Soundtrack: 500 Miles, by The Proclaimers
Google Fit stats:
- Activity: 1 hour 43 minutes
- Distance: 4.2km
- Calories: 882
- Steps: 6,793
I’m increasingly skeptical of those Google Fit stats. We walked a long distance today (‘uphill both ways’) and I’m exhausted.
7:30am - 8:30am: Special Plants and Birds of the Mountain Beech Forest
Explore the forests that surround the Wilderness Lodge with our naturalist guides on an easy walk with great views. Look for riflemen, New Zealand's smallest bird, bellbird, falcon, tomtit, and creeper. Search for orchids, beech seedlings, and rare mistletoe. Discover the beech forest invading the surrounding shrublands, and learn about Maori and European sheep farmers who pioneered this area. This is a great walk to become familiar with the Waimakariri Valley.
Up and out for a pre-breakfast nature walk. Spring is, well, ‘springing’ here so the days are getting longer and we were out just after everything was waking up. It’s great to get a guided tour with someone who knows all the plants and animals – they’re different from the ones we’re used to, even if some of the names have been re-used.
SWMBO and Michael examining something. (I’m keeping my distance until I know it’s safe.)
‘The Bush’ always had a glamorous ring to i when I heard it growing up, making me think of jungles and rainforests. The Bush in Arthur’s Pass is a forest that would feel familiar to anyone from back home.
(Not very) Deep in the Bush
There were lots of little touches hidden away that we’d have missed if Michael hadn’t pointed them out.
Evil, evil fungus. (My dislike of mushrooms carries over to fungi in general, apparently.)
I don’t think we ever heard a rifleman, but lots of other birds were making their presence known. But even though the forest felt familiar, there were plenty of strange sights and sounds.
A very confused tree
I couldn’t handle a second Musterer’s Breakfast (they’re very big) so I settled for something smaller – a mound of pancakes and bacon. That set me up for:
10:00am - 1:00pm: Waterfalls & Alpine Plants of Arthur's Pass
Drive with our guide to the summit of Arthur's Pass on this short nature trip. Walk a lovely nature trail on the main divide of the Southern Alps, to discover waterfalls and gardens of the world's largest buttercup, daisies, insect eating wetland plants, mountain foxgloves, strange grass and turpentine trees, and pygmy pine, the world's smallest pine tree.
We deviated from the script a bit on this one. It all started out normally with the trip to the far side of the pass. It’s fascinating that the weather there was so different – it changed in just a few short kilometres.
The far side of Arthur’s Pass. I think they chose the right side to build the lodge on.
We stopped for a quick look out over the far side of the pass, and pretty much immediately a Kea parrot popped over to say ‘Hi’. Then a second one arrived. Birds in New Zealand didn’t have the built-in fear of mammals for a long time but I thought they’d still be generally cautious. These guys stayed a little out of arms reach but showed more curiosity than fear.
A shivering SWMBO eyes up a Kea, who in turn is eyeing up SWMBO
It wasn’t a curiosity like ‘I wonder what they’ll do next’ or ‘Do they have anything to eat’. Apparently (according to Michael) it was more likely a ‘Do they have anything I can chew, and if so how do I get it?’ kind of curiosity. Keas are noted for their destructiveness around here…
‘Go on, give me a rubber washer or something.’
In these photos you see a dull green and brown bird, but what I didn’t capture was the brilliant flash of colour you see when they fly. It’s like nature gave them a cammo coat to protect them but left them colours on the underside of their wings to allow them to taunt ground predators as they flew away. This would make (a slightly twisted) sense, if only New Zealand had ground predators. Which it doesn’t.
After this we headed in to the Arthur’s Pass National Park.
I find flowing water fascinating even if no-one else does
There’s a nice little well-maintained path through the park. (All the paths we took in New Zealand were very well maintained. We could learn a lot from these folks.)
More flowing water. I like it.
It really is all so picturesque that it’s easy to forget how remarkable it all is.
Just another spectacular view
The path led to a nice spot by a river, with a great view of Mount Rolliston. It was a lovely spot, and it’s where we had our packed lunches.
SWMBO at the river
The view of Mount Rolliston and the river, from the lunch spot
The whole area was quite breathtaking. It was a fairly easy walk too, along the nice path. I think Michael was lulling us in to a false sense of security.
Stunning scenery, everywhere we looked
The walk back was less easy. Instead of going back the way we came, Michael suggested taking the ‘path’ along the crest of one of the ridges. I think it was because he noticed I was wearing Meindl boots, same as him. Anyway, going ‘off path’ doesn’t scare me or SWMBO and the variety of a different route back seemed nice.
It was nice, don’t get me wrong. It was just tough. Some of the ‘up’s were very, very up. Muddy, slippy, and with some very steep areas. Fun but tiring. (Too tiring for me to take any photos, apparently.)
But we did it. We got back to the minibus tired but happy.
Then Michael asked if we wanted to see the Devil’s Punchbowl, a famous waterfall in these parts. Of course we said yes. It’s quite a sight.
The Devil’s Punchbowl, seen from where we parked
It is a remarkable sight. Unfortunately for us, it’s a remarkable sight that’s quite far from (and quite far above) the car park. And New Zealand is great with paths, as I mentioned, but paths weren’t enough to get you to the Devil’s Punchbowl – they had to provide stairs.
Stairs. Lots of stairs.
SWMBO and Michael coping just fine with All The Stairs
There were a lot of stairs. I know I keep going on about it, but there really were, and this was after the ups and downs of the walk back in Arthur’s Pass National Park. It’s fair to say that stairs and I are not friends.
The Devil’s Punchbowl waterfall was totally worth the effort though.
The outflow of the Devil’s Punchbowl
I do like watching water flow, and this waterfall was beautiful. The viewing platform was positioned just at the edge of the spray so viewers got just a little damp.
A much closer view than from the car park
SWMBO, unperturbed after climbing all the stairs
We came back tired, so we rested for a while until:
5:00pm - 6:30pm: Broad Stream Gorge River Cascades Adventure
A guided walk east of the Lodge across glacial landscapes and river terraces to discover special river and bluff plants, and the hanging valley of Broad Stream which has now cut down into this soft sandstone called Greywacke. We walk up Broad Stream through mossy forest, past river cascades to an outcrop of fossil-bearing Argillite or mudstone.
This was a nice gentle walk along the Broad Stream. Much more gentle than the earlier walk! Meg ran along beside us, and sometimes ahead of us, just to keep us company. Occasionally she’d spot something – a rabbit maybe? – and she’d disappear for a few minutes. I’m not sure what ever happened to the rabbits.
Meg, as a reminder, is a sheepdog, not one of the guests.
Once we got to the right part of the river bed, we started looking for fossils. Michael said they were rare, but sometimes if you cracked open a dark argillite stone you’d find a fossil inside.
Cue lots of stone-smashing…
We didn’t break all the argillite stones though – we left at least a few for the next batch of guests.
And we didn’t find any fossils. It wasn’t for the lack of trying.