Devil’s Punchbowl and Castle Hill, more Arthur’s Pass

Since that windy day we’ve been enjoying some awesome east coast weather here on the south island. Hot sunny days and cool evenings that have me wishing we could have a campfire; there’s a total ban on them due to the risk of forest fires.

With the storm gone we headed back into Arthur’s Pass for all the things we’d planned but couldn’t do. First stop was Castle Hill and was that ever a treat. Even just hiking around in the rocks made it clear what a great place this would be for anyone into climbing. And there are lots of anchors in place for those who want to get serious (as well as strict rules about not adding any more). For us it was the vistas and textures and colours that made it so amazing (although watching the boulderers marching up the hill with their giant “backpacks” of crash pads was kind of surreal too).

Castle Hill    
Castle Hill

Castle Hill
Next up was Cave Stream; a spot that would follow us into where we spent the night. It’s a 1/2km long cave that has an active stream running through it. We were ready to walk through it but when we learned that we should be ready for waist-deep water (which we weren’t) we opted to look in at the end and just enjoy the area. Thank you NZ DOC information markings – which are everywhere, informing and cautioning travellers about all the wonders that are new to them, from the appropriate distance to keep from a seal to the gear necessary for Cave Stream.  For someone serious about spelunking I’m sure it would awesome. We continued up the road toward the pass and had lunch at the beginning of the national park. All along the way we’d been admiring the fresh snow on the mountain tops… as predicted it had snowed quite a bit the day before. It was most impressive as we got closer to the high peaks on either side of the pass as they had more than just a light dusting.

With so much to do in one day, a short hike was the best choice and the ideal candidate for this was the Devil’s Punchbowl. There’s one back home on the Niagara peninsula so we wanted to compare punchbowls. I like the one at home better, this one was “just” a spectacular waterfall without and clear bowl action! Still: it was a great hike to a beautiful spot with lots of great photos along the way. One of my favourites is something Andrea noticed and suggested… it made for a very pleasing image. And to wrap it all up we stripped off our boots at the bottom and put our feet into the frigid waters flowing down from the falls. It gave my toes an ice cream headache but was a real treat after all the walking. Then it was time to head to the Craigieburn campground to set up camp for the next day’s ride

Arthur’s Pass
Devil’s Punchbowl, full view
Devil’s Punchbowl, detail view

This campground is on the Broken River Ski access road and very close to the access road to Craigieburn ski area which is where we would be riding today. And a stream runs through the campground, and we found a lovely site to camp at. Of course this was the Cave Stream, as we noticed on the sign for the culvert at the road (everything has a name and a sign here in NZ… every stream, culvert and even livestock underpasses). The campsite was great, up to the standard to which all the DOC sites we’ve been at are maintained. The only challenge came from the nasty little black flies that are called sand flies here. They chased us into the camper early.

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