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We completed the drive through Arthur’s Pass today, heading to the west coast with plans to stop several times. Our first surprise stop was about 1km down the road. The Bealey River Bridge was having some work done and closed to traffic for about half an hour. There are tons of one-lane bridges out here in the wop wops.

Stuck in a traffic jam – at least the view is amazing!

Jack’s Hut is a historic road-worker’s hut erected in 1909-10. The Roadmen were responsible for keeping the highway clear for carriages.

Keas are large, olive green parrots found in the forested and alpine regions of the South Island. They are known for their intelligence and curiosity and are considered an icon of the outdoors. They do not talk like other parrot species, but communicate in other ways and are said to have intelligence on par with a 4-year old human. They are a little shy, but very curious about what’s on your plate and won’t leave you alone if they think you have food!

Several kea hang out at the Arthur’s Pass Cafe – they know where the tourists eat!

Arthur’s Pass was named for Arthur Dudley Dobson, a New Zealand surveyor, engineer and explorer. Originally born in London, his family emigrated to NZ when he was 9. He is best known for taking the first party of Europeans over Arthur’s Pass.

memorial for Arthur Dobson

The Otira Viaduct has been given the dubious moniker, Death’s Corner (maybe don’t tell Kris’ mother that!). The viaduct is a feat of engineering, carrying State Highway 73 over a stretch of unstable land and replacing a narrow, winding and dangerous section of the road that was prone to avalanches, slides and closures.

Just before we reached the coast, a small detour took us to the Tunnel Terrace Walk through some old goldmining tunnels.

Dark and kind of creepy tunnels!

We checked into our incredible wilderness lodge this afternoon at Lake Moeraki. It was a nice respite after a long day of driving up and down curvy mountain roads.

The translation of the Maori word Moeraki is ‘a place to sleep or dream by day’.

The view out of our room.

Right after check in the owner, Gerry, offered a guided walk through the forest down to the river. He pointed out several birds and some massive and old trees.

NZ Pigeon, kereru
The tree ferns have been growing in New Zealand since before the dinosaurs!
Rimu tree – likely about 1000 years old

The story we got from Gerry is this tree was the inspiration for the Home Tree in Avatar. Apparently the Weta scouting team took a photo of this tree and James Cameron liked it. Google says the tree is supposed to be a kapok tree, but who knows, the story could be true.

The last part of the tour took place at the edge of the river where we fed Giant Freshwater Eels. Chicken fat and skin was on today’s menu.

Gerry tempting the eels with dinner.

Eels only grow 1cm per year and typically reach maturity after 100 years. These are all females – when they are ready to breed, they leave the river and find a mate in the Tasman Sea.

Eels can come out of the water to feed.

The world’s supply of freshwater eels is being decimated by sushi restaurants serving unagi. There are no farmed eels and the majority of eels are caught for food before they have a chance to reproduce.

Dinner was a lovely white fish for Kris and a chicken remoulade for Dave. We’re looking forward to a nice sleep in our soft bed!

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