Mid Semester Break: Part 3- Arthur’s Pass
We woke up at the crack of dawn on Tuesday to try and get back out to the glaciers and do one more quick tramp before hitting the road to our next destination, Arthur’s Pass. Unfortunately as we rolled out of the hostel to Big B it was pouring rain and didn’t look as though it was going to clear anytime soon, but we decided to brave it anyways. We hit the track and were soaked within minutes, even with our raincoats on. We made it down the trail until we could see the glaciers and then decided that it was just not great enough weather and that we might as well hit the road and see if the next place had more promising weather. We got back to the hostel, stripped off our sopping wet clothes and threw them into the drier while we grabbed some toast for breakfast and packed up the car for some more miles. We hit the road in the gentle rain that persisted for the entire drive, which was unfortunate because the views looked like they would have been incredible.
We eventually unknowingly drove into the incredibly small town of Arthur’s Pass and straight out of it. The whole town occupied a maybe 2 block length with maybe a maximum of 10 or 12 small cabins, a store, and a café. So we turned around and drove through at probably 15km/hr until we stumbled upon the small batch that we would call home for the next 24 hours. It was a small green cabin that backed up to the brush of one of the mountains that bordered the whole town of Arthur’s Pass. The cabin had historically been one of the homes of the workers who had built the tunnel for the railway that ran along the far side of the town which made it a very interesting place to stay. I walked inside to find that it was as cute and quaint as I had imagined. It was wood on the inside with just your essential basics, beds, blankets, wood burning stove, and comfy looking couches. It was a proper kiwi batch that to me reminded me of a ski lodge or even of several other cabins that I had stayed in before in Colorado. The small windows that were on each wall lead to beautiful sweeping views of the surrounding snow-capped peaks and the occasional glimpse of a waterfall coming through the dense brush. One of the aspects that I found most interesting and comforting was that bordering the fireplace on either side were two retro wall paintings of the Vail and Aspen Skiing locations in Colorado, both places where I had been in my lifetime thus far. It made me feel even more comfortable in the welcoming batch and reminded me a little of home. We set up the bach, turned on the water, the electricity, successfully started a fire, and got our stuff situated all the while with the rain continuing to patter at the roof. Everyone else was feeling a bit worn from our travels thus far and decided to relax on the couches surrounding the fire while I decided to brave the weather and do some tramping and check out the area. I through on my raincoat, hoping that it might keep the water off, and headed off for the trailhead to Bridal Veil Falls, and Devils Punchbowl. The track started with crossing a small creek that was probably due to runoff from the rain and made me glad that I had chosen to wear my chacos even though it was winter and there was snow on the ground in places. At the fork for the tracks I decided to head towards Bridal Veil Falls on the recommendation of a friend. It was a fun track that headed off into the brush and up the slope of the surrounding hill. There were multiple creeks to cross on the nicely made wooden bridges of the track and also the smaller runoff ones that ran across the trail. It was beautiful, with the creeks to my right and the mountains on both sides, peeking out from the brush every once and a while with the clouds hanging around their scraggly peaks. I eventually made it to a lookout of Bridal Veil Falls which was absolutely gorgeous pouring out from the side of the mountain. However, equally as beautiful was the view of the pass from which we had driven through earlier this morning and the endless stream of mountains that carried on into the fog. I then turned around to try to complete the Devil’s Punchbowl track as well. Being on the trail again by myself was so comfortable and calming and instead of the rain being a bothersome factor, it ended up being very soothing and added to the beauty of Arthur’s Pass. I trekked back down the trail, across the creeks, bogs, and alongside the mountains back to the fork in the track and took a turn up Devil’s Punchbowl. This track ended up being much shorter, but also consequently much steeper. It quickly brought me to the look out of what was a very large waterfall with two different large drops that came to a creek that eventually merged with the river that ran through Arthur’s Pass. The first fall was a skinnier longer fall from the top of a saddle between two of the surrounding peaks that then came into a pool that formed the reservoir for the second