A South Island road trip

Last week I had the chance to head south. To leave Wellington for a couple of days, fly to Christchurch and take a road trip from Christchurch driving west over Porters and Arthur’s Pass to the West Coast. A work colleague and myself were making this trip to attend the opening of the Monteiths boutique brewery in the West Coast township of Greymouth. Yes, we were actually going to attend a piss-up in a brewery. The following day after a couple of meetings we were to retrace our steps, to Christchurch and then to home.

It’s a while since I’ve been to “the coast” – as it’s known – and even longer since I’ve driven the road through the Southern Alps. I had forgotten how spectacular it is – especially at this time of year when the snow is down on the hills and even beside the road in some places.

We departed Christchurch and crossed the Canterbury Plains passing through the towns of Springfield and Sheffield. The weather was overcast and grey and not boding well for our trip. We stopped at Springfield to pay homage to their famous donut which was awarded to the town by the most famous son of that other town called Springfield, Homer Simpson. No seriously, it’s true.

From Springfield we started the climb over Porters Pass, passed through Castle Hill and then travelled along the Waimakariri River basin until we arrived at the small alpine community of Arthur’s Pass. Here we could see that the dark overcast clouds that had followed us from Christchurch were giving way to clear blue sunny skies on the other side of the main divide.

After crossing Arthur’s Pass we started the descent towards the coast in glorious sunshine, passing through Otira where we stopped for a toasted sandwich and a cup of tea (sorry DB we were there but you weren’t). We then travelled alongside the Taramakau River until we hit the Tasman Sea halfway between Greymouth and Hokitika.

The West Coast gets a fair bit of stick for its weather – it rains a lot – but during our visit all we saw was sunshine and blue skies. On the return trip the next day, we stopped many times to take photos (a big thank you to my travelling companion for his patience) and for a world-famous, award-winning pie from the Sheffield Pie Shop.

But my lasting memory of the trip will always be the grandeur of the scenery. Note to self – must see more of the South Island soon.

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