29 November 2008
From Hanmer Springs twice
over the Southern Alps and via
Lewiss Pass to Arthur's Pass
As usual I woke up early to bright sunshine and a clear sky. Shower and breakfast quickly finished and in the Campervan and driving away at about 09.00. Hanmer Springs is already part or the beginning of the Southern Alps so the road is winding with a lot of 180 degrees corners and deep valleys but always breathtaking. At every Lookout Point I stop, they didn't make them for nothing, so enjoy them. In this area you have beautiful sights of valleys with rivers with their rapids and clear blue water. In this part of the country there is hardly any traffic so the sounds of nature, birds and water (rapids) can be heard everywhere. After passing over Lewis Pass at 863 metres the road is going down and becomes easier, less corners and less steep.
I had in mind to have a stopover at the Maruia Springs to visit the hot pools there, because I was too late for the famous Hamner Springs hot pools yesterday, but at a lookout point near a river, about 10 km before Maruia Springs I met some people who told me that at those pools other people had become severely sick because of insect bites. When I passed Maruia Springs I saw only one car in the carpark so I passed by with the windows shut. Via Springs Junction I drive to Reefton where the road takes a southwestern direction heading for the Westcoast.
Past Reefton the real mountains are over and the scenery is filled with smaller mountains. At about 15 kilometres before arriving at the westcoast I leave Highway 7 and take the junction near Stillwater heading back to the Eastcoast.
Via the Arnold Valley I arrive after 22 kilometres at the banks of Lake Brunner. This part of New Zealand is almost deserted and there are not many people living there. The roads are almost deserted. The south island is about the length of France and the width of the Netherlands and 400.000 people live there. From that 400.000 half of those people live in Christchurch.
Past Lake Brunner I arrive at Highway 73 after about 31 kilometres I make a turn towards the Southern Alps again. After a few kilometres the mountains along the highway begin to rise again in a range from 1400 - 2000 metres. Most of the mountains that are on the Westside of the Main Divide (the name for the range of Southern Alps that split the south island from North to South in two parts) are very green with a lot of forests due to the rain that falls when the clouds have to pass over.
After a few more kilometres the famous Portal and Waterbridge are coming up and this section of the road is spectacular and you feel very small again. About 200 metres past this scenery there is a Lookout Point with a perfect view of this road. I made a number of photos and asked someone else to take a photo of me.
Back in the campervan and back on the road I reach the famous Otira Viaduct within a few kilometres. This famous viaduct was completed in 1999 and crosses the wild Otira River that often overflowed and there were many rockfalls on the road. Immediately after the viaduct there is an extra steep climb to a lookout point where there is a good view of this viaduct. I made some shots of all and left the lookout point.
Within 500-600 metres I saw the sign for some nature walks. I parked the campervan and chose the Dawson Creek Walk out of 3 that could be walked. It was the shortest walk provided and lasted for about 45 minutes. It was much climing and descending but pure nature while the campervan was almost all of the time in sight. Anyway it was good training for my knees.
Back in the car I passed at 924 metres Arthurs' Pass and then descending to the village of Arthurs' Pass. I drove through this small town to see were I could stay the night with my campervan and before I noticed I left Arthur's Pass behind me. So .. .turned the campervan and drove back to the small town. At that moment I saw the famous Tranz Alpine Express entering the station of Arthurs' Pass. Took some photo's of this train and back to the Information Centre to see where the Arthurs Hotel was where I could stay with a campervan.
I asked and got the information and went outside again. There was a bunch of 8 Keas (New Zealands Green Parrots) running between the cars.
After that I drove to the Arthurs Hotel and became the 4th and last that could park near the hotel for that night. After installing all for the night I went in the Hotel and had a good dinner in the restaurant at the hotel. After dinner I stayed in and used the internet facilities of the Hotel until they wanted to close the restaurant. After closing I walked to an illuminated waterfall. It was hard to find (so it wasn't that well lit). Took some photo's and walked back to the hotel and campervan.