broader, shorter fall into the creek. It was awe-striking, the power that the fall had and as stunning as I had expected. Unfortunately by this point the rain had penetrated the lense of my camera so I wasn’t able to get any clear pictures that did this place any sort of justice. I then turned back down the path and headed back to town just in time to catch a train pull through the tunnel and head off towards the peaks on the far side of the past that were just now starting to display the colors of a pink and purple sunset. The quietness of the slow town of Arthur’s Pass was highly peaceful and I found it easy to relax and just take a moment to be grateful for where I was in the world and this beautiful opportunity. It was for moments like this that had brought me to New Zealand and in this time I was overjoyed to be here. As I began the walk back to the bach the clouds cleared for a bit and several Keas could be seen flying in small groups around the town looking for mischief to cause. I headed back to the bach which was slowly pouring out a small cloud of smoke from the fire. We sat around the fire that night, talking, playing card games, and just enjoying each others company in the inviting bach. Eventually we each tired out and left to our respective sleeping spots. I decided to sleep on the couch in the living room in front of the dimming fire. It ended up being an incredible spot with the flicker of the fire giving a dim orange light to the room and the window above me giving me a glimpse of the beautiful night sky. The stars were incredible, crystal clear and sparkling among a very bright stretch of the Milky Way. I was so content and just simply happy as a fell asleep that night.
The next morning we got up early as planned to try out the Avalanche Peak Track, of which we knew nothing about, but on my wandering yesterday had looked interesting. We were up just as the sun was coming up and began the walk down the track. It was originally a pretty easy and well laid out trail but as we got started on the incline up the mountain, this soon changed. Before we knew it we found ourselves scrambling up the track using both hands to get up large rocky jumps in the path. It was more like we were setting our own, some what sketchy, path up the trail. We would search for the next orange or blue trail marker before proceeding because otherwise it was impossible to tell where it was we were going. It got so bad that some of us decided to turn back, but I continued forward. I couldn’t help but be somewhat excited by the lack of trail and the bit of scrambling that we got to do. I soon came to a nice lookout of a waterfall that we had seen down below and were now at the top of. As the sun came up the water glimmered and the snow on the tops of the peaks shone. As the trail continued it still became increasingly more difficult and became somewhat like climbing short lengths in spots, which became somewhat concerning for the way back down. We continued for a bit longer past some more waterfalls along the hillside until we came to the bush line. From here we could see that it looked like there might be a small storm rolling in, so we decided out of safety and the scramble down that lay ahead of us to turn around before things got nasty. It was an exciting and envigoring short tramp however with some beautiful sights. After making our way successfully back down with some sliding down on our butts involved, we walked back into town and towards the bach. I decided to stop at the single Arthur’s Pass Store and enjoy a hot drink. I sat and drank a very delicious warm chai and observed as keas came in and sat on each car that came by. At one point, there was a truck that had pulled in that eventually had 5 different Keas playing around on it and quite enjoying some fun. It was hilarious to watch as they one by one came over and curiously inspected each car that pulled in. I couldn’t help but chuckle a little. I then headed back to the bach to pack up and head out only to find that when we had pulled Big Blue into the driveway, we had gone a little too far and were completely stuck in the mud. We tried pushing it, putting down flat wood under the tires, but nothing seemed as though it would be capable of getting us out of this mess. We were perplexed and I couldn’t help but laugh at our situation. Eventually some kiwi guys from town who were knewly unemployed skibums looking for a good time came by to help us out. They also tried the flat wood under the tires and although it did make a little progress, we were still stuck. They went in search of a rope to next try pulling us out with another car. Miraculously as soon as we got Big Blue hooked up to their dirt covered Four Runner we were freed from the mud. We quickly packed up and made our way out of Arthur’s Pass and on toward Christchurch and Akaroa. I was somewhat sad to be leaving the mountains and the quiet of Arthur’s Pass, but on to new adventures is always exciting.