The day dawned bright and beautiful. We headed for the Hokitika Gorge, a route that took us past many bemused cows. This was not an area traversed by many tourists in camper vans. With every turn the road grew narrower and rougher. The last turn brought us to one lane and gravel. Luckily we were at the gorge. The bridge across the gorge had a sign that it only held one person at a time; it actually held 10 people but some smarty pants erased had erased the zero. As each of us got on the bridge, it rocked; eight feet walking meant it rocked in many directions at the same time. The gorge had a striking aquamarine color; a sign that its water contained glacial silt from glaciers many miles away.
We left the Tasman Sea coast and headed east over Arthur’s Pass. In 1864 Arthur Dobson found a route over the Southern Alps from Christchurch to the gold fields in the west. Today people in Hokitika make this three hour drive to Christchurch to go shopping. We were surprised that most of the drive rose gently until the climb suddenly got very steep. A train also makes this scenic run, but has to do the steep elevation utilizing a 8 kilometer tunnel. On a beautiful Sunday we pulled over periodically to let the motorcycles go by on this well engineered road. There were many bridges on the route and again most of them were one way. People are polite and cooperative and we rarely have to wait long for our turn. More dismaying was the bridge that we shared with a train. There are no gates or flashing lights. I guess when the train is on the bridge you know it and you just have to give way.
As soon as we reached the summit at Arthur’s Pass, the scenery and temperature changed dramatically. Gone were the ferns and lush green. Now we were in a desert environment and it was warm enough to use the air conditioning for the first time since we arrived here. Some unusual looking rock formations appeared occasionally on the gentle slopes of the mountains. We hiked in Cave Stream Scenic Reserve, a surreal moonlike environment. The rock formations at Kura Tawhiti were also extra terrestrial looking. It was easy to understand why the Maori thought that this was a sacred spot. Today rock climbers like to practice on these striking formations. Many film companies have used this area. It looks like nowhere else on earth.
As we neared Christchurch it seemed like a good idea to get as close to the Pacific Ocean as possible and take advantage of the natural air conditioning. We are camped behind the dunes and had a chance to wade in the 60º Pacific. From sea to shining sea all in one day.