Sunday, 17 February 2019

Short Walk: the Arthur's Pass Historic Walk

A walk through history in Arthur's Pass Village

The Arthur's Pass Historic Walk is a 1.5 hour journey around the village, it starts at Glasgow Bridge behind the Chapel of the Snows and takes in many of the notable landmarks in this historic settlement. The walk consists of a series of panels with photographs of the area in earlier times and some information about the locations significance.

 The written information below is from the official pamphlet for the Arthurs Pass Historic Walk from the website.The photos are mine from numerous trips to Arthur's Pass over the last decade.

Following the stops on the Historic Walking Track

The Arthur's Pass Historic Walk was originally developed to interpret the story of the village using historical photographs. As you walk to plaque 1, you are skirting mountain-beech/tawhairauriki forest, which cloaks this entire valley up to the bush line.

Arthur's Pass National Park logo

1. Glasgow Bridge 

The main road once crossed Avalanche Creek here. The old bridge can be seen on the plaque photo. The numerous buildings shown, which were associated with the railway and tunnel construction, have been demolished.

Arthur's Pass Historic Walk: Glasgow Bridge

The foundations of the original bridge are still in place next to Glasgow Bridge, named after Melville James Pitt Glasgow, a mountaineer who was involved with the building of the Arthur’s Pass Chapel of the Snows.

Glasgow Bridge site: note bridge support larger than current bridge

Visitors are welcome to enter the interdenominational chapel. Just after the bridge, a short detour to the left leads to a platform overlooking a waterfall on Avalanche Creek. 

The lovely interdenominational church at Arthur's Pass Village

View up Avalanche creek from inside the Arthur's Pass Chapel of the snows

The waterfall is often floodlit at night. Notice how the gap in the beech-forest canopy and the humidity from the falls and stream allow a variety of stream side shrubs, ferns and mosses to thrive here.

Arthur's Pass Chapel of the Snows from up the Millennial walk next to Avalanche Creek

2. Brake’s store 

Jack Brake was the first storekeeper in Arthur’s Pass during the busy tunnel construction days. The YHA hostel now occupies the original site of Brake’s store. The store catered for most of the day-to-day needs of the tunnellers, their families and the travelling public. Meat, groceries, hardware, medicines, coal, firearms, clothing and postage stamps were among the goods sold.

Brakes Store site is now the home of the YHA hostel in Arthur's Pass Village on the right side of SH73

In 1942 Brake moved across to the site of the present day store and tearooms, originally a five-room railway engineer’s house. Jack Brake’s son Brian achieved international fame as a photographer.

The current Cafe and General Store in Arthur's Pass, once the site of Brakes second store

3. Coberger’s shop

 Oscar A Coberger came to Arthur’s Pass in 1928 as an alpine guide. He established an alpine sports depot in this building and provided equipment and service to trampers, climbers and skiers for about 50 years. This building is now home to the Wobbly Kea CafĂ©.

The plaque on the outside of Cobergers Shop: aka the Wobbly Kea Cafe

Cobergers Shop is now the Wobbly Kea Cafe, Arthur's Pass

Oscar brought with him from Germany an enthusiasm for skiing, at a time when many visitors to Arthur’s Pass were taking up the sport. In 1929 the Christchurch Ski Club (now Temple Basin Ski Club) was formed. Development of Temple Basin commenced in 1933 with the building of a hut. A ski tow, one of the first in New Zealand, was installed in 1948.

Mt Temple with the ski-field to right of the rounded slope from the Otira Valley

Close-up of the buildings at the Temple Basin ski-field from Otira Valley

4. Tunnellers’ cottages main street Bealey Flat 1910

 Tunnellers’ huts dating from 1908 still remain on both sides of the main road. These originally unlined dwellings were sold at the completion of the tunnel in 1923 and are now privately owned as holiday cottages.

Old tunnellers huts at the western edge of Arthur's Pass Village

The large building on the left-hand side of the plaque photo is the old schoolhouse, used during the tunnelling days. It is interesting to note the different names the village has been called over the years—Camping Flat, McLean’s Town, Bealey Flat, as well as Arthur’s Pass.

