A friend from back in Whitehorse arrived in Christchurch last week for a visit. We warmly welcomed to our new home and stuffed him into the small space under our stairs with an air mattress and free room and board. We also excitedly looked forward to all the new exploring we could now do with someone to share New Zealand with. Since we only ever seem to get out of town when someone comes to visit there had been much dreaming about what to do this time.
We settled on doing some local exploring before heading out on a bigger trip (which I will cover a little later on). So, on Sunday, we packed up the car and headed out to Cave Stream and Castle Hill, both out in the Craigieburn Range.
The wind was howling and pushed the car around a bunch, but we eventually made it to the spot. We pulled into the relatively boring looking parking lot on the side of the road. This spot I had driven by a hundred times going to ski hills and tramps (which was always empty) was packed with people, both wet and dry. So we grabbed out flashlights and headed down the trail.
After cross the Broken River, we came around a bend and came to the mouth of the cave. A little trickle of water seeped through the gravel and out into the river, and a cool breath of air whispered out around us. I could hear the distant sound of laughing twisting its way down the tunnel. We turned on our lights and stepped into the dark mouth.
The first bit of the cave is a pool - up to my chest. This is promised to be the deepest part of the stream, but it is known as Cave Stream, so one must expect to get wet. With our breath stolen away in those first two minutes we walked deeper into the cave and out of sight of the entrance.
The stream twists and turns through the ground leaving a smooth walled tunnel for us to stumble through in excitement and awe. You can run your fingers along the walls and not hit anything sharp, they've all been sanded smooth by occasional flooding. Up waterfalls and through knee deep pools, around corners with multiple passageways and under ceilings that disappear in the darkness beyond the reach of my light.
We are not alone. This is a popular route, especially on a beautiful day such as this. We occasionally meet a group of three, trading the front with them. Though we both eventually catch up with the group of almost a dozen Chinese visitors filling the cave with laughter and camera flashes. They kindly let us by and their noise dims quickly as we wind our way round more twists and turns and up waterfalls.
After almost an hour we come to another deep pool with two waterfalls, one to get in and one to get out. We all dive into the pool to fully submerge ourselves in the cool cave waters before entering the bright world of sunshine and birds. Then it's up the ladder, along the squeeze and out into the light.
After getting back to the car, we eat some lunch and change into some dry clothes. We hop into the car and head off down the road to Castle Hill. Another neat place I've driven past so many times without stopping.