I woke with a feeling of sadness, only one more night until my return home, but also with a feeling of apprehension. . . . . . .
The 7.8 earthquake on 14 November, while I was in Hokitika just a few weeks ago, had caused huge damage to a significant length of the road from Picton to Christchurch, State Highway 1, the main road from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island. It’s largely a coastal road in this area and this is where the damage was, caused by huge slips and the ocean floor rising. There is also a railway line that follows the road, so no cars or trains until the slips had been cleared and the road and rail was made safe. It may take up to a year to be fully open. The alternative route is much longer and on secondary roads that are not made for heavy traffic conditions and big trucks. This was the cause of my apprehension and it seems silly that in 2016 I drove about 5,000 kilometres in the South Island! Maybe it’s the concentration of trucks and the condition of the road. I’m not a nervous driver, I had been on gravel roads with tourists who were not used to our roads and, at home, drove on the other side of the road. Anyway, deep breath and just do it. . . . . . . . . !
The original route on the left and with the detour on the right. Quite a difference!
As I am writing this (January 2017) I am happy to report that the road has been opened from Kaikoura south. This has meant that tourists can now get to Kaikoura to whale watch, swim with the dolphins and see the beautiful pelargic birds. That was on my to do list, I had planned to stay in Kaikoura for 6 days and it’s still on my list. I am delighted for the good people of Kaikoura to have the tourists again. It’s what Kaikoura does and does well.
The first part of travelling was on quite roads with lovely farming countryside and with lots of old buildings and sheds. It was a pleasant drive.
Not far from Inangahua is this lovely bridge. I wonder what I would feel if there was a train coming the other way, that I think may be exciting!!
I stopped in Inangahua for breakfast. We were talking about pies and the owner assured me that theirs were the best and I got to see the pies being made too! They were a lovely couple, I recommend a visit if you are passing. The pie, consumed later, was one of the best. As I was leaving, I spotted a Weka, a semi tame youngster. I was given some bread to feed it and they took photos. They were so kind.
It was from Murchison on I was apprehensive, nervous about big trucks and narrow roads. My two visits to the South Island had given me confidence in driving the Ducato, no problems with that, and the backing camera was an awesome help but my natural wussy nature takes over after the close call with two trucks last time (not my fault, I may add).
I stopped for lunch, my pie, where I saw the flock of Kerurus last time and where I embarrassed the Spanish tourist 😉 No Kerurus this time but the Buller River was looking lovely.
So 80 kilometres of narrow roads, that, in the few weeks since the earthquake ,had visibly deteriorated. The local roading people were on the job and repairing constantly.
I was surprised to see some snow as I neared St Arnauds, which is near ski fields but this was early December! At St Arnauds I turned off to Lake Rotoiti. I’d called in last time and the weather wasn’t great then, not great today either.
I hadn’t seen an eel with blue fins. We only have two species here, none have blue fins.
I knew when I was getting closer to Blenheim as the grape vines appeared, encroaching into farming country.
I was really pleased the Kiri (GPS) took me the back roads, so I missed Blenheim with the horrible narrow (near miss with a truck) bridge. And I was relieved to reach Spring Creek.
Rail freight that had come from the North Island by ferry to Picton was still going by train to Spring Creek where it was loaded on to long haul trucks. For me, it was a short drive to Picton.
My apprehension was founded, in places trucks were having to go over the verge of the road, nearly everyone slowed down when approaching another vehicle and everyone, truck drivers and other motorists were very courteous and considerate.
My apprehension was founded, in places trucks were having to go over the verge of the road but nearly everyone slowed down when approaching another vehicle and everyone, truck drivers and other motorists were very courteous and considerate.