Over the Mountains into the WoodsA WANDER DOWN UNDER, CHAPTER 20: IN WHICH WE GO CROSS COUNTRY
Day 21: Ashburton to Greymouth, NZ. After fueling up in Ashburton, a dozen miles from the east coast, we left around 9 a.m. headed west, back across the Southern Alps. Today we would follow Route 73 through the legendary Arthur's Pass. This time we knew what to expect. These are not the Rocky Mountains of the American west. Arthur's Pass has an elevation of 3,000 feet, so we had no fear of snow or ice on the roadway today.
Leaving Ashburton on Route 77, we pushed north through Methven and Windwhistle (you know we couldn't make that up) to Darfield, where we picked up Route 73, the Great Alpine Highway, which would take us all the way to the west coast. Like yesterday, we saw thousands of gorse plants, very noticeable at this time of year because of their brilliant yellow blooms. Introduced as ornamental hedges by Europeans in the very early settlement stages of New Zealand, the plant spread rapidly in the country's temperate climate. Today it is considered a major invasive species due to its aggressive seed dispersal. Millions of dollars have been spent trying to control it. Unfortunately, the very methods most useful in removing the noxious weed are also effective at spreading its seed.
|Common gorse, New Zealand's own kind of kudzu|
|Frequently closed by avalanches and rockslides, the old road before the viaduct. (photo from Numa Hammers)|
|Reid Falls takes a new course|
Near the viaduct we saw another kea, the New Zealand South Island parrot, and the world's only alpine parrot. With their numbers dwindling, keas are now considered a protected species. Highly intelligent, they have been documented solving puzzles and using tools to obtain food by researchers. Their keen curiosity often puts them in close contact with tourists, whom they will investigate and sometimes pester. At rest, their plumage is an olive green, but in flight brilliant orange feathers on the bottom of their wings are revealed.
- Started in Ashburton, NZ ended in Greymouth, NZ
- Mileage - 175 (Trip total: 14,089)
- Weather - 40° to 54°, partly cloudy, light rain, occasional sun
- Sheep - 14,167
- Camper vans - 112
- Curve signs - 93
- Possum roadkill - 14
TUESDAY, 23 SEPTEMBER, 2014
More Photos from Today
|View from Konai bridge near Springfield|
|Mt White bridge over Waimakariri River near Bealy|
|Mount Rolleston (?)|
|You gotta love driving down a road with views like this.|
|Railroad near Morrison Footbridge|
|Another remarkable view through the windshield|