Monday, 15 October 2012

boldly going where thousands of people have been going for thousands of years

This weekend my workmate/flatmate and I did some intrepid exploring, and drove up to Arthur’s Pass for a bit of a bimble.  The weather in Christchurch was pretty naff, all windy and rainy.  I’d been assured by The Wise Old Bloke at work that if it was grotty down here, it would be nice up there.

The Wise Old Bloke was wrong.  At the edge of the hills we were stopped and told that after that point it was 4wd or snow chains only... so we turned around, drove back down the road to the last village we’d passed through (Springfield), bought snow chains, and drove back to find that the road had been temporarily closed while they dragged back someone that had got stuck.  No worries, it gave us time to wrestle with the bizarre tangle of chains.

Turns out the trick is to just keep swearing at the things until they go on.  As you can see, at this point the weather was still mostly just a bit wet and chilly; but we didn’t have to go very much further up the road to discover why the chains were a compulsory requirement.

DeathCar2000, with its spiffy new shoes, gave not a single fuck.  And then a few kms later, the weather cleared (ish) and the chains came off.

We made a stop on the way up to check out the Cave Stream Scenic Reserve.  There’s a 594m long cave stream that runs through the hill there; when the river is less raging and deadly, it’s possible to follow it through the cave.  We had to follow it overland, but there were still some nice sights to be seen.

Wet and cold, we ventured onwards.  Arthur’s Pass is, believe it or not, a pass named after a guy called Arthur.  Arthur Dobson was the first European to discover the pass in 1864; a coach path was constructed the following year to meet the demand for a route from the west coast to Christchurch during the gold rush.  Arthur’s Pass village itself is New Zealand’s highest altitude settlement (793m), and boasts a population of 54.  We arrived at around 1730, and everything was still a bit blizzardy and misty and bleak.

We found the pub,had dinner and some drinks and turned in for the night.

The following day was astonishing.  All the snow remained, but the sun was out; it was bright and clear and crisp and warm and glorious.  DeathCar2000 had made a new friend too.

This guy is a Kea, a kind of Alpine parrot.  The underside of his wings is bright orange, and looks pretty spectacular when in flight.  Not that they do a lot of flying; mostly they scuttle about sideways in a drunken fashion and try to remove all of the metal trim from around your car door.

We planned to spend the day doing a few walks and seeing the sights.  First up; Devil’s Punchbowl Falls.

At the start of the twentieth century the growing coal trade required a rail line through the mountains, and one was duly constructed.  These were the concrete foundations for the dynamos and whatnots of the old power station that provided electricity for the Otira rail tunnel, which goes straight through over five miles of mountain.

Lake Misery.  I don’t know why it’s called that, but it’s a cool name.

Bealey Chasm.  We saw this from a few different places; there were several different tracks to follow.

On the way back we took a few photos of where we’d been; the weather was so crappy the day before that we hadn’t been able to see what were driving towards...

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