West Coast Again, May 21-25 2021: Days 4 & 5, Arthur's Pass, Springfield, and Christchurch

Posted by Patrick Lam on Monday, June 28, 2021

Table Of Contents

Monday, May 24, Part 2: out of Arthur’s Pass (gallery)

OK, so where were we? Oh, right. Last time we had put $40 of diesel in the petrol car in Arthur’s Pass. What do you do when you put diesel in your petrol car? You get your car to a garage and get it drained. Then it works fine. Otherwise, you may get “extensive engine problems”.

Arthur’s Pass (pop 29) does not have a garage. We sat in the car and thought about our situation for a while. It also has zero food options open after 5pm on a Sunday in shoulder season.

It turns out that the NZ Automobile Association allows you to buy a membership at the roadside for $195. This is a substantial premium over the normal $79 rate, combatting the adverse selection problem. (Would you really randomly join for no reason?) The normal rate comes with a 24 hour waiting period before they’ll come and help you. Which could work in some cases, but definitely not ours, as we were in Arthur’s Pass, blocking the pump, and had a flight to catch.

The closest garage is in Springfield. AA dispatched a tow truck from Springfield. More precisely, a pickup truck (“ute”) with a trailer, which arrived over the pass two hours after we called. We got a ride back to Springfield in the ute. I had been not looking forward to driving over the pass at night, and it was nice to get a ride over the pass, but maybe not the best tradeoff.

Speaking of tradeoffs, I thought about our decisions after the fact. Probably getting gas in Arthur’s Pass was the right thing. I know my own car enough to estimate distance to empty after the gas tank comes on (actually about 100km), but I didn’t know the rental car, and it didn’t display estimates. It was mostly downhill. It was also a curvy mountain road, probably the worst possible place to run out of gas. The cost/benefit ratio of potentially running out of gas, on a blind curve, was really not great. Would have been better to put petrol in the car though.

While we were waiting for the truck, we figured it would be best to sort out our accommodation, instead of arriving in Springfield after everything was closed. The owners of the Springfield Motel and Lodge were exceptionally helpful, putting us in an easy-to-find, warm suite, and providing us supper ingredients from their own pantry. Five stars. (It being the end of our trip, we had no further food left). We didn’t quite manage to cancel our reservation in Christchurch, oh well.

Our home for the night (picture the morning after).

About Springfield

OK, Springfield. Population 500. It is the “the last settlement on the plains” before Arthur’s Pass. We’d stopped there in April on our way out of Arthur’s Pass also. Nothing is open in Springfield at 9pm on a Sunday.

The Springfield Motel and Lodge is located on Tramway Road. I tried to figure out whether there was ever a tramway in Springfield, but couldn’t figure it out. Seems small. But Takaka couldn’t have been much bigger, and it did have the Takaka Tramway, which was 66% of the length of Waterloo’s ion LRT.

Tramway Road, and the Southern Alps over it.

If you Google Springfield you’ll find press coverage of the Springfield Store and CafĂ©, to whom the police had provided customer service advice. Historic images suggest that they also used to rent out bouldering pads, presumably for the nearby Castle Hill. Nevertheless, that business has been sold and replaced by Taste of Kiwi. The previous time we’d been there, we had wondered about whether they had kiwi on the menu. That didn’t seem right.

The other notable thing about Springfield is a giant pink donut, initially donated by 20th Century Fox. I do not have a picture of the donut.

Tuesday, May 25: Back to Wellington

We paid the garage a modest fee to drain the car and put petrol into it, and set off to CHC, an hour away. I dropped MP off at the terminal and returned the car to the off-airport rental counter, saying nothing about our activities. Instead, I chatted with the rental counter staff / shuttle driver about how hard it was to immigrate to NZ even after gaining a NZ qualification, and mentioned that Canada was always looking for immigrants (she had actually thought about it).

It turns out that you can only enter Air New Zealand Koru lounges 4 hours before your scheduled departure. I was at the airport at 10:15 and I’d changed my flight to the one with the cheapest change fee, at 3:45PM, so I had 1.5 hours to wait in the terminal before I could get to the lounge. (MP was on a different ticket and had a different booking class, so she left at 10:30).

Let’s look around CHC. NZ airports are generally quite pleasant and modern.

CHC airport security for small planes; a non-mobile phone.

In the lounge, I heard that they’d cancelled the day’s flight to Hokitika. That would put a wrench in one’s plans. Hopefully it won’t happen when we’re to go there in August for the Paparoa Track.

International arrivals (from Australia); number eight cafe; can't escape disruption; Royal NZ Air Force aircraft.

(Number 8 wire in NZ is like duct tape in North America.)

Anyway, I successfully took my flight, which was unusually served by an A320R. Had in-flight entertainment for the first time in almost a year and a half. Soon enough we got back to Wellington and I took the bus home.

In-flight entertainment; Wellington coast.