A Winter Wonderland... In July?

Sarah Bruihler
August 15, 2016
Arthur's Pass Train Station

A few weekends ago, a group of friends and I hopped aboard the TranzAlpine train bound for Arthur’s Pass. We’d planned a few weeks in advance, and were really looking forward to this trip – our first overnight trip! Saturday morning we had to get up horribly early (I’m talking like 5am here), to be ready for the bus to the train station, leaving at 7:05. We met up at my place (which I share with two other girls in our group, so it’s the logical meet-up place) at 6:45, to make sure everyone was awake and ready to get to the bus. Note: Always have the meeting place at your place – it lets you take a little extra time to get ready! That being said, everyone was ready before I was, so I had to meet them at the bus stop. (Don’t worry – I got there on time!) Since we didn’t know what stop to get off at, we asked the oh-so-kind bus driver to stop there for us. He was glad to do it, and wished us well on our trip! After a quick walk from the bus stop to the train station, we realized we were the first ones there. Better early than late! We got our tickets and waited for them to call boarding.

The train ride is supposed to have an astounding view of the Southern Alps; the train even has a viewing car to see them from. Unfortunately, Saturday was miserable weather-wise, so we weren’t really able to see any of the views on the way up. Arriving in Arthur’s Pass 2 hours after our train left Christchurch, we were truly in the middle of the weather – snow and sleet everywhere. Bill, the owner of The Sanctuary (our hostel) picked us up from the station, which we were lucky for because the walk to his van soaked us through, walking to the hostel would have chilled us to the bone. Upon arrival at the hostel, we were greeted by a cozy, warm two-room building with a wood-burning stove as well as central heating. It was wonderful to walk into. Bill offered us a tiki tour up the road to show us some of what we wouldn’t be able to see from the village. Note: A tiki tour is a kiwi term for driving around and looking at the sights. We gladly took him up on his offer, and so we hopped back in the van and were off. Unfortunately, the snow storm was still going strong, so there wasn’t much for us to see. Bill dropped us off back at the hostel, then headed home to Christchurch – we had the whole hostel to ourselves.

We had planned on walking the Arthur’s Pass Trail on Saturday, but that obviously wasn’t going to happen with the weather conditions going on outside, so we hunkered down and spent most of the day inside, playing card games, reading, and doing puzzles. We went outside for a little bit, to enjoy the snow and take pictures (Because you have to do that if it’s snowing in the middle of what should be summer for you!). Partway through the afternoon, we were joined by a French girl who had hitch-hiked up from Greymouth and was going to stay in the last empty bed in the hostel. (It’s a small hostel, only 8 bunks.) After going to a local café/restaurant for supper, we spent the rest of the evening just hanging out; at one point we went outside and had a snowball fight because the snow was just perfect for it.

The next morning we woke up to a winter wonderland. It felt like we were in Narnia. After having breakfast, we wandered out to a path Bill had shown us the day before that went to the Devil’s Punchbowl waterfall. The views along the trail were amazing, with fresh snow coating every surface. Words honestly cannot describe the beauty of it. Coming back down from the falls, a few of us decided to start up Arthur’s Pass Walkway because we had seen a sign that said there was another waterfall about 20 minutes’ walk up the path. Though we didn’t get to this waterfall, we did get some incredible lookout views of the National Park, and SO MUCH SNOW!

I’m from Minnesota, which is basically the home of all things snow and ice in the winter, so the whole time we were in Arthur’s Pass, experiencing winter in the middle of July, I was so excited and happy – my friends may have thought I was insane. Soon enough, though, it came time for us to get on the train back down to Christchurch. We parted with our French friend as she hitch-hiked back down to Greymouth. On the train ride back home, we were able to see the things that we had been denied on the trip up. The views were incredible, and I stayed in the open-air viewing car for most of the way home (eventually it got cold, which is what prompted me to go back inside).

Overall, Arthur’s Pass was a great trip – I would love to go back in the summer to see how it changes since winter is not the height of its tourist season. When we first planned it, I was hesitant about going on this trip, because the train ride is not the cheapest thing in the world and I wasn’t sure it’d be worth it. Now that it’s over, though, I can firmly say that I’m glad that I went – though I’m not sure that I would pay for the train a second time, it was great to go this time, because I got to see a great place in a wonderful time of year, with amazing friends.

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Sarah Bruihler

<p>Hi there, I&#39;m Sarah! I&#39;ve lived in the midwest my whole life (moving around between Wisconsin and Minnesota). I&#39;m a junior at Gustavus Adolphus College, and am pursuing a major in Geology, and a possible minor in Sociology and Anthropology. I play rugby, sing in the choir, and am in love with travelling and seeing what this great wide world has to offer me!</p>

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