Sunday, February 10, 2013

A trip to the beautiful Westcoast of New Zealand

Sunday, February 10, 2013
oldbearnews editor
So the minions of this cave bear clan thought it was impossible to hit the road past 9am and no later. Had a crappy night with the dog across the road whining all night long and keeping me awake not to mention the Henry Ford put-put car noisily ambling past our house at around 2 am. Eventually woke (if that is what you can call it)  at 6.50am and listened to the news / had breakfast and packed and left the house at 9.25am. Yess - see it can be done!! Tanked and hit the road.

Drive non eventful - just some idiots on the road wanting to drive either right in the middle of the road or on the other side of the road altogether. Made Arthur's Pass just before lunch time and set of to the Devil's punchbowl falls - all of 131meter hike UP and total of 288 steps to get there (of course there are 288 steps back down as well). Mamabear huffing and puffing (and I could hear Percy's voice - yes I can, yes I can, yes I can!! I made it!!) At the top , surprise very lonely - no other people around- figures, we were there at lunchtime and so took lots of pics. The waterfall is stunning at the best of times and just grandiose after a decent rainfall.

Then back down to the car and our finger-food lunch, while we encountered lots of people coming up to the falls. Obligatory 'loo stop and we hit the road again - this time stopping at no less then two lookout points near Arthur's pass . Normally we breeze through - but we had time so made a point of checking out the sights. Again lots of pics taken

First stop - general lookout-point at Arthur's pass - near the viaduct. The pass is named after Sir Arthur Dudley Dobson (1841–1934), who led the first party of Europeans across the pass in 1864. The $25m Otira Viaduct, was opened by the end of 1999, and replaced one of the most insecure stretches of State Highway 73 between Arthur’s Pass and Otira. Its vulnerability was at its greatest over a 3 km portion from Peg Leg Creek to Candys Bridge, during which it climbed 65 m up from Peg Leg Flat over a major rock avalanche and scree slope before dropping 165m in a series of hairpin (and real scary) bends to the Candys Bridge site. Gradients were typically 13 percent and rise as high as 18 percent. In addition to the steep grades and tight corners, which restricted the length of any vehicle able to use the road to a 13m maximum ( so no Lorries / Trucks / Buses or camper-vans and certainly no towing of any kind - boats or caravans or trailers.) The overriding concern was the high risk of losing the road through erosion of the slip face below by weathering and the scour action of the Otira River. Thankfully through some very good engineering and willpower the Otira Viaduct was eventually built and opened. It has changed the way the west coast is functioning. All heavy goods had to be either shipped in or driven west via the Lewis Pass or indeed the southern Haast Pass with both adding a considerable cost in time and petrol. Now with the Viaduct providing easy access to the West-coast it has changed the amount of goods and services flowing across the Alps and it's certainly a contributer to a more free flowing economy. If you have the time, stop at the Information / DOC Center in Arthur's Pass and see the history / pictures of early travel and the story on how they build the Viaduct. It is breath taking just reading it. Anyhow - I am rambling - so lets move along. . . . 

Next stop was at the Candy bend and surprise surprise we saw LOTS and lots and lots of Southern RATA ( a brother to the Pohutukawa tree) in full flower. MORE pics were taken. Just as well we now have digital - would have burned through rolls and rolls of 35mm film!! N I C E scenery along with the weather (which was a bit hazy I admit)!! The Trees were in full bloom and just stunning!! Interestingly enough they grew mostly on the western side of the Pass area, wonder why!?
Made tracks and dodged another idiot on the road - and eventually made good time for Greymouth. Stopped at the local info center - and got some brochures @ badges!!! Walked around Greymouth for a bit - saw the new Miners memorial on the river front / failed to see the NEW Monteiths bar, and eventually made our way back to near the info center. Sunday - and all the local shops are closed - still typical of NZ small town living. No sign of tourism in Grymouth yet. Stopped at Countdown for some supplies (pizza and fermented grapes - mainly) and headed towards Barrytown which is another 20-30 minute drive north of Greymouth. Lots more opportunities for pics stops - but decided they keep for another day. Found Robin and Steve's place and collected the key and drove remaining distance to the cottage - very nice and rustic. Now sitting in the late afternoon sun and enjoying the fermented grapes and looking forward to the pizza and a chill down. Will stroll to the beach at 9pm and watch the sun set on the western side of the island!!
Up early tomorrow and down to Hokitika and the "Walk in the Tree-tops" and other sights to be seen. Meant to say - Cottage is not repeat not in cellphone range and there is no Internet connection, but there is a sky-decoder - so we can watch the news BUT are incommunicado with the rest of the world!! Total Bliss.

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