13. Arthur's Pass

Among my somewhat limited experience, Arthur's Pass is the most spectacular of the three road crossings of the South Island dividing range. It's not the actual town of Arthur's Pass, but more the access on each side.

Otira Gorge

Approaching from the west side, there was quite a sudden transition from the open plains of the west coast and into the mountains. Across the mountains, the route roughly follows the path of the tranzalpine railway, except where the going gets too steep, the railway goes through a tunnel under the mountains around the Arthurs' Pass township area.

Here we have the rustic appeal of the railway tracks leading on to the distant mountains.

Otira Hwy

As the road climbs into the mountains, it goes through the Otira Gorge. In doing so, there are some major civil engineering works to thread the road through the hostile environment. Firstly there is a cover over one section of roadway to deflect landslides from above, together with torrents of water. Then comes the viaduct, where the road is suspended above the gorge below by a long, steep bridge. Amid the landscape and style of road, it feels fairly flat, but the car knew all about the climb.

Otira Hwy
Otira Gorge Viaduct

Arthur's Pass Township

After reaching the top, I came back down into the township of Arthur's Pass. It's a cute little township in a picturesque setting, but no hive of activity. It would be a nice quiet mountain retreat, except for the fact that the main road goes right down the middle of most of it.

Arthur's Pass

Eastern Descent

As the road continues on to Christchurch, it isn't as dramatic as the Otira Gorge, but the mountains were an ever-present backdrop to a rugged and changing landscape.

Bealey Spur
West Coast Rd

Castle Hill

Near the locality of Castle Hill, I turned off to an area marked as “Cave Stream”. I really had no idea what it was all about, but there was a carpark there with a handful of cars in it (If you have big hands). My first job was to locate the spare battery for the camera, because the low battery warning had just started. After turning a few things upside down, that was recovered and I saw about finding out what the place was all about.

I saw people coming out that looked like they'd been swimming, so I started taking a bit of a look around. After a bit of a walk I discovered that it was pretty much exactly what the names suggests. It's a cave with a stream running through it. Or perhaps more to the paint, a stream that runs right through a hill via a cave. You can walk in one side, and out the other - provided you're prepared to wade through waist-deep in water in the pitch-blackness of the inside of a mountain.

Cave Stream
Castle Hill Region

Soon after Castle Hill, the road returned to the Canterbury plains for the last hour or so of fairly routine driving to Christchurch.

Thus ends four days of intensive travelling in a visually very rich part of the world. The remainder of this trip appears in the separate section on Christchurch.