My dad went on a trip to Auckland last week, and left me his car. Suddenly, on Thursday at about 10.30am, I realised that (a) I had to return the car on Friday; (b) this was my last chance to get out of town; and (c) the weather was going to be beautiful in Arthur's Pass that day. I shook myself out of my morning stupor, got dressed, and went and knocked on my flatmate A.'s door. "I'm sorry to do this to you, but do you want to go to Arthur's Pass today, and if so can you be ready to leave in half an hour?!"
It took us a bit longer! But by midday we were on our way out of town, down the Old West Coast Road, heading for the mountains. Arthur's Pass is one of the main routes through the mountains. It's about one hour and forty minutes from Christchurch by car, and it's a national park. It's also a place for which I have a particular affection, as I have spent many, many family holidays there. My grandfather, a steam train driver, had a tiny cottage there in the old days. My father and all his brothers went to visit the area periodically, building their own skis in the winter and scaling the peaks in the summer. My family has continued the tradition, and now my siblings have begun taking their own children there.
A. and I arrived at about 1.40, hungry, but not so hungry that we weren't willing to wait for the perfect picnic spot. We found it:
It took us a little while, but we found it. We wanted grass, we wanted solitude, we wanted to be near water (you can't see, but we're overlooking a river). If you want to find our perfect picnic spot, just turn off onto the road where the police sign is - it's right near the start of the Mt Bealey Track.
Then we wandered around by the river near our picnic spot. Sounds non-eventful but it was charming. After we tired of it, we decided to go and climb up to the Punchbowl Falls (otherwise known as the Devil's Punchbowl). It's a climb of about half an hour. I remembered it being very steep but philosophised that I was only about eleven last time I did it and was probably just whining.
It is very steep. This is my impression near the beginning:
We hauled ourselves up the hill, feeling very, very pathetic and unfit. But eventually the climbing part ended and then we could just enjoy the really beautiful forest on a really beautiful day:
Then finally we reached the falls and all our hard work was worth it. They really are rather special. The water just drops down this sheer cliff and hits a pool before dropping from that pool into another and another and another... Here we are on the viewing platform about one third of the way down the waterfall:
It's okay standing on a viewing platform, but it's better getting closer, so we climbed underneath the platform and then just sat on rocks in the sun and the spray from the falls, watching water moving:
I could have stayed there for much longer, but it was time to leave. So we went back down the track (it's much quicker on the way back, of course), got in the car, took a quick trip to look at the view down the Viaduct, and then drove home - via the Bealey Hotel where we stopped for a drink. And nearly got eaten alive by sandflies.
Edit: So yeah, on Thursday I hadn't managed to get back into my study-hard routine yet. :) But now I am!