Arthur’s Pass is not just SH73 (one of the major state highways connecting both coasts). It’s also a small alpine village (1 cafe, 1 restaurant, 1 wee market) nestled amongst the Southern Alp with impressive history. Maori travelers and traders of greenstone tramped through, shepherds in the 1800s searched for grazing land, and then gold was discovered. The first road was built in less than a year!! in 1865 during a bitterly cold winter. The financial incentive to link Christchurch on the East Coast with the West Coast gold fields brought 1,000 men with axes, picks, shovels, crowbars and wheelbarrows, rock drills and explosives. Remarkable. It’s still a dicey crossing through rugged terrain and unpredictable weather with road closures from rock fall, slips, snow and floods. In fact it was closed due to flooding on Jan. 3, 2013, leaving people stranded.
We saw our first Kea bird – a cheeky alpine parrot known to frequent car parks and beg for food. We hiked Devil’s Punch Bowl to see Bridal Veil Falls, all 540 steps one way or 1,080 agonizing roundtrip stairs. That put my knees out of commission for a while. Jim said his chicken curry pie at the Alpine Cafe was the best one so far. The yellow gorse and scotch broom was in full bloom.