January 29 and 30, 2014
This morning started off with an early grocery shopping day. When I booked the hostel for Arthur’s Pass, they were kind enough to tell me that I should get grocery’s outside of Arthur’s Pass since it would be expensive in the village. Since I have a long drive today, I decided to get basic non perishables in Franz Josef and then stop in Hokitika to get the rest before heading onwards. While in Hokitika, I also stopped for my obligatory Flat White. Driving long distances requires the occasional stop just to stretch my legs, make the necessary bathroom breaks and to keep from falling asleep. However with these kinds of roads, the twisty, turny, curvy roads, I don’t have to worry about falling asleep. But I do need to stretch my legs and stopping in these towns gives me a chance to get a small taste of the places that I pass through. One thing that I have noticed about New Zealand, they have a lot of public toilets. I’ve been lucky enough to find the clean ones, but then maybe all of them are clean and I just don’t realize it. It makes this a very tourist friendly country. And if you happen to arrive in a place that doesn’t have public toilets, usually the cafes will have toilets that you can use if you give them a ‘gold coin’. Now I haven’t figured out what a gold coin is but I’m guessing it’s their $2 coin, which would be on par with some of the other public toilets that also ask that you pay $2 to use their facilities. There are also lots of public toilets that don’t require you to pay which are just as clean. So after restocking my supplies, it was time for some pancakes! Pancake Rocks, or Punakaiki Rocks and Blowholes. Unfortunately for me, I missed high tide so I did not see any amazing blowholes but I still the pancake rocks. And since a storm was coming in, the waves were crashing up against the shore and over the rocks and it was still quite impressive to see. However I’ve been told and I’ve read that it is much more impressive during high tide so next time I’m here I’ll have to time it better.
And Barry, on my way to Punakaiki, I passed through your town, Barrytown. I passed through it so quickly, I didn’t even realize I had entered the town until I had left it. But at least I knew I had been through it, better than Jacksons. Marc, I saw the road sign telling me I’d be there in 8 km. Eight kilometres came and went. There was no sign of Jacksons. Anyway, after driving through Barrytown a second time, on my way to Arthur’s pass, my GPS took me along another scenic route towards Arthur’s Pass.
In addition to making sure I had supplies for Arthur’s Pass, I also had to be there by a certain time. But no worries. I made sure I had enough time to get to my destination. But as I turned off the scenic route and onto SH 73, I saw the signs. Otira Gorge. Is. Steep. And it is not suitable for towed vehicles. Thank goodness I had a Toyota Corolla. Thank goodness it was a 1.8 and not like my little Acura. My little Acura would’ve made me late. Anyway these signs were quite prominent. And so far, there were no towed vehicles on the road as I drove along this twisty, turny, curvy road. The views along this road were fantastic. There was one section where we drove under a diverted waterfall. And lucky for all of us who drove this route, there was a scenic lookout just around the corner where you can snap photos of this amazing man-made feature. After leaving this lookout, there was another around another few turns, this time called the Viaduct lookout or “Deaths Corner”. Really??? Who comes up with these names? Anyway the view here was quite spectacular and as I stood there watching the large freight trucks slowly making there’s way towards the viaduct, I could see why it was called Deaths Corner. If you go to fast or don’t have the right gear, you were sure to lose control of your vehicle. I see now why no towed vehicles were allowed on the road. While I was there, I also saw a Kea fly up to another traveller looking for a handout. It was huge! No picture though. I was already in the car and on my way to my final destination. Well I made it to Arthur’s Pass village and left it almost as quickly as Barrytown. Kidding. I was there ten minutes longer before driving out and then having to make a u-turn at the safest possible place. I had 30 minutes left to find the hostel. I don’t know how I could’ve missed it. Arthur’s Pass village truly is a village. There is one store, two petrol pumps located at the one store, one cafe, one restaurant/pub and one DOC visitor centre. And there were several places to stay. And given that the hostel I was staying at was just next to the store, I had to have been blind to miss it. Or the speed limit should be lowered to 30 just so you don’t miss anything. The other sure sign that this was a village, everything was closed except the restaurant/pub. So I made it into my little place just before 6pm. And it was still really bright out. So I did what any normal person would do. Laundry in the kitchen sink. And TV playing in the background. And lucky for me, my little place was near a Telecom phone booth that had free internet so I was able to do a little uploading and blogging! Has anyone ever watched Silent Witness? That’s a pretty good show. I only watched the one episode and I’ll probably regret it because I’ll never get to watch it again in Canada. But the one episode I watched was very captivating. Or maybe it’s just that I haven’t watched TV in such a long but I think I can judge if it’s a good TV show or not. Well it was a late night for me. And it was a very windy night in Arthur’s Pass. I wouldn’t call it gale force winds, mainly because I don’t know how strong a gale is, but it was windy enough that I could hear it whistling around my place. The wind actually picked up as I arrived in the village. It was strong enough to blow my hat off. Good thing I wasn’t near water or it might have sunk. And then that would be it for all of my hats. The wind was kind of neat and cool and hard to fall asleep to. Again out came the ipod with the music to put me to sleep.
