Monday, 16 December 2013


14 November
It's a long w/e here in Christchurch and the weather's not looking too bad so we decide to make the trip over to the west coast. It rains quite a lot that side of South Island and we’ve been waiting for decent weather before making the trip. We set off on Thursday evening once Mike finishes work planning to stop this side of the Alps in Springfield having booked ourselves into Smylies on our new YHA cards. Not exactly sure what’s happening about food but as the hostel is run by a kiwi man and his Japanese wife we’re hoping Japanese food might be available.

The hostel itself is rather nice. We’re in Narnia room (so-called because we have to go enter through a wardrobe door). Kiwi hostels all seem to have double rooms some with en suites so quite comfortable. Works out much cheaper than a normal b&b and they’re very sociable places. The rumour of Japanese food was correct and we get a lovely dinner for $10 each!

Wild lupins beside the Waimakariri on the way to Arthur's Pass

15 November
We head off towards the mountains next morning planning to stop for a walk somewhere near Arthur’s Pass,  the village by the mountain pass. We walk up the Otira Valley for a few hours, starting off with the Dobson’s Nature Walk which takes us over boardwalks through tussock grass, with masses of Mount Cook lilies and other wild flowers. It becomes quite a narrow stony path and we end up by a small bridge which takes us across a torrent , where we stop for lunch. Any further walking is for experienced mountaineers according to the sign.

Mt Cook lilies beside the boardwalk

Next stop is Arthur’s Pass village for coffee then we head on down towards Hokitika. Driving up towards the Pass we’re travelling through beech forests but once we begin to descend the other side the vegetation changes completely and we’re in native bush, back to tree ferns and lush green vegetation. All that rain I guess. We find our hostel, Birdsong, and book in. It’s another rather individual one run by an English couple, though unfortunately it’s a little too far out of town. That evening we walk in along the beautiful wild beach collecting pebbles. It’s a long hike with an empty stomach but eventually we make our way to the chippie where we bump into Brenda, one of my quilting ladies. Jolly good fish and chips. Tonight we walk up to the Glow-worm Dell. It’s pitch black and quite magical as the fairy lights of the glow worms twinkle in strings and patterns in the dark.

Rickety bridge at the top end of the Otira Valley

16 November
Next morning the weather’s overcast and rain threatens. We wander round the local market, buy some lunch and end up doing a series of short walks starting with a bit of coastal bush leading to a wild beach. Next is the Bellbird walk near Lake Mahinapua and then Hokitika Gorge, a major attraction round here. The river here is an extraordinary chalky turquoise in colour and we walk over a swing bridge to cross to a bank of rock.

Amazing blue of the river at the Hokitika Gorge

At this point it really begins to pour with rain, so while Mike wanders over the rocks, I beat a hasty retreat back up to the car. We end up seriously wet, but dry off on the way to our next walk, Lake Kaniere Water Race Walkway, and by the time we get there the sun’s coming out. The Race is a fast-flowing water channel built originally for use in gold mining but later to produce electricity. It makes for an interesting walk though we don’t have time to do the whole thing.

The Victorian water race stretches for about 12 km south from Lake Kaniere

We get a taxi into town and have a disappointing meal at the Cafe de Paris. Hokitika is a town built in the gold rush days back in the middle of the 19th century. It’s now famous for it’s greenstone and has a lot of art & craft shops.

17 November
Goldsborough is recommended to us by the hostel owners so we take a diversion on our way back to Christchurch. It was a town that grew out of nothing in the heart of the bush when gold was discovered there in the 1840s. We do a fantastic walk through and above the gold workings. It’s very atmospheric and evocative of this bygone era when men would struggle on foot through dense bush and set up mining and panning for gold. The town disappeared almost as quickly as it had grown when the gold dwindled.

Footpath in the old gold-mining district by Goldsborough
We drive back through Arthurs Pass stopping for a walk up to the Devil’s Punch Bowl. We’re back into beech forest now we’re west of the main divide, and lower down we walk through these forests to Turkey Flat in the valley bottom where the Waimakariri river flows its windy way.

Beech forest at the devil's Punch bowl, west of the main divide



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