The old school building on the Arthur's Pass Historic Walk

The walk to plaque 5 takes you through the car park for the Devils Punchbowl Falls. Before you enter the beech forest 100 m further on, look around you for clues to the valley’s glacial past. Notice how the falls plunge out of a hanging valley, and how the forested fronts of the ridges are truncated and smoothed out.

Punchbowl Falls coming from a classic hanging valley, Arthur's Pass NP

5. Bealey Swing-bridge 

The Arthur’s Pass area has been popular with sightseers and visitors for a long time. The most popular walk is to the Devils Punchbowl Falls (131 m). The present bridge is the most recent of several used to take visitors to the falls. Floods in the Bealey River have carried earlier bridges away. In 1962 the flood waters washed away a cottage at the back of the Chalet Restaurant.

Information board about the Bealey swing-bridge and Arthur Dobson

The fixed bridge crossing the Bealey River, Arthur's Pass Historic Walk
The increasing use of Arthur’s Pass, especially at the time of the first train excursions around 1924, coincided with damage to the native vegetation by enthusiastic plant gatherers. Botanist Leonard Cockayne led a campaign to set aside land around Arthur’s Pass for National Park purposes in 1901. Concerned people pressured the government to further protect and reserve the land. In  1929, 48,600 hectares (120,000 acres) were gazetted as national park. Progressive additions have been made and the park now covers 114,839 hectares (283,652 acres).

6. Punchbowl power-station site 

This is the site of the power house which was built in 1909 to generate electricity for the construction of the rail tunnel. Power was needed for lighting, ventilation, air compressors, and for pumping water out of the tunnel.

Turn off too the old power station for the Arthur's Pass Historic Walk

A long view of the whole Otira tunnel power station site, Arthur's Pass Historic Walk

Arthur's Pass Historic Walk: the plaque for the old power station

The concrete foundations were for generators driven by Pelton wheels. The water to drive the wheels was piped from the top of Devils Punchbowl Falls through tunnels and pen-stocks down the steep hill next to the falls.

Arthur's Pass Historic Walk: base foundation for the Pelton wheels at the power station

Arthur's Pass Historic Walk: base foundation for the Pelton wheels at the power station site

Part of the pipe line and tunnel can still be seen 20 minutes up Mt Aicken Track. The power house was removed in 1929.

7. Avalanche Creek and main road Arthur’s Pass 1917

 An interesting comparison can be made between the main road in 1917 and today. The road level has been raised and most of the tunnel workers’ huts removed, but some, on the right-hand side, remain. Part of the large building on the left-hand side was originally a dining hall for unmarried tunnel and railway workers.

Avalanche Creek running down towards SH73 through Arthur's Pass
Guy Butler bought it and enlarged it by adding part of the old Otira Schoolhouse before opening it as a guest house in 1923. In 1969 the building was developed as an Outdoor Education Centre for use by school groups.

Arthur's Pass Historic Walk: the Outdoor Education Centre

8. Arthur’s Pass to Otira rail tunnel

 The tunnel is 8.5 km long and is on a gradient down to Otira of 1 in 33, a fall of 278 m. It was drilled from both sides, the first shot being fired from the Otira end in 1908. When the two headings met in 1918, the alignment and levels were accurate to within 3 cm.

Arthur's Pass Historic Walk: the plaque near the Otira Tunnel entrance

Rail bridge over the Bealey River, Otira Tunnel opening

World War I, contract problems, high labour turnover and harsh weather conditions meant that the tunnel did not open for rail traffic until 1923. 

Close view of the Otira Tunnel portal, Arthur's Pass Historic Walk
The turntable nearby was built to replace the original one near the engine shed. It had to be long enough to take the large Kb-class steam locomotives. These were, in their day, the most powerful locomotives in New Zealand.

The locomotive turntable at Arthur's Pass rail yards

One of the old steam locomotives on a run to Arthur's Pass back in 2016

9. Arthur Pass Railway Station

 The first railway station complete with refreshments and dining rooms was constructed in Arthur’s Pass when the line reached here from Springfield in 1915. Two brass plaques at the station were among those placed by the Institute of Professional Engineers of New Zealand to mark 150 years of New Zealand engineering. They commemorate the construction of the Midland Line and the drilling of the Otira Tunnel.

