Mountain, City, Rocks, Caves
31.03.2012 - 04.04.2012
After Dunedin I made my way up North and inland to the Mount Cook township. The drive up was scenic as always (taking it a bit for granted now) though the most notable section was driving past Lake Pukaki, which was just unbelievably blue. I had to stop and take a picture as it was getting a bit dangerous driving on the road whilst trying to take in the scenery (you could see other people driving, gently swerving to one side then making a quick recovery, clearly having similar problems taking their eyes off the lake). Anyway I took a picture but it still doesnt really do it justice...
A little way further and I was at Mount Cook Village, though village is a bit misleading... There is just a few buildings set with an amazing mountain range backdrop, no shops (luckily thought that would be the case and stocked up on food), and complete with expensive hostel. It was worth it though, as the full day I was there the weather was fanstic, perfectly sunny and clear with amazing views of the moutains. I spent the day wandering up Hooker Valley, Over a couple of swing bridges, up a river to a lake with floating ice, where I sat and had lunch with a perfect view of Mount Cook listening to the occassional avalanche. I then headed back and spent the rest of the day chilling out in the sun and watching comedy Kiwi films in the evening.
The next day I headed to Christchurch where I had a bit of trouble trying to get in the same hostel as Emma and Tracey (as most of the other hostels have fallen down) but in the end prevailed and checked into "Foley Towers" which was very central (i.e. right next to the red zone and infuriating trying to find it in the car with all the closed roads and one way systems). I spent the rest of the day wandering round looking at the destruction (The whole center has been shut off and all the buildings deserted, you can get a pretty big fine for walking round in the red zone) but also taking in the new stuff (a cluster of shops built inside shipping containers) and enjoying the park/botanical gardens which didnt seem to be affected at all. In the evening we experienced Christchurch's now extremely limited nightlife (there is about 3 places you can go within walking distance of the centre) one of which was the Casino, where we spent the majority of our time (not gambling, but enjoying the live music in the attached bar). Unfortuantly our night out lead to a bit of a waste of the next day where my crowning achievments of the day were walking to the library to use the free internet and falling asleep in the garden.
Our final day in Christchurch we actually spent in Akaroa, a small french settlement about an hour drive out of Christchurch, which was quite pretty but very small. We spent the day doing things like going to the small craft fair, buying home made fudge, eating a pub lunch and wandering along the waterfront with hoards of other people (who I assume came off the cruise ship sitting out in the harbour). It made us all feel a bit like retired people, though it was pretty relaxing. We then drove home and had another wild night in Christchurch which involved sitting in our room watching a film. good stuff.
The next day the three of us all went our seperate ways and I headed inland to Arthurs Pass. ANOTHER pretty drive with some pretty cool stops. First of which was Castle Hill, an area with some impressive rock formations known for its climbing. I got out the car and optimistically packed all my climbing gear hoping to find some people to join, but after wandering round I dissapointingly only found lots of Asian tourists taking photos. So instead I had to content myself with walking/scrambling round the warren of rocks and eating lunch in a cool nook overlooking the area.
The next stop was the Cave Stream Scenic Reserve;
"The cave passage meanders and twists in pitch darkness for 362 metres between the two entrances. The cave ends in a deep pool with a 3-metre high waterfall. A ladder of iron rungs in the rock climbs up beside the waterfall and a chain and step help the crawl along the overhang ledge to the exit. If care is taken, fit, inexperienced cavers can go through"
I considered myself as a "fit, inexperienced caver" so thought this sounded like my kind of thing. I was prepared roll up my trousers and to get my shoes wet, but when I rocked up and saw a group of people about to go in in wesuits, boots and helmets I felt mildly unprepared. Another group of people were also sitting round drinking hot drinks talking about how freezing it was which was putting me off more and more by the second, they also informed me that the water would in fact go up to my waist. So after a quick clothing change (surf shorts and couple of merino wool layers) I sped down to start off (I wanted to go ahead of the group in wetsuits in case I got into trouble then they could rescue me) but really other than being very cold and very dark (my headtorch seemed woefully inadequate at the beginning) it was pretty safe there was nothing too challenging, just the odd small waterfall to step up and the odd hidden rock to fall over (though I was desperate to stay upright to keep my camera dry and not lose my car key which I very much regretted bringing). After about 30mins I emerged back into day light pretty pleased that I had braved the cold (it wasnt that bad as the majority of your upper body stays dry) and then headed on my way (with the only disadvantage being that my only pair of shoes was soaking wet, and are still wet now).
The rest of the way to Arthurs Pass was pretty uneventful, and I set up for the night in a YHA hostel, where I met a host of other friendly people (Polish, Spanish, English, Italian and German, we were very muticultural...though no-one had heard of Guernsey. Standard.) and spent a cosy night by the fire (which Im glad we lit, as it was freezing outside when I went to recieve my still soaking shoes from the clothes line). The next day a few of us went for a short walk up to a near by waterfall and then we all set off on our seperate ways.
I then made the Long drive to Kaikoura, which was nothing special scenery wise, and now I am booked into a hostel here for a couple of days hoping to explore the area and probably do a dolphin tour (hopefully I will have more luck than the Bay of Islands!)