Castle Hill, Cave Stream, Arthur's Pass

April 10th
We left Christchurch and headed towards the glaciers, straight out west. Of course, to get there we had to go over a mountain range. On the way we stopped off at this spot known as Castle Hill. It had a lot of cool boulders in this large valley-like area. Parts of The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe were filmed here (cool, eh). We had lunch on the rocks and took off.

While on the highway (just prior to Castle Hill, actually), I had a bit of an incident on the roads. It takes a little getting used to driving on the wrong side of the road, apparently, and as it was my first day I was still getting adjusted to being on the right side of the vehicle as opposed to the left (throws off your alignment). We were behind these two trucks for a little ways and since the spiffy Pulsar doesn't quite have the pick-up one would appreciate when passing vehicles in the oncoming traffic lane, I had been hesitant to pass. Finally, however, the two trucks edged over to the left side of the road, giving me the sign to pass them on the right (the proper side in this backwards land). I was hesitant still since there was a turn coming up, but I thought I could make it in time. So I punched the gas and pulled out into the oncoming lane and just as I do this Jake yells out something akin to, 'oh shiiiit!'. Thinking that he is just now seeing the turn up ahead, I concur with his sentiment and think that I need to really punch it just to be safe, so I try my hardest to speed up and in doing so fail to get as far over into the oncoming lane as quickly as one would like. BAM!. a loud metallic smacking-like noise rings out and I keep flooring it, assuming that it had something to do with the hitch of the truck we were passing as it went over a bump. Looking over to my left however, I realize that what had actually happened was I smacked the side mirror against the back of the first truck we were passing. Thus realizing that Jake's excited utterance was due to the fact that I was speeding up more than I was getting over and coming too close to the truck. Long story somewhat short: the mirror folded in, left some scratches but was already scratched up, and everything ended just dandy.

After that they still let me drive and we headed just up the road to Cave Stream (they don't have very many imaginative names out here, for instance Hole in the Rock ends up literally being a hole in a rock). Cave Stream was cool. It was a stream going though a cave, surprise surprise. You walk down a decent hill to the bottom of the cave and enter in through that way, making your way up through the cave exiting the mouth near where you parked. At first I thought it was just going to be a little stepping in water and climbing some steps, so I was justifiable concerned when I saw people putting on wetsuits in the parking area. Turns out that you are immediately wading in waste-deep water in pitch black darkness. I had my phone flashlight, but it was still dark as hell. The water level goes up and down, never getting below your ankles and never too far above the waste, but it was cold as shit as well. You end up climbing up some small waterfall areas, going through some quick-rushing water, we saw a spider that only exists inside that cave and one other place on earth, and at the end of the cave there is a 6meter straight up rockface wall that has metal bars inserted so you can climb your way out of it. Pretty cool. I hit my head a couple times on the rock ceiling but most of the time you couldn't see the roof it was so high.

Then we made it up to Arthur's pass. Here is where I met two of my most hated enemies on the trip. The first being the Kea. They didn't really do too much personally against me, but I could sense the mutual hatred between us. The one in the photo below started walking over towards my feet, certainly looking for a tasty toe snack. Just look at the evil in its eyes. These are the only Alpine Parrots in the world and they have an insatiable curiosity of all things human that leads them to destroy anything they can, particularly rubber like windshield wipers). As you can see from another photo below, we didn't come as prepared as we would and we had quite a pitiful tent, especially this first night out. We also picked a spot riddled with my other foe, the sandfly. These are little gnat-sized insects that just land on you and bite the hell out of you, mostly arms and legs, then the next morning you awake to find all these itchy red bumps where each one bit you. Bastards.

The next morning we awoke and did a little hike that ended at the Devil's Punchbowl. A pretty cool waterfall that had a spot full of turmoil and swirling water that I assume was the punchbowl part. Unfortunately, it was raining pretty good so I didn't snap any photos.

Upon leaving Arthur's Pass towards Franz Josef Glacier we stopped a couple times along the way to see sites like the Otira Gorge Viaduct, Lake Ianthe, Whataroa Valley, and had lunch in Greymouth. All in all, still a pretty good trip, got in some good sites and did a couple hikes.

Evil Kea

Castle Hill was labeled as the spiritual center of the world by the Dalai Lama

Pretty good lunch spot too, popular for 'bouldering'

Of course I ended up on the side w/o the tarp coverage and it rained that night plus the ground was pretty soaked, but don't fret, we gradually improved our tent over time

Otira Gorge Viaduct, pretty cool, you drive under the falling water there and through the viaduct thing, reminded me of a course from Gran Tourismo or something

Whataroa Valley - I liked the monster-like remnants of a bridge. There was also this creepy old gold mining camp that reminded me of a Scooby Doo episode

Greymouth beach was grey - not too dissimilar from Humboldt's beaches at times

Of course I went to the brewery, but alas, our schedules did not align and I was merely restrained to a perusing of the gift shop; denied the pleasures of a good brewery tour

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