Arthur's Pass Historic Walk: the Arthur's Pass train station
The present station was built in 1966 to replace the previous one which burnt down. Steam trains were replaced by diesel locomotives in the late 1960's.

Historic walk plaque on the outside of the Arthur's Pass train station

National Park sign at Arthur's Pass rail station, Mt Bealey/Avalanche Peak in background

An historical mural inside the waiting room, depicting attractions along the highway, should not be missed. The railway yards were built up with spoil excavated from the tunnel. The subway floor is on the original level of the yards.

Arthur's Pass train station...the mural they are talking about

Painting of an electric train leaving Otira Tunnel, Arthur's Pass train station

Painting of prospectors in the Otira Gorge, Arthur's Pass Railway station

10. Arthur’s Pass to Otira coaching link

 Before the advent of the railway, the 274 km horse-drawn coach journey from Christchurch to Hokitika took 36 hours, including an overnight stop at Bealey. As the railway advanced eastward and westward, coaches transported passengers between the rail-heads, over Arthur’s Pass, until the tunnel was opened in 1923.

Arthur's Pass Historic Walk: the coaching link plaque

This trip was exhilarating, sometimes dangerous, and the weather was often miserable. The Cobb and Co-type mail coaches were licensed to carry up to 17 passengers. On steep sections of the road, passengers were asked to assist the horses by getting out of the coach and walking. The average working life of a horse on this section of road was 18 months. Accounts of accidents are common but there were remarkably few fatal incidents during the 57 years that the coaches linked Canterbury and Westland.

The Coaching links plaque outside the Arthur's Pass railway station

You can see one of the original coaches at the Arthur’s Pass Visitor Centre. On the knob just to the south of this plaque are the remains of one of the concrete ‘monuments’ from which surveying for the tunnel was done.

The Cob and Co stage coach in the Arthur's Pass Visitors Centre

11. Warden of the Snows 

Appointed to Arthur’s Pass in 1950 as one of the first full time professional rangers in the country, Ray Cleland set new standards in conservation and recreation. Ray made the park more accessible and enjoyable for visitors, creating the Bridal Veil Track, and building six back-country huts. He was instrumental in the development of the 48-bunk youth hostel and the Chapel of the Snows.

Photo of Ray Cleland working on the National Park stone, Arthur's Pass

Ray Clelands stone marker next to the Arthur's Pass railway subway

He shared his passion for nature with the park visitors, creating an alpine garden and giving evening talks. In 1958 he became supervisor of all national parks—a leader whose influence is still felt today. Ray’s rock has been resurrected in Arthur’s Pass to acknowledge his contribution to the management of our national parks.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Short walk: Devils Punchbowl Falls: 10th February 2019

Another day trip to Arthur's Pass...

This last weekend my partner Karen and I went up to Arthur's Pass for the day and walked a number of tracks. One of them I walked towards the end of 2018 but the other was new to both of us. It was a really nice day in Arthur's Pass, warm, still and sunny...perfect weather for a trip to the National Park.

There were a lot of visitors in Arthur's Pass Village over the weekend

We went on the Sunday as they were running the 2019 Coast to Coast race on Friday and Saturday and the Village is always heaving with people for those two days.


Walking the Punchbowl Falls an alternate...

We were planning to walk the Otira Valley track but when we got up to Arthur's Pass Village there was quite a bit of cloud lingering around the top of the valley. The Otira Valley Track is situated right on the highpoint of SH73 going over Arthur's Pass so the Otira Valley would have been full of cloud. As an alternate we decided to go up to Punchbowl Falls a very nice short track down by the village.

Entrance to the car park for Punchbowl Falls Track

The car-park for the Punchbowl Falls Track is at the western edge of Arthur's Pass township, it was totally full of cars as this is starting point for a number of tracks in the area:Punchbowl Falls, Mt Aicken Track, Cons Track, Arthur's Pass Walking Track, Scott's Track and Coral Track.

Arthur's Pass Village: note the many tracks in the immediate area

Lots of tracks start from the Punchbowl Falls car park..

