Spring Roadie – Coast to Coast
I was so over driving by the time we pulled in to Hokitika on the last night of my brother’s and my road trip. My brother had booked a room in a B&B who’s garden opened almost directly onto the beach. After catching our breaths for a moment, we headed out under a moody sky and wandered along the foreshore. Past the driftwood sign that the town is famous for, we meandered further to the mouth of the river as the sun lowered down. Eventually hunger drove us in search of food and finally we headed to bed.
After a communal breakfast with the other guests at the B&B, everybody parted company and we too made our way out of town. I drove us down the convoluted route to the busy car park at Hokitika Gorge. Like many places in New Zealand, this place has gotten busier and busier with each subsequent visit, and this day was no exception. Although it’s a bit of a drive out of town to reach it, the walk is short and easy enough to make it accessible, as long as you have your own set of wheels to get you to the start. We joined the other visitors on the familiar route through the bush towards the suspension bridge across the gorge and down to the rocky water’s edge. Due to the glacier sedimentation of this river, the colour can vary so much from one visit to the next. The first time I came here it was a milky grey, and the next a brilliant blue. This time round it was blue, but the cloud kept the brilliance of the sun hidden, meaning it was a paler shade, and I felt my brother wasn’t quite seeing it in its full glory. To him it was probably still impressive enough, not having anything like it in our native Scotland.
After winding our way back to Hokitika, it was time to make the journey back to Christchurch via Arthur’s Pass. New Zealand has so many scenic drives, and this coast to coast road is the one I’m most familiar with, having driven it many times, especially the eastern half. At Kumara Junction, we cut inland, traversing the long valley eastward into the Southern Alps before turning south as the road turned into the Otira Valley. As the road starts to snake uphill here and wind its way up into the hills, it passes under a viaduct and over a road bridge, after which a couple of lookouts are located. These are almost guaranteed kea spotting sites, and I’ll always stop here to see if there’s any around. They are very popular to spot, and are immensely intelligent and cheeky birds, often working in pairs or mobs to try and snatch something of interest. Despite the frequency of sightings in this area, they are sadly endangered and suffer at the hands of people feeding them inappropriate food, despite signs advocating against this at these locations. This was the first time I’d stopped here that there wasn’t a parrot in sight.
In Arthur’s Pass village we took the walk to the Devils Punchbowl waterfall. It can be viewed from near the car park, or from the road, or from the opposite mountain, but it’s still nice to get up close to it and hear the water gushing down. The walk involves a lot of stairs, but it is a relatively short walk making it a reasonable achievement when just passing through. The sun broke through in places whilst we were there but as we headed south east, the rest of the way home was overcast. For the rest of the drive to Porter’s Pass, we were surrounded by the Southern Alps, steep-sided mountains interspersed by lakes and rivers. I stopped a few times so that my brother could take some photographs, and there’s plenty of pull-ins to choose from along the route.
Eventually we reached Cave Stream Scenic Reserve where it is possible to traverse through a flooded cave system. One of these days, I hope to go through it, but I just haven’t gotten round to it yet. Even without going caving, it’s still an interesting landscape to walk around. From here through to Castle Hill, the landscape is scattered with giant rocky boulders and outcrops, and it looks like it’s been lifted straight out of a movie. In fact, a nearby area was used as a film location for the first Chronicles of Narnia movie.
We spent quite a bit of time at Castle Hill. Another popular tourist spot, the car park here is often packed. We were lucky to get a spot on this occasion and I let my brother lead the way, picking his route through the behemoths. There are many worn paths round here and you can choose to circumnavigate the site or get into the thick of it, clambering up slopes and up and over boulders to get a higher perspective of it all. The cloud was down over the surrounding peaks and it was a little gloomy, but I always love exploring this place. Eventually we found ourselves down with the cows at the neighbouring field and skirting back along the front of the rock face, we returned to the car and soon headed into rain for the rest of the journey back to Christchurch.
For my brother’s last full day in New Zealand, we stayed local. He decided to go to the Canterbury Museum so I dropped him off there and met up with him later once he’d had the chance to wander round some of it. Later in the day we took a walk round North Hagley Park and on to Mona Vale, a homestead with a lovely waterway and garden, a little way along the Avon River. The day my brother left was a gloriously sunny one. His flight wasn’t till later in the day so we had some time in the morning to go for a walk. Driving up to Summit Road in the Port Hills, we did a section of the Crater Rim walkway that started behind the Sign of the Kiwi cafe. It was a section I hadn’t done before so it was nice to do something new and we had a beautiful view down over the harbour.
But eventually it was time to drive my brother to the airport. He had a couple of days in Sydney ahead of him to enjoy, but I was sad to say goodbye. His 2 week visit had been the longest time we’d spent together since we were in high school, and although I was informed that I snored, and I suspect I slightly took over his holiday, I think we did pretty well living in each other’s pockets. After all the years I’ve now lived in New Zealand, he is the first and only member of my family to visit me, and I was glad I’d finally been able to show off my new homeland to someone. His inevitable departure though reminded me sorely of the distance that I have chosen to keep between myself and my family. The choice to emigrate had been an easy one to make, but boy do I miss my family sometimes.