Friday, August 5, 2011

Giant Rocks and the Puke Pub

Today, we drove from the East Coast to the West Coast in order to go see the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers.  These are incredible glaciers, which move an average of 1 meter per day, but we will really explore them tomorrow.

Today is about the drive.

About an hour and a half out of Christchurch, we saw some interesting rocks by the side of the road.  And when I say interesting rocks, I’m not talking about gravel or pebbles.  These were SERIOUS rocks.  So, we pulled over at what turned out to be the Castle Hill Scenic Reserve.

First view of Castle Hill Scenic Reserve
Kissing Rocks
Back view towards road.  Note size of person vs. rocks.
Can you find the people in this photo?
These rocks are not the leftovers from some ancient civilization.  They are leftovers from the earth building itself.  They are soft limestone that has been shaped by millennia of glaciers, plates moving and rain.  There are some incredible shapes, ranging from sensual to just massive.

It is also an area where some scenes of Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia:  The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe were filmed.  I could see Aslan getting killed on one of these rocks.  And maybe Frodo, Strider and the other hobbits hiding from the Nasgul before Frodo was stabbed.  (Can you tell we rewatched Lord of the Rings upon arrival in New Zealand?)

Then, we went on through Arthur’s Pass -- the highest pass in New Zealand -- and I took the opportunity to get a photo of something we have seen a lot of in New Zealand – one lane bridges.  Seriously.  Would it really have been THAT much more expensive to build another lane?
Chris at Arthur's Pass

One lane bridge.
When coming up to the one lane bridges, you must watch carefully for the sign to show who is supposed to ‘Give Way’.  It’s generally whoever is going uphill, but the sign tells you which side must stop and wait.  Fortunately, there isn't that much traffic on these roads, at least not at this time of year, so there aren't huge lines waiting to get across the bridges.

After we got through Arthur’s Pass, we skipped through several towns, but had to stop at the Puke Pub.  That should be pronounced poo-kay, as it is located in the town of Pukekura, population 2.  It seems to be New Zealand’s answer to the Roadkill Caf√©.  They mainly serve wild game, but they also serve possum.

That's Poo-kay to you.
Although it was closed for the winter, we did get to find their menu and some of their specialties across the street at the Bushman's center.  It offers one of the biggest specialties - possum pie.

Possum anyone?
Sign at the Bushman's Center

Please understand that possums in New Zealand are not quite like possums in the US.  Possums are a creature with very soft fur that got imported from Australia and have become a major pest.  They consume something like 21,000 tons of vegetation a year in New Zealand, are a serious threat to the native kiwi birds and are the target of an extensive governmental trapping campaign.

Whether they taste good or not is a question we decided to leave unexplored.  We merely got ‘toasties’ with wild deer and wild hare combined with mushrooms and onions.  The venison beat the rabbit anyday.

Tomorrow we explore glaciers, hopefully some more hot pools, and will have more West Coast phenomena to share.

But for now, I’m off to a glass of wine and leftover homemade paella in our hotel room in the town of Franz Josef.


  1. The Puke Pub reminds me of Wong Way in Te Anau. You can find the sign for Wong Way in street view on Google Maps just past the corner of Milford Cres and Town Centre. The only sign for Wong Way is there, because turning onto the other end leads to Wrong Way. NZ sense of humor strikes again!

    We have a picture of the Wong Way sign, taken six years ago, and didn't remember what town it was in. I was totally blown away to see that sign again with a short search on G'maps.

  2. Having come from a long line of hillbillies (and Scotsmen for that matter) who will eat anything they can take two out of three falls, I can attest to the edibility of possum. It is a little greasy. And it tastes like condor.