You walk up to the Bealey River bridge cross over it  and take the right hand junction to get to the Falls. If you go left you will eventually reach the pass at the head of the valley by following the Arthur's Pass Walking Track.

Looking at Punchbowl Falls from near the car park

Karen crossing the Bealey River bridge, Arthur's Pass

A very low Bealey River from the bridge to Punchbowl Falls, Arthur's Pass NP

Track junction on the true left of the Bealey River...go right!!

Once over the Punchbowl Falls Stream the track is a series of flat areas, steps and is built to great walk standards so can be used by anyone with a degree of mobility. Boots are not required a pair of walking shoes will suffice...

On the Punchbowl Falls Track, start of the climb

Multiple sets of steps on the Punchbowl Falls Track

...and also a lot of stairs on the Punchbowl Falls Track

It is a bit of a haul climbing up all those steps and stairs but once you reach the apex of the track it is more gentle as it gradually descends down to the viewing platform at the end of the track.

High point of the Punchbowl Falls Track, descending to the viewing platform

Final set of stairs to the Punchbowl Falls Track viewing platform

We got to the viewing platform after about 25 minutes walking...not as many people here as last time I came up and the falls were flowing much more sedately. Several groups of ...lets call it as it is..idiots...ignored the rock fall warning signs and walked up the side of the valley to the lip of the falls.

This is not something I would do as I don't want to get squot like a pumpkin by a falling three tonne rock.... most of the transgressors were young with the resulting dumb obviously playing on their minds!!!!

I recommend you do not follow their example!

Punchbowl Falls from the viewing platform, Arthur's Pass NP

An interpretive panel describing the Maori origins for the Falls name...

Look closely and you can see some of the youngsters on the right of Punchbowl Falls stream...

After a short break at the falls we started off back to the car park, the return journey is much quicker than the walk in as there is a lot more downhill. The trip back to the car-park would have taken us less than 20 minutes but we stopped off to visit the old power station site.

Climbing back up the Punchbowl Falls Track to the high point

Stairs on the way back to the car-park, Punchbowl Falls Track

Nearing the top of the Punchbowl Falls Track on the way back to the car

Karen has never visited the site of the old power station built for construction of the Otira Tunnel so we took the short five minute walk to the ruins. They consist of a series of foundations left over from the power house itself and the massive dynamo wheels installed to generate power. The site is a part of the Arthur's Pass Historic Walk.

Sign for the track to the old power station, Arthur's Pass Historic Track

We had a Wren following us through the bush as we walked the short track to the power station site. The Wren flitted from tree to tree as it checked us was quite young and bold. Meanwhile momma bird was watching us intently from the top of a nearby tree...

A Wren we encountered on the walk to the old power station site, Arthur's Pass

Some of the foundations for the fly wheels at the old Otira Tunnel power station site

Interpretive panel showing the old Otira Tunnel power station

We back tracked and walked back over the Punchbowl Falls Bridge (although Jon tried hard to convince Karen that an attempt at a crossing of the Bealey River was a good was very shallow due to the dry weather...)

Maybe next time we visit...

Crossing back over the Punchbowl Falls bridge on the way to the car park

On the way to Punchbowl Falls we passed Cons Track, this is a moderate to difficult track up the eastern side of the valley the falls sits in. Con was one of the early Rangers in the National Park, he built this track back in the mid 1960's to allow access to the upper slopes of Mt Cassidy. 

I will be visiting this track some time in the future: If you want to visit Mt Cassidy beware that once you leave the bush-line this track requires some rock climbing and can be moderately dangerous. You would need mountaineering skills and route finding ability to reach the summit.

I wont be going quite that far.....

Cons Track to the summit of Mt Cassidy, Arthur's Pass National Park

The current bridge over the Bealey River was built in the late 1960' the previous wire swing-bridge was destroyed in a big storm so they built a much higher and stronger structure to replace it. There have been bridges here since the 1880's so people could visit the Punchbowl Falls.

Interpretative panel next to the Bealey River swing-bridge, Arthur's Pass

The current bridge over the Bealey River, Punchbowl Falls Track

Excellent view of Punchbowl Falls from the track, true right of the Bealey River

My second visit to the Punchbowl Falls in three months but this kind of scenery never gets old.