I'd originally been planning to continue north from Punakaiki, but the weather had other ideas and turned distinctly miserable, so instead I headed back to Greymouth and turned inland towards the Southern Alps, hoping that things might improve away from the gusty coast. After a night in a rest area, I arrived at Arthur's Pass to surprisingly beautiful weather, and made the most of it to scoot up Avalanche Peak, a fairly steep track up to the top of a mountain with wonderful views over the pass and surrounding mountains. My timing was impeccable: as I sat at the top surveying the view, the clouds rolled in, and the visibility changed from tens of kilometres to tens of feet in a matter of minutes. It just goes to show that carrying all those spare clothes, even on the shortest tramp, is a good idea, because I went up in T-shirt and shorts and came down in trackie bottoms, three layers and my Gore-Tex top, and I still felt bloody freezing...
It stayed cold and miserable for the rest of the day, so I hung out in the public shelter where I met plenty of interesting and chatty people (public shelters obviously being the place to be in shitty weather) and that evening, when the skies cleared temporarily, I managed to do the Arthur's Pass Historic Walk, a short jaunt round a number of plaques that describe the history of the place. The driving wind only convinced me to head back indoors, and after putting up the tent (you can camp at the Arthur's Pass public shelter quite legally) we yarned the night away while the wind whistled around the eaves.
The next day saw no change in the weather, but a group of five of us battled up the walk to Temple Basin, a fairly pointless exercise in the end as the views were non-existent and the rain was freezing. However, one good thing did come from the morning jaunt: it made us all more than happy to stay huddled up in the relatively pleasant shelter, and the rest of the day passed into history in the same way that my first few shelter-bound days in Mt Cook National Park had. Never mind: I've been incredibly lucky with the weather so far in the South Island, so I can't really moan.
Thursday continued the rainy tradition, so I aborted my plans to visit Craigieburn Forest Park on the way to Christchurch and just drove straight to the east coast, where the weather was hot, clear and a big relief after the storms of the Alps. It proved a typically English subject for conversation as I tried to dry out the contents of the car.