The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 8 (December 1, 1933)
Rambles Round Otira — Some Beauty Spots of the Southern Alps
To one with little knowledge of the behaviour of the elements at Otira, in the month of July, the wisdom of selecting this South Island mountain resort as a suitable place for a mid-winter holiday may well be questioned.
It is the writer's opinion, however, an opinion shared by the members of his party, that Otira is an ideal spot for a holiday at this particular period of the year.
The township is situated picturesquely on a bend of the Otira river, and the people who live there are the happiest imaginable. The sun shines so strongly in this sheltered valley that it is hard to believe it is mid-winter. Indeed, the absence of cold winds is one of Otira's charms.
It is not at all necessary to make strenuous climbs in order to view the wonderful mountain scenery for which this region is famed. Standing on the main road, the snow-capped peaks of Mt. Barron, Mt. Philistine, and others further down the valley are seen towering over their bush-covered bases. But however grand they appear from this level, a climb to their higher slopes reveals that they are only the foreground to a view in which higher and grander peaks rise in all directions.
Our first excursion was made to Pegleg Falls, a trip of about two and a half hours from Otira. The route to the falls is by way of the Gorge Road. The sulphur spring, the odour from which is familiar to all trampers on the route, bubbles from a rock face at the side of the road. All along the road are waterfalls, beautiful in themselves, but they pale into insignificance compared with the object of our walk. Upon arrival at Pegleg Creek we followed this waterway until we reached the object of our excursion. Although the rocks were ice-covered, we scrambled close to the foot of the falls. Three hundred feet of tumbling water is a fine sight at any time, but when at the foot of the falls the rocks, trees and ferns are covered, as they were in this case, with frozen spray, words fail to convey an adequate impression of their beauty.
Mt. Barron, the source of water and power for Otira, next claimed our attention. From the head of the pipe line onward, the fine work of the Arthur Pass National Park Board becomes evident. Here a track has been cut through the virgin bush—a wooded way of loveliness. Trees, old when Captain Cook came to New Zealand, mosses and lichens of all kinds and colours, are some of the impressive and lovely things of Nature to be seen along this wonderful track. Near the bush line at the head of this track a fine “look-out” has been made, providing a magnificent panorama of snow peaks, cliffs and creeks, below and beyond. From here the famous Wesley Creek Falls are visible. These falls, 400 feet high, are not easily accessible at the moment, but the Board is making strenuous efforts to place this scenic wonder within the reach of all.
Pressing on again, we soon reach the place where bush gives way to scrub. Here are seen the alpine gardens famed for their great profusion of blooms, mountain lilies, mountain daisies, and countless other plants—a sight never to be forgotten—especially in the summer time.
Beyond the scrub line one becomes acquainted with the keas. These mountain parrots, with their fine colouring of red, brown and green, with their long curved beaks and large claws, are most trusting and inquisitive fellows. By keeping still and speaking to them they can be induced to approach one closely. Indeed, while we were watching their antics, one came up behind us and pecked at our boots! However, their attentions were not welcomed when we were descending a steep slope. In this instance, the birds pushed 41b stones over the edge of the slope nearly on top of us. (This action is copied from seeing climbers amusing themselves by rolling stones down slopes.)
From this high altitude a magnificent view opens out before one. Imposing Mt. Rolleston appears just across the way, whilst many lesser peaks combine to make a picture of unrivalled mountain grandeur. Looking up the Gorge is seen Avalanche Peak and also peaks on the Canterbury side of the mountains. Here, as everywhere in the Alps, is the paradise of the alpinist, geologist and the botanist. The botanical riches of the Park, however, are in danger of serious diminution owing to the destruction caused by the chamois, thar and deer. These animals consume an enormous amount of vegetation.
Another interesting and by no means laborious excursion to be taken from Otira is that to Kelly's Range. Here, again, the Park Board, working in conjunction with its honorary ranger, Mr. W. D. Frazer, has reconstructed the old track used by the gold seekers. All the larger boulders have been removed from the track, which winds pleasantly up through thick bush.
The impression left on the mind after a visit to the Arthur Pass National Park is one that here, New Zealanders have an asset of incalculable value. Being so easily accessible by rail, this great mountain territory is destined to become increasingly popular as a pleasure and health resort for the people of Canterbury and New Zealand generally.page 29
“Though perilous the mountainous ascent, A noble recompense the danger brings.” —James Grahame.
(Photos. W. D. Frazer, Railway Staff, Otira.)
(1) Party crossing snowslope. (2) Mountain daisies. (3) On the ridge leading from Otira to Mt. Barron, looking through Arthur's Pass S.E.; one hour's climb from Otira. (4) Looking towards the West Coast from Kelly Range down Taipo and Teremakau River Valleys. (5) Bird's eye view of Otira Valley and the Railway Settlement from slopes of Mt. Barron. (6) Otira Settlement. (7) Looking north from slopes of Mt. Barron to Kelly Range. (8) One of the party making friends with a kea on Mt. Barron.