Compact and bijou are the words you could use to describe our caravan home for the next 3 days in Hokitika. However, it was very cosy and warm and had everything you could want for a stay. It also made Dawn and I very grateful for not booking a camper van for our 5 weeks here as most are smaller than the caravan we were staying in (locally they call camper vans ‘marriage breakers’, and it would be easy to see why).
After a pretty decent nights sleep, and a shower in the smallest cubicle I think it was possible to fit my body into (note to self – back on the diet when we get home), we headed for a long day’s driving across Arthur’s Pass.
Arthur’s Pass is a road that traverses the Southern Alps from Hokitika in the West to Christchurch in the East. It is an great road, with huge climbs and amazing vistas the higher you get. This is the thing about New Zealand (especially South Island), just when you think the scenery can’t get any better, it does. After an amazing drive for an hour and a half we got to the Arthur’s Pass Visitor Centre for some advice on things to do. We then drove on for an hour to Castle Hill Rocks (Kura Tawhiti) to see the massive rock formations, which looked like a giant castle had been destroyed and these were the remnants.
We went on to Cave stream scenic reserve to eat our sarnies (don’t rely on finding cafes to eat at along the way). Here there is a 594 metre long cave under the hill which you can walk through if you have a torch and don’t mind getting wet. We weren’t really dressed for this, but we watched as some of the more adventurous travellers emerged looking very wet indeed.
We then stopped at a number of further sites along the way back, including Londonderry Rock, which is a huge rock that a glacier had left behind, and as it was too big to ever move it the forest has just grown round it. We also stopped at Hokitika Gorge where the water is a jaw-dropping turquoise colour due to the minerals in the glacial rock bed/soil that the water picks up along the way.
We ended the evening with fish and chips on Hokitika beach in the late evening sunshine, very romantic, just me, Dawn and 50 squabbling seagulls!
The next day was damp and drizzly. We drove across a single lane bridge that you have to share with trains (there’s only a couple of trains a week, fortunately), walked an old mining track with a couple of tunnels where you aren’t allowed to stop in case there was an earthquake. This was a beautiful walk through some amazing kiwi rainforest. There was no one but Dawn and I there but we did get a lot of attention by the very friendly little fantail birds, who seemed fascinated by Dawn’s pink waterproof jacket.
We finished the afternoon with a heritage walk around Hokitika, finding out a little of the history of the place and looking at some of the older buildings.
The church and the old library (now a museum) are both closed due to the earthquake 5 years ago!
After dark (about 10pm here), and to end the evening, we went to a gloworm dell just up the road from the caravan (couldn’t get a picture as I dont have a tripod), this was spectacular. Thousands of gloworms lighting up the cliff walls. Quite romantic until you realise that gloworms are the larvae of a gnat, and that they use their glow to attract other insects, then spike them and suck out all their delicious insides! Then we finished the night with a quick walk on the beach in the dark to look at the art.
Next morning, feeling refreshed and ready to go, we packed up the car and made our way out for a date with Franz….