Over the next six days we took our camper van in a big loop up and through the Lewis Pass across to the west coast then coast to Greymouth, and pack across via Arthur’s Pass. There were several highlights along the way.

On our second day we stopped at an almost unmarked rest spot that was recommended by our guidebook. It is on the Lewis river and a short walk along the river takes you to several very basic and completely uncommercialised rock pools. They sit by the river, fed by a hot spring. We stayed the night there and snuck out in the dark with a bottle of wine for a dip in the hot pools. It was just beautiful, the pool being a perfect temperature.

As nice as that night was, we had another surprise in the morning when we woke up and looked out the window. Huge fluffy white things were floating down from the sky. They were so big that at first we thought they must be some kind of airbourne seeds, but sticking our heads out the window we quickly discovered that it was in fact snow. Some of the flakes where as wide as my finger and the delicate 6 pointed pattern was clearly visible. Not to miss the oppurtunity, I quickly dragged Soph out of bed so we could have another dip in the hot pools. The river had dropped during the night to reveal another, even warmer pool. So we lay in the pool, this time with snow coming down all around.

Further up the pass the snow had accumulated and there was a beautful layer of fluffy snow over everything. We did a walk into the gorgeous beech forest there. It was all green with moss everywhere, all covered with a layer of snow. I think I would have to rate it as one of the more beautiful walks we did on the trip.

On reaching the coast we paid a trip to the evocatively named “Cape Foulwind” for our first look at the West Coast. It was wild and beautiful, every bit as nice as the Big Sur, and there were actually walks along it, and paths down the beach! We had sundown there before heading down the coast to Punakaiki. Since we were arriving there at night we decided we may as well check out the Punakaiki Cavern, which is meant to have glowworms. However, a terrible navigational error resulted in us going a few kilometers down a dirt road that did not lead to the cavern. Too tired to drive back out again we simply slept there.

We woke up to find the entire windscreen coated with a thick layer of frost, on the inside. Similarly the grassy fields and shrubs around us were completely iced. It was very pretty, albeit chilly. We quickly packed up and headed out to get to the Pancake Rocks for sunrise. They were really interesting, ocean and rain carved rocks that apparently resemble huge piles of pancakes; the fat American ones, not the thin French ones. Amounst the rocks are blowholes that send up huge explosions of spray and eerie holes that whistle and howl as the waves come through below.

The rest of the day we spent there walking down one of the rivers and exploring more interestingly carved rock on the Truman beach. Once again, I would have loved to do some of the longer tracks through the park, but alas we had only one day.

In the evening we scooted further down the coast to Greymouth, were we had a highly enjoyable tour of the Monteith’s Brewery. We found out all about the beer making processes involving such interesting things as worts, mash tuns, hop backs and lautering. Of course it was all followed by some very excellent beer, after which we were not quite in a fit state to drive. Thus we were forced to get out the cooker and prepare our dinner in the Monteith’s parking lot while we sobered up.

The next day took us through the Arthur’s pass. It was a miserable day, so we weren’t able to really appreciate the views, but did do some nice but very wet walks through more lovely mossy beech forest and saw some really nice waterfalls.

Luckily for us we were blessed with a perfectly clear day on our last day so were able to take in the spectacular mountain scenery on our final drive to Christchurch. The road goes across plains with snowy peaks all around. This was the “Lord of the Rings” stuff that we were hoping to see in New Zealand. It was stunning. Although everything was much smaller in scale what we’d seen in the Americas, it was no less beautiful and it’s great knowing that we have such amazing landscapes waiting for us just a short flight away. New Zealand was amazing. We’ll definitely be back.