Arthur pass road was a beautiful introduction to the southern alps and connects Christchurch to the west coast. It was also my introduction of driving on the left without very much traffic.
Grey Mouth sits on the west coast where the grey river meets the Tasman sea. The Tasman sea separates Australia from New Zealand and is 1000 miles across.
Pancake rocks to the north are interesting how the limestone on the coast was formed, layer by layer. There were also blow holes but the are only impressive during high tide.
Heading south, I stopped at Franz Josef to hike to both the Franz Josef & fox glaciers and hope to see mount cook.
Franz Josef glacier is rapidly shrinking and it is now impossible to get to the face of the glacier without the use of a helicopter. The end of the trail leaves you short by 1 kilometer.
Fox glacier is also retreating but it is possible to walk right to and onto (for a fee) the glacier. I chose to hike to it before forking over $130 to touch the ice. At fox glacier there is also a hike called chalet that gets you above the upper face of the glacier and affords a nice view.
Further south is Haast pass which transitions from the west coast to fjord land. Haast pass is currently closed at night and can close during the day as well. If you wasn’t to avoid the pass and still make it to queenstown, it’s a 14 hour drive back to Christchurch and then south again.
I was lucky and had the pass close 20 minutes before arriving in Haast and got to chat with quite a number of other stranded guests for 3 hours. Luckily there is a sandwich shop that also sells coffee or there might I been a riot.
The pass is closing because of slips or land slides and started after a spectacular rain event in September that tragically killed a Canadian couple. Their campervan was recovered 20k downstream and her body was recovered 40k downstream. His body hasn’t been recovered yet.
After the 3 hour delay, there was still another hour delay at Diana falls. They only let 1 car pass at a time due to road instability.
My 4 hour drive lasted considerably longer than expected.