ARTHURS PASS WILDLIFE AND ALPINE FLORA
Sitting in our villa unit at the Bealey Hotel, Arthur’s Pass I look out at the sea of purple lupin that cloak the braided shingle of the Waimakariri River. LUPIN!
We later talk to Graeme the area’s friendly, informative DoC ranger, he assured us that the lupin will be eradicated by aerial spraying in the New Year. A hands on sort of guy, Graeme is also an active member of Arthurs Pass Conservation Club and welcomed the invitation talk to one of our visiting groups in early January. It was quickly sorted out that the best place to see the volunteers’ work and identify the birds they were protecting would be on the Arthur’s Pass walkway which is mature beech rainforest.
This morning Will and I headed west undeterred by a murky forecast, armed with thermos and huge boxes of play lunch provided by the Bealey’s attentive staff. The first stop was the viaduct lookout, this seemingly impossible bridge was built in 2019 and now trucks and cars grinding their way up and down it between Christchurch and the West Coast, from our vantage point they are like ‘tonka toys’ (did I just show my age?).
We walked up the track behind the car park and found a nice variety of alpine flora including dracaphylum traversii (the Dr Zuess or pineapple tree), oleria traversii in flower, ranunculus lyllii, Mount Cook Lilly (not yet in flower but with magnificent funnel like leaves) and a very old griselinia lucida; broadleaf, which appeared to be several hundred years old, looking much like an ancient olive tree. The track appeared to be sprouting heather. HEATHER! Oh well onto the next walkway.
The next stop is the pretty narrow walkway at Otira. The fog has lowered by now but it is not quite raining. We are quickly distracted by the tiny micro flora and fungi along the rocky edge of the walking track. Past the power pylon and several steep clambers, we come across perfect examples of Mount Cook Lilly. Our cameras get a work out despite the low light. What do you think of the results? Sometimes low light is great for photographing flora as long as it is not blowing. Will offers me help with my settings which I think I will always be getting my head around.
Will trudges onto the bridge which seems a lot further way than the 30 minutes promised on the DoC sign, he is keen to see if the rock wren who live in that area are out and about. I return to the vehicle earlier through the light rain.
Later at the Arthurs Pass DoC office we talk to Graeme and his colleague, reporting that we were wading through knee high heather near the lookout. Graeme’s eyes went round. He was running out the door when we left to see for himself! Later he reported by email that is was one of the 5 species of tutu. A great relief for him and new information for us.
Other places we visited were Porters Pass, a very easy to access herb field and the garden-like Dobson Loop walk with bridges over steep mountain streams. The Arthurs Pass walk is a must do. A varied biosystem in a true rainforest.
If you are ever traveling the South Island a visit to this area is well worth including in your travel itinerary. Take the sand fly repellent!