage' - private, but close to the village and all the walks - a real NZ Bach, but with everything we might need. We had brought our own throws, towels and pillowcases, and planned to use the duvet purchased in the op shop in Christchurch with our throws as sheets, which worked out well.
We had sufficient time to complete the Temple Basin track, a 500 m climb to a height of 1250 m (great views), but the alpine track with lots of rocks was hard on feet and hips. Temple Basin is a ski valley, but it is difficult to think of anyone enjoying themselves up there in the cold, wind and snow. We were fortunate in the weather, which had promised rain, but it evaporated as soon as the cloud came over the mountains into the Temple Basin, as it apparently often does.
Our meal was pasta, cooked in the microwave, with mince, tomato sauce and vegies cooked in an electric frying pan (a round one - have not seen one like that before). Not quite gourmet, but tasty and not too unhealthy.
Our first full day in Arthur's Pass started on a pessimistic note - rain and mist, but by 11 am it had cleared so we took the opportunity to explore the best of the "Arthur's Pass Walking track" essentially about 100 metres above the roadway, but with side trips to rivers, lovely moss covered trees, beech, and then alpine vegetation.
We returned to the car, and it started to rain - what luck. So we treated ourselves to instant noodles in our cabin - usually a 'no no' but we had purchased some for emergencies.
On advice from the Information Centre and the booklet we had, we realised that one could find 'rain and mist free' tracks at the Eastern end of Arthur’s pass even when the pass itself was inclement. The description of Bealey Spur Track suggested it was worth the 3-hour hike and we were not disappointed.
There was no rain, the footing was dry and the views quite remarkable, showing valleys that one does not see from within Arthur's Pass, such as Waimakariri Valley. Arthur's Pass is very alpine with the associated rock underfoot, snow scoured peaks and land-slips and fast flowing rivers over well rounded boulders; Waimakariri has a little agriculture in the delta.
As a result of the Kaikoura Coast earthquake, traffic on all the routes from the West Coast to Christchurch (Lewis Pass and Arthur's Pass) were overused, by huge double carriage pantechnicons carrying petrol, straw bales, containers and the rest, on roads that are unbelievably narrow and twisty. This traffic has, of course, resulted in quite severe deterioration of the roads, and one feels for NZ having to attempt to upgrade these. We had many stops for one-lane traffic as they struggled with the road works in remote and dangerous conditions.
Dinner involved a few remaining vegies, and the packaged butter chicken curry that we had purchased in Christchurch for just such an emergency. It was actually quite good, and not as unhealthy as some of the meals one has when 'eating out'.
We had hoped to do the Avalanche - Scotts track loop that 'took in' Avalanche Peak, the highest mountain in Arthur's Pass Park, but when we woke on our second full day, the mist was everywhere, and our bodies were a little sore, so we explored more of the shorter walks to wonderful waterfalls, and historic points. But then it cleared, and in the afternoon we ventured up Scott's track, which was most enjoyable, and interesting underfoot - one does become expert about the nature of paths when walking as much as we do. It was steep, but with varied root, rock and other ground bases, and wonderful views most of the way up. We met several folk on their way down, who had ventured up the Avalanche track and were on their way down, including a couple who must have been only a few years younger than us - we were impressed. But sensibly, we only walked as long as the light and our bodies allowed, and returned to the "Woodsmoke Cottage" for another packaged meal.

File translated from TEX by TTH, version 4.08.
On 19 Mar 2017, 21:21.