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Arthur's Pass - From East to West

Craigieburn, New Zealand

We left Kaikoura and drove down the East coast towards Christ Church, taking a hard right into Arthur's Pass, an alpine crossing that connects the Islands East and West coasts. You may have noticed that many of the cities/routes/regions in New Zealand have two different titles: English and Maori. The Maori people make up close to 10% of the population of the country and were the first Settlers - arriving around 1200 AD from various areas of Polynesia. Their cultural influence is seen throughout. A common name used for the country is the Maori name, Aotearoa, which translates to "Land of the Long White Cloud." Prior to 1200AD, New Zealand lived in virtual isolation, encountering no humans or even land mammals, since it Split from the giant land mass Gondwanaland millions of years ago. Its evolutionary isolation, along with its position in the Pacific's Ring of Fire and its unique weather patterns, gives New Zealand many of its fascinating displays of nature at its finest.

The drive from coastal Kaikoura through Arthur's Pass is a prime example of this. The drive was stunning and we transitioned from Crystal blue beaches and rainforest to grassland, to otherworldly, vast alpine Highlands in matter of hours. By evening we had reached the Arthur Pass township at the Center of the Island, a single strip of houses with a few hostels and a cafe or two nestled in the mountains. We spent a night here and did a nice day hike the following day called Temple Basin. Gorgeous alpine scenery.

We continued through the pass and saw an even quicker change back to lush rainforest as we approached the west coast highway. Here, were absent the cliffs of the east coast - this was flat, desolate beach land. We stopped for lunch in a small town called Hokitika and then on through the rainforest to our next main attraction, Fox Glacier.

permalink written by  bhkann on December 9, 2012 from Craigieburn, New Zealand
from the travel blog: New Zealand, 2012
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