Southern Alpine Territory


It was time to head for the mountains.  Our chosen route took us inland from Christchurch, through ‘Arthur’s Pass’.  Once we had driven through the plains outside of Christchurch, we started to climb and very quickly the scenery was becoming really dramatic.

We had planned our picnic stop for the day to be at Castle Hill. This place looked very cool on the pictures we had seen and but when we arrived it was even more spectacular!

Enormous boulders scattered around the hillside provided the perfect natural playground for Fin and his dad, who climbed and jumped and ran around the whole area!  It was fun but also incredibly picturesque.

After polishing off our picnic, we needed to get some shade and make further progress on our mountain road trip.

The next section of the road westbound was called Arthur’s Pass, an area of extreme territory.  We weren’t overly confident on how the van would handle the drive, but it was actually on the whole surprisingly easy going. There were some gnarly parts that were steep and winding, and a particularly sheer spot where there the road dived into a gorge on a viaduct.  The landscape around here was epic.  We stopped off along the way to take pics that won’t even do it justice. Once we were down from the mountains, we wound our way through deep valleys with boulder rivers and the clearest most ice blue water we have ever seen.

We chose this day to travel as it looked like the clearest and most sunny of the days that week, and it turned out to be a good move.  We got the full HD vista of the region in all it’s glory.

After a few hours on the road, we discovered a little campsite called Jackson’s Retreat.  It had glowing reviews and sounded perfect for a rest overnight.  One of the added bonuses of this campground was it had it’s own rainforest bush walk to a waterfall, so despite being quite tired, we couldn’t resist the extra adventure, so off we went!  It was easily the most untouched rainforest we had experienced, it was amazing, there was barely a path, just little ribbons tied to trees to give you a clue you were in the right direction.  This was completely and utterly off the beaten track.  

Fin led the way; he has become such a fearless explorer nowadays. He was confidently pushing through the ferns and palms to find his way to the waterfall.  We could hear it, but the bush was so dense, it was only as we broke out of the trees next to the pool that we saw it.  Wow, this was a special place, such a perfect hidden oasis. The waterfall cascading down from a rainforest ledge high above.  It felt totally untouched by humans.  In fact it was that deep in the jungle that it was hard to imagine many people even ventured to find it.  A hidden secret and we had it all to ourselves!  Fin sat on the rocks, right beneath the tumbling water.  He was so lucky to experience nature like this.  It was off the scale!

Making our way back to the campervan, we retraced our steps, paddled through the stream and eventually found our way back to camp.

There was one more treat this place had in store - apparently there were glowworms!  As Fin was uber tired that night, he had an early one and was fast asleep before dusk.  So we chilled out with some wine until darkness fell and then checked out the glow worms that were visible on the banks of the stream running down behind our van.  There were a good number of them, and we perched on the bank to watch them for a couple of minutes.  They were equally as majestic as our glowworm encounter back in Waitomo.  

Now it was time for some rest ahead of another big day of driving in the morning – we were heading to glacier territory!


Jen Skehan