From Franz Josef Glacier it was time to head home, though with one more stop on the way. We travelled north again, to Hokitika and then turned east to travel over the Otira Viaduct, through Arthur’s Pass and north Canterbury to reach Christchurch. With a day in hand, we elected to stay overnight in the mountains, at Flock Hill Station.
It must be at least 20 or 25 years since I last travelled from one coast to the other via Arthur’s Pass. Not only have cars become more powerful and reliable in that time, but the road has been completely overhauled. Where Otira Gorge used to be a steep, tricky and somewhat dangerous stretch of road there is now the Otira Viaduct, and it’s an easy drive.
Above the Viaduct is an area where you can pull off the road to admire the view. There were a couple of keas up there, closely examining the tourists’ cars, and hopping about endearingly on the railings.
Next we passed through Arthur’s Pass, aiming perhaps to stay the night. That didn’t work out so we kept travelling and fetched up at Flock Hill Station, which turned out to be a gem. Along with its other positive features, the food was excellent and we had a giant motel unit that cost only the same as all the other units we’d stayed in on our trip.
One of my goals while travelling on the West Coast was to take advantage of the dark skies to view Comet McNaught, and the stars in general. Cloudy skies the whole way defeated that, but up there in the Alps, surrounded by mountains, the skies were clear and pitch black. I still couldn’t see the comet, because there were hills in the way, but I definitely had a great view of the sky above.
Next day we rose to a typical, splendid Canterbury day: blue skies and hot sun. I lived in Canterbury for a quarter of a century and memories of the fabulous summers came flooding back. We set off, destined to quickly bake in the car, soon stopping for a quick break and photo of the countryside. The dry brown is so typical of the East Coast, contrasting so strongly with the wet green of the West Coast. Within another few minutes though we came across low cloud which stayed with us to Christchurch and the end of the trip.