The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 62
The West Coast
The West Coast
and northwards, which includes scenery not to be surpassed by the more frequented grandeurs of this hemisphere. Leaving Christchurch, the plains are traversed for some forty miles past numbers of smiling homesteads until the Government Railway Terminus at Springfield is reached. Here the experienced traveller makes himself comfortable by enjoying a hearty dinner, and soon after the coach journey is begun. After eight miles across the plains the Kowai River is crossed and the Porter's Pass Hotel is reached. A steady climb of an hour on an excellently graded road raises us 1,500 feet, and we reach the top of the pass, 4,000 feet above the level of the sea. The highest telegraph post in New Zealand is here pointed out, not that it is longer than others, but its elevated position leads to a casual interest. On the right the grand old Mount Torlesse stands some 7,000 or 8,000 feet above the sea. The road now passes Lake Lyndon, a small sheet of water which abounds in game of all page 51 sorts. A run of some four miles brings the coach to the Seven Springs, where the first change of horses takes place, and in another three or four miles Castle Hill is reached, where a light luncheon of scones and tea employs the hungry. The wild and uninteresting scenery of this part of the route is here and there relieved by occasional peeps through the hills, of the snow-capped summits towards which we are travelling in the land of the Southern Alps. A few miles beyond Castle Hill is Craigieburn, where the next change of horses is made, and near by is the charming Lake Pearson, famous for the manner in which its calm waters reflect the adjacent slopes. From the lake we pass the Grassmere Station and the Cass, and turn into the Upper Waimakariri cutting, which seems as if it were carved out of the face of a precipice, and is grand and terrible by the light of the newly-risen moon. Below us the dark waters of the gloomy river stretch in dismal shadow, while on the other side of the wide stretch of water nearly a mile in bredth, can be seen grassy slopes flanked with dark masses of the mountain ranges.
Following the course of the Waimakariri the Bealey Hotel is found, and after resting for the night we are early on board next morning. The river is soon crossed and the Bealey Valley entered, the mists of early morning still lingering on the mountain sides and the dark foliage of the timber affording a sombre contrast. As the coach winds alongside the Bealey River the valley narrows considerably, and we note a silver streak, which relieves the dark hill sides here and there, indicating a waterfall. In crossing the Black Bridge, which, by the way, is now painted white, two famous waterfalls are in sight, the one known as "The Devil's Punch Bowl" leaps from a narrow gorge in the mountains for 500 feet before falling into its basin, while the "Bridal Veil" has a fall of about 350 feet. The ascent to the celebrated "Arthur's Pass," or Otira Gorge, now commences in good earnest. On the left is Mount Rolleston with its terrible precipices, glaciers, and snow fields towering up 9,400 feet above sea-level. Reaching the apex of the Pass the tourist has now arrived at the boundary line between Canterbury and Westland, the point being 3,400 feet high. From this spot a wondrous view lies before his enraptured eyes: the celebrated Otira Gorge is in full view, its rugged sides thickly clothed with bush, looking as if a mountain had page 52 been rent in twain. Beyond tower the snow-capped Alps, and far beneath us, thousands of feet below, roars the Otira river, splashing, boiling, and churning its waters amongst the rugged rocks which stem its progress and mark its course till lost in the bush below.
Ahead the road is hardly visible, winding and twisting zigzag fashion—here among vast boulders, there crossing a ledge of rock cut into the side of a giddy precipice. But cheerily down the grade goes the coach, until in seventeen minutes a descent of miles and 1,200 feet has been safely accomplished. Then crossing two bridges at the mouth of the Gorge, the Otira Hotel is reached, and a welcome breakfast is announced as already on the table. After starting again, we cross the Otira River, and have a run through densely wooded country, containing splendid specimens of New Zealand forest trees; past the Kelly ranges, we enter the Teremakau Valley, and the changing stables at the Taipo are in sight, Mount Alexander being passed on the right. Crossing over a fine cylinder bridge, the road lies through a lovely bush, with giant ferns overshadowing the road, and Kumara, the first West Coast town, is speedily entered. At Kumara the tram line to Greymouth branches off, the Teremakau River being crossed in a cage on wire ropes, a steam engine being used for the purpose. The coach rattles on a few miles further, going through the somewhat quaint little villages of Stafford and Goldsborough, and arriving at Hokitika, the chief town of Westland, before 6 p.m. After listening to the thunder of the surf on the Hokitika bar and beach, and taking another look at the glories of Mount Cook, which may be plainly seen on a bright day, we take coach again, and passing back to Kumara, enjoy the glories of the New Zealand bush, as we ride along the tramway leading to Greymouth. We cross