We hired a rental car from Thrifty for the day.
Our car was a near-new immaculate 2006 model, and by the time we added on the insurance tax, the cost for a 24 hour hire came to around $80.
However, I imagine that a number of rent-a-dent car rental companies within walking distance from Cathedral Square (around Lichfield St) would be able to provide a better deal with an older vehicle.
We took the zippy 1.3L Suzuki Swift out along SH73 which winds it’s way up to Arthur’s Pass and eventually down to Greymouth.
Meat I might eat – a happy-meat, free range piggery spotted on SH73 just outside Christchurch
Along the way there are plenty of POIs (that’s Points of Interest, if you haven’t worked at Navman), dramatic scenery, romantic country towns, and perhaps most exciting of all, Cave Stream, a large 324m cave.
First stop was at Darfield for lunching supplies. Opposite the general store, there is a lovely, and rustic country cafe, where I would have loved to have stayed for coffee, but caving excitement beckoned.
On our journey back we would also stop at Springfield, for a cheap and generously scooped ice-cream, in yet another delightful country environment.
Right: Springfield general store and vendor of traditional Kiwi ice creams. Below: Rustic train station at Cass off SH73
But now to the more serious business of caving…
Cave Stream is located just after Castle Hill, on the right-hand side of the road, heading up towards Arthur’s Pass. It is signposted, and is just after the Broken River bridge.
The impressive 324m limestone cave winds it way up a hill, and ends with a 3m waterfall.
The first part of the trek requires wading through icy waist-deep water. Fortunately after that it’s mostly only ankle deep.
Nonetheless your feet will be underwater the entire time, and there are several deeper patches along the way.
The water is cold. Very cold; easily under 10C. It was here, that a family outing ended in tragedy after they went in ill-prepared and succumbed to hypothermia.
If you venture into the darkness, take warm upper body clothing, mittens and a hat. Take one good torch plus a back-up. You will be without light for approximately one hour. A head torch is best, leaving your hands free for support when negotiating the rocky stream bed floor.
The cave ends with a climb up a 3m waterfall, and a crawl along a narrow cave ledge at the cave ceiling. This is probably the most challenging part, but a solid ladder and chains are provided for support.
Nonetheless, provided you’re warmly attired, and don’t mind losing feeling in your feet, it’s an awesome trip. The cave is many meters high, and the water completely clear.
There are several branches off the main trunk cave to explore as well (these either end on dry ground, or loop back to the stream).
Upon exiting we had a most welcome sunny picnic and clothes and feet drying session, before continuing on to Arthur’s Pass.
Arthur’s Pass is an approximate 2 hour, 160km drive from Christchurch.
It is a scenic and relatively non-commercialized village, complete with train station, pubs, petrol station, general store, accommodation and information centre, and is a gateway for trampers. Alas we only had a day, and after finishing a much-to-be-desired coffee, we drove back towards the city.
On our return to Christchurch, we diverted down to Sumner for the afternoon in search of more elusive caves around Red Cliffs, before eventually heading back into town for a warming dinner and coffee.
Dimitris’ just off The Square served us fantastic take-away souvlakis for dinner. Priced at around $7.50 they’re excellent value for money, and seemingly a popular choice with the locals as well.
In search of a late-night coffee we discovered The Honey-Pot Cafe – Christchurch’s version of the Mezze Bar. It is an open-late cafe, selling coffee, cake, wine, full meals, dessert or just casual food. It has a great atmosphere, good coffee, and would be the ideal place to take a first date (if you happen to live in Christchurch, that is, otherwise they might be a little surprised).
View all photos for Part Deux here.