Yes, it may look mad but we’ve done it. We’ve driven across from Akaroa on the east coast to Greymouth on the west coast and we did it through Arthur’s Pass. So, Arthur’s Pass – tick. ‘T was a distance of 325kms but see below. New Zealand isn’t that big, really.
Morning dawned with sunny intervals. Akaroa still looked pleasant enough and the campsite still didn’t. We decamped reasonably swiftly and drove down into town for two delicious cappuccini [just realised that the plural of cappuccino should be cappuccini – it was the cannolo/cannoli from Arrowtown that did that] before heading out. One of those big cruise ships was in the harbour tendering passengers ashore. I wonder if that was the one we’d seen at Milford Sound? Just an idle thought, that was probably too long ago.
Since we were most unlikely to be here again, even if we visit New Zealand again, we decided to drive the tourist route around the rim of the extinct volcano overlooking Akaroa. It’s a spectacular 35km drive offering expansive views of the harbour for much of the way. To be honest it could’ve done with being a bit shorter but I’m glad we did it. It eventually dumped us back on the main road heading towards, but skirting, Christchurch. Kiwi Satnav had Arthur’s Pass as a destination.
There are signs scattered about NZ saying, “NZ roads are different, allow extra time”. Very funny. Yes, they are indeed different; you can maintain a much higher average speed than is possible in the UK. The national speed limit here is 100kph and you can usually do it. Not so back home.
After just two hours, including passing and pausing at two odonata spots (to be added to my map), we entered an almost Tyrolean landscape and began climbing towards Arthur’s Pass itself. We climbed into the land of that nasty invasive Broom again.
A little further up we came to Castle Hill and paused for a wander and for Francine to see the rocky outcrops. At a small flush opposite a cattle pond I spotted some Redcoat Damselflies and, favouring those over rocks with no heartbeat, I left Francine to go snag the rocks while I snagged more little friends. I was intrigued because there is an Alpine Redcoat in very specific habitat so probably not here. I had to try, though.
The road continued to be fast and much straighter than I expected until, that is, we crested the summit and began descending. Here the road was still a main road but was steep (~12%) and sinuous. It keeps one on ones toes. Francine described the scenery as dramatic rather than picturesque, as the Haast Pass had been when we’d crossed the range from Franz Josef to Wanaka. We’d lucked out, though, the conditions over the pass were good, save for a spot or two of rain at the Arthur’s Pass settlement itself.
Decision time hit again. Near the bottom of our descent we paused outside an Alpine Resort with a campsite boasting excellent reviews. However, we were still almost 50kms from the coast and if we intended to cross back again over the third pass getting to the coast would be handy. Besides, poor Francine had thus far had precious few chances at west-facing sunset shots. There were a few clouds hanging about – sunsets need clouds – so the coast won.
We completed the coast to coast route, discounted the first crummy Kiwi [that’s a chain, not a description] campsite that we tried and finally lucked out at a much better Top 10 site 4kms further on, almost in Greymouth itself. Busby has something approaching a proper camping pitch, grass beneath his wheels and vegetation to his sides. He’s very happy. We are literally beside the beach and most of what we can hear is the crashing surf from the Tasman Sea; that and that good ol’ bass line from a chalet which I hope will eventually quieten down. We’ll concentrate on the surf.
Oh, we saw a Weka again on the latter part of the drive, which was lovely. It was trying to cross the road but happpily thought better of it as Busby approached. Wekas are now limited to the west coast. I didn’t know it ‘til then but I’d missed them.
Poor Francine’s clouds now seem to have evaporated but it was a much more successful day than yesterday.