Sunday, December 27, 2015

Arthur's Pass

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

When Mayli finally finished her Neutrino 2008 conference, we left Christchurch for Arthur's pass. We drove for a few hours up Route 73, until we reached the pass, crossing the Southern Alps from the east to the west side of the island. As you can see in the photo above, the weather was very cloudy. Still, as we were approaching the pass, we could see spectacular mountains flanking the road. 

Hiking trailheads
Arthur's pass is named after the surveyor Arthur Dudley Dobson, who found his way across in 1864. While a scenic road now allows to leisurely cross the pass, at Dobson's time the many gorges on the western side of the passage made the crossing not so easy: to cross the Otira Gorge he actually had to leave his horse at the top, and lower his dog with a rope.
The passage was of course well known to Maori's hunting parties, that used it regularly to cross from one side to the other of the island. The pass is at the center of a natural park, that include many peaks over 2,000 meters, the highest of which is Mount Murchison at 2,400 meters. The area is hiking (tramping!) paradise, with many trails crossing the U-shaped valley, directed towards the snow-capped mountains. in a beautiful landscape.

The mighty peaks
We stopped briefly at the pass to take some pictures. While I was taking my photos I was called by the occupants of a car stopped along the road, just in front of us. It turned out that the people calling me were a nice couple of retired New Zealanders from Christchurch, driving through Arthur’s pass on a photographic expedition (they were particularly attracted by the mighty peaks on the side of the road (in the photo on the left). They had Nikons (a D100, a D300 and a D1) and were very happy to see that I also had a Nikon. They were really nice guys and we had a very pleasant conversation. Among the various tips they gave us, they insisted that we should add to our destination a cove not far along the route, where we could have a chance to see penguins... but this is a story for another post. Mayli after some time got bored of waiting, and took a picture of me talking with them (I had it on a previous iteration of this blog, but it was lost when the computer hosting it suddenly died).

Despite the bad weather, there were a lot of people leaving the cars and going for a hike. A lot of people were walking in the direction of the weird rock formation you can see on the left side of the panorama below, made of a line of boulders standing like sentinels watching the pass.

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

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