We left Christchurch on Saturday morning, heading west toward Arthur’s Pass. As we drove out of town we experimented with windshield wiper speeds on our new car as the heavy grey clouds overhead were pelting us with cold wet raindrops.
Thankfully, we had stocked up on petrol and snacks, including a bag of Kiwi Party Mix!, for the two hour drive.
Though we couldn’t see the Southern Alps as we approached them, our ears popping and the slightly dizzying steep road and curves let us know that we had reached the mountains even if we couldn’t see them.
About an hour from Christchurch (and halfway to Arthur’s Pass, where the house we had rented for the night was), we pulled over to see the Castle Hill rock formations. Even from the roadway, the distinctive limestone features looked familiar from the Lord of the Rings films.
We walked a short cart track from the carpark out through a field to reach the rocky hills. As we approached, a teenage boy who had climbed high above the fields hollered, “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!,” quoting Gadalf. I could hardly blame him… the scene was quite evocative of Middle Earth.
The kids were keen to climb the hillside to reach a plateau covered with (you guessed it)–more rocks! Although the air temperature felt comfortable, small patches of snow from the night before lay amidst the stones.
Huge limestone rocks lay underfoot and soared above us, some as large as a small house. Most, however, ranged in height from 2 meters to 5 meters. The ones on top of the hill were much larger. All of the kids were adventurous and wanted to scale the rocks, but we stressed the importance of remembering both safety and their completely-beginner level rockclimbing skills. With help they all got to climb a bit. However, for the most part we enjoyed looking at (as opposed to climbing on) the rocks.
We only spent about an hour exploring the area, but it left a powerful impression on us as a haunting, unusual scene.
(Our adventures continue in a future post about other things we did, saw, and heard in Arthur’s Pass for the weekend!)