South Island Journals

East and West in the South Island

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A September 2010 trip to South Island by MagdaDH_AlexH

West Coast, lake by the roadside Photo, South Island, New Zealand More Photos
Quote: West Coast and Canterbury parts of our New Zealand trip

Magic Boulders at Castle Hill

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The boulders Photo, South Island, New Zealand
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The scenic alpine route from Christchurch to the West Coast that leads through the Porters' and Arthur's Passes is spectacularly scenic, and crosses some excellent hill-walking land too. There are many short and day hikes in the vicinity of Arthur's Pass village, but perhaps the most unique and also very accessible site is twenty kilometres or so west from Springfield, just past the Porters' Pass towards the Arthur's Pass. It's called the Castle Hill, and it's an extensive area of limestone outcrops forming a veritable labyrinth on a hillside. We drive there from Springfield on a sunny and pleasantly warm day and spend at three hours there: but you can go for as little as half ...Read More

The wet-dry divide: Arthur's Pass

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Castle Hill Basin Photo, South Island, New Zealand
Quote:
Arthur's Pass is an every-day name for the State Highway 73, a road that was originally traced in 1865–66 to connect Christchurch to the West Coast goldfields. The road includes actually two two passes, the more famous and higher Arthur's Pass at over 900m and perhaps more beautiful but lower Porters' Pass at over 700m. The whole route is spectacularly scenic even in a country that does scenic on an everyday basis, and what makes it more attractive is the great variety of landscapes in what is a barley 200km stretch of a road that can be driven, if not stopping, in about three hours flat. But it's much better to devote a whole day to the Arthur's Pass, to allow time for photo a...Read More

New Land

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Christchurch earthquake damage Photo, South Island, New Zealand
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We arrive in Christchurch two days after the big Sep-2010 earthquake. We stay in a suburb that has hardly been affected, but the city as a whole is still in a state of (excuse the pun) shock. Not only psychologically, but also literally: smaller and bigger aftershocks are still felt, like a rumble in the foundations, some like a large lorry passing by or somebody slamming a heavy door, and one or two get rather scary: a real, sharp jolt or two, the power going out for a few minutes, and then the wait – will there be another, bigger one? I can't imagine what it must be for people who lived through the disastrous one on Saturday. The city is a little bit eerie, empty, obviously shaken (excu...Read More

West Coast: practicalities

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driftwood beach, Bruce Bay Photo, South Island, New Zealand
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The practicalities of the West Coast are fairly simple: most people drive the whole route themselves either in a car or a camper van, although I have seen many tour buses disgorging young backpackers at several stops on the route. You can also use a public transport (train or bus from Christchurch to Greymouth, then bus) to travel along the west coast road, although the service beyond Fox Glacier towards Haast and Central Otago seems more erratic. Surprisingly, we have not seen any hitch-hikers, at least going our way, but there is a fair amount of traffic and hitch-hiking should be easy, especially going north-south. There is a train from Christchurch to Greymouth which crosse...Read More

Wet West

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West Coast, lake by the roadside Photo, South Island, New Zealand
Quote:
Stretching in a relatively narrow strip along most of the western coast of the South Island, between the Southern Alps (one often despairs the colonists' lack of imagination when naming geographical features) and the Tasman Sea, the district of the West Coast is one of the wilder and less developed parts of the country. The standard route goes from Greymouth or Hokitika (the settlements on the West Coast that mark the crossing of the Southern Alps from Christchurch by Lewis' or Arthur's Passes) to Haast (to cross the mountains by Haast Pass) and then on to Wanaka. The road along the coast was only completed in 1965, and the final bit of tarmac did not appear on the Haast Pass u...Read More