Sunday, December 29, 2013

Crossing the Main Divide at Arthur's Pass

Arthur's Pass, New Zealand (May 31, 2008)

The Main Divide parts the Pacific coast of New Island from the western coast facing the Tasman Sea. It is mostly impassable, due to the high mountains and glaciated valleys of the Southern Alps. Unless you can hitch a ride on Gwaihir, or take a detour through Khazad-dum, there are only three passes available. One of them is Arthur's pass.

A forest at Arthur's Pass
Arthur's pass takes its name from Sir Arthur Dudley Dobson, who led the first european party across it in 1864. To be fair, he really didn't discovered it, as it was sporadically used by Maori hunting parties led by the local chief Tarapuhi, who gave him the lead on where to look for the pass. Nevertheless, the "discovery" by Sir Arthur came just at the right time as it provided easy access through the mountains shortly before gold was discovered in the west coast (all major european settlements were at the time on the east coast). We crossed Arthur's pass in our 2008 trip, as we moved to the Tasman coast from the Canterbury region. As you can see from the photos, it was a wet late-fall day, which certainly helped to set the mood. We stopped at the pub in the tiny hamlet with the same name, where we got some food and warm beverages. The area of the pass is in fact at the center of a beautiful protected natural area, encompassing tall mountains and very lush forests (it seems to rain and snow a lot, over there). Even a short walk from the pub offers an incredible view of the trees (see e.g. small photo on the left). What we didn't see was the kea, which is the funnies (and more delinquent) bird in the world. Keas are mountain parrots (world's only alpine parrot) that only live in New Zealand. They are very smart and inquisitive, and regularly harass tourists and their cars (they like to strip all lose rubber parts, like swipers). They even know how to open the zip of backpacks to steal the content. They know how to solve logic puzzles (things like figuring out the correct sequence in which levers must be pushed to access food in a container) and group of them can work together to crack more difficult problems. Although we may have seen some Kea feeding on roadkill along the road (not sure, though), we didn't meet any while we had our walk: it was raining and keas are definitely too smart to go for a stroll in foul cold weather, as opposed to a certain clueless human writing this blog.

Arthur's Pass, New Zealand (May 31, 2008)

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