Wow! What a classic read!
I've poked around Arthur's Pass for a couple of days about 10 years ago. Really enjoyed the area and always wanted to get back to give the place some more time.
I recall the area being remarkably steep and the rivers much bigger than what I'm typically exposed to here in California. The Arthur's Pass area was my first exposure to the Southern Alps... I found myself a bit intimidated by my first few big river crossings on the South Island and witnessed a friend have a particularly scary experience a bit farther south on one of our hikes later during our trip.
This was an excellent read and demonstrates some of the trials and tribulations a hiker can go through on a trip like this... gear lost, gear broken, navigation errors, running out of time. Glad you got out just in time to call off the SAR folks.
I appreciate that even through all of these mishaps, you were able to enjoy much of the trip, and from the sounds of it, you look back on the journey now quite fondly. I reckon this comes from the satisfaction of having made it through all of the challenges as well as the amazing scenery itself.