The next morning the wind had died down a little and the sun was out. There was hardly a cloud in the sky. Perfect weather for me to climb some rocks in Narnia country! I was headed towards Castle Hill, not the village but the scenic reserve. Wow, was that ever impressive! And the weather was perfect for exploring the area. There were quite a few people there. Some were literally climbing the rocks whereas I was looking for paths that would take me up higher and higher. Watch out for the rabbit holes. When you are looking around for paths to explore, these rabbit holes are hidden and could easily break or at a minimum, sprain your ankle. Also, from the high vantage point, check out the paths. Not all of them were made by humans. Some paths are so narrow and impossible, that it can only have been made by a four legged animal. Sheep. These are not the paths you want to follow because it will lead you nowhere. Except to grassy goodness fit only for sheep.
I miss climbing rocks. The last time I had this much enjoyment climbing rocks was back in New Brunswick when I was searching for Gollum’s Cave. Do I want to take up rock climbing? No. That is a whole different kind of game. I like to scramble over rocks. I don’t like hooking up to little pins that are nailed into rocks and hoping that these pins hold. And any rock climber would know that I know nothing about the topic because they are probably not called pins. Anyway, after having my fun in Narnia, I mean Castle Hill, it was time to head into Christchurch. And funny enough, the weather had changed. I was now driving into low hanging cloud and possible rain, if not drizzle.
When I actually arrived in Christchurch, it was cloudy but not rainy. I made it to my hostel around 2pm so I had time to explore. The place I was staying at was about a 20 minute walk from the CBD. However the CBD is also in the Red Zone. But still I wanted to go there, just to see it and I had heard that some shops had been re-opened. But as I walked along Gloucester street, the damage that the earthquakes had inflicted on the city became more and more apparent the closer I got to the CBD. There were so many buildings and streets that were fenced off. Signs were posted for road closures or no public access or Danger for construction sites. There were no shops or restaurants that I could go into. All I could do was wander. But as I wandered, I also started to see artwork on the sides of buildings. I don’t know if it was there prior to the earthquakes or after, I’m leaning towards after, but they were a highlight, hope within the city amongst all the devastation. I was actually trying to find the Cathedral but without a map, I was just wandering. I wouldn’t say I was lost but I definitely became disoriented. And funny enough, I wasn’t the only one who was disoriented. I bumped into several visitors who couldn’t seem to find their way and it probably had more to do with the fact that there were a lot of streets that we could not walk along. I eventually came up on piece of artwork which consisted of these white chairs. Perhaps you’ve already heard about it. Who knows. The earthquake did take place back in 2011. But as I approached the chairs, which were all facing a church across the street, I was intrigued, until I read the descriptions and quotes about this particular piece and that’s when I teared-up. There were 185 chairs representing the 185 lives that were lost. And the ones that bothered me the most was the baby car seat and the toddler’s chair. Just writing this and remembering it has me teary-eyed again. During my wanderings, I did come upon the RE:Start mall and a few other places that looked to have made a fresh start in the CBD. But by that time, all the shops were closed. I also found the Cathedral. The amount of damage done to this building was absolutely terrible. But again there is hope. There was a display nearby at Cathedral Junction showing how people had lobbied and raised money to save the Cathedral from being torn down and how it could be rebuilt. But looking at the amount of damage done to this building, it’s hard to see how it can be saved. Faith, Hope and Love. You can see it woven throughout the damage CBD. The tourist maps call it Transitional City Projects. Whatever you want to call it, it shows the resilience of the people in the city. Speaking of resilience, I managed to became re-oriented but not before I had an ANZAC cookie. Tasty.
I’m off to Lake Pukaki for the next three nights in my little cottage.
I’ll have more photos up as soon as I can!
Wish you were all with me. Luv, Aunty!