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Published: April 20th 2021
We set two alarms 10 minutes apart so we would not miss rising to shower and drive to the airport to check in by 5.30am.But when you have one eye open all night to make sure you don’t miss the alarm you are always going to be ready and this morning proved this.
So we had the car loaded and were on our way within 2 minutes of the target time only to get about half way there and have to turn around and return home as Gretchen had forgotten her camera.
Despite this we were still at the airport in plenty of time to join those waiting for the first flights out to Christchurch(our destination),Wellington and Auckland.
As usual the BBA had the rear seats(13A & B) on the Q300 aircraft.
Well you may ask, ‘as usual’?.The reason is simple. We do not believe in paying to secure a seat number when we have already paid for the flight and bag. However of the 48 other passengers on board we were the only ones who take this stance.
Never mind, as someone once told me, the seats at the rear of the cabin are probably
the safest as, ‘whoever heard of an aeroplane flying backwards into a mountain’ !
Our flight left a couple of minutes early and quickly reached cruising altitude with views of a stunning sunrise looking eastwards from our ‘well located’ seating positions.
Our arrival into Christchurch was right on time and we were welcomed by bright sunshine. a clear sky and a chilly 4C temperature.
The rental car company was quickly on the scene after our phone call to say we had arrived and with the paperwork done we were promptly on our way turning left out of the roundabout on State Highway 1 and headed north.
We didn’t have time for breakfast before we left home for the airport so with hunger pangs starting to get at us we pulled into a French bakery and café in Amberley about 30 minutes north of Christchurch and tucked into a cheese and ham croissant, bacon and egg on a bun as well as sharing a large chocolate au pain topped off with coffees. Sitting outside the café we felt the air temperature rise to 21C by the time we were finished our food and ready to head further
The last time we were in this part of the country was October and on that occasion we travelled south from Kaikoura on State Highway 1.This time, heading north, we had decided to take the alternative route to Kaikoura via the less used inland road.
So at Waipara we turned left from State Highway 1 onto Highway 7 with the Weka Pass the next geographical spot on our radar.
The location is so named from what must have been a bit of an obstacle to the settlers of North Canterbury in the 1800’s.However, today’s modern motor cars zip over the low pass without even dropping below the speed limit.
We had been in this area 6 months ago with family including our train enthusiast grandson’s and on that occasion we were in a train carriage hauled by a 1950’s NZ Railways diesel locomotive which did seem to make heavy weather of the gradual climb to the summit of the pass.Away from the busy Highway 1 the drive was pleasant with time to take in the very dry, brown countryside that will benefit when the autumn rains finally arrive.
Soon the Hurunui River was alongside
us and the historic hotel bearing the rivers name came into sight and it was worth the stop to take a closer look at the hotel built around 1868.The pub holds New Zealand’s longest issued liquor licence from the 1860’s which had been granted with the proviso that the publican had horses available for fording the river at the safest spot.
The highway now straightened out and in 14 kilometres we passed through Culverden, a village looking a little down at heel, given the ease that locals can now get to a larger centre quicker than supporting their local community facilities.
Just outside Rotherham we came across Watters cob cottage C.1880 and read the history of how an Irish immigrant (name pronounced ‘Waters’) and his wife bought up their 7 children in the small white cottage.
The Lowry Peaks range which separates the valleys Highway’s 1 and 7 run through looked very brown and dry and stood out starkly in the near distance.
The braided Waiau River was crossed next and as we entered the small village of Waiau we were distracted by another historic looking hotel so much so that we missed the turn to
keep us on Highway 70 and declared ourselves ‘lost in Waiau’ until we retraced our drive and found the right road.
We now entered around 70 odd kilometres of highway that had virtually no habitation of people or farm animals for that matter that we could see. Except for the Rodin car race testing track and the associated business of car assembly for this unique New Zealand built single seater racing car for which the up and coming NZ race car star Liam Lawson has been associated with. This feature on the highway could be described ‘as an oasis in a desert’.
As the seaside tourist town of Kaikoura got nearer we enjoyed vistas of the snow capped Seaward Kaikoura range which reminded us that winter will soon be here.
We rejoined State Highway 1 at Kaikoura with the sparkling sea on our right with its scenic coastline.
The highway and main truck rail line, vital to supply lines between the North Island and population centres in the South Island were badly affected by a major earthquake and subsequent hillside slips and movement in land in 2016 which closed both the road and rail line for
well over a year.
A huge effort was put in by roading construction companies to restructure the road and rail line which took the best part of 2 years to return both links to a usable state.
Along with the rebuild of the road came a fabulous public car park and walkway facility where one can safely pull off and take in the long established seal colony right at your feet.
Onwards north along the picturesque coast line we dealt with moderately heavy traffic flow in both directions and maintained good time whilst enjoying the scenery.
The last area of reconstruction of the rail line just south of Ward following the 2016 earthquake was coming to an end. This had affected the road above the 107 metre Tar Barrel rail tunnel as well as the tunnel itself and now the tunnel had been replaced by a deep rail cutting and the road realigned.
A quick stop in Blenheim to top up the car with petrol and we were heading for Picton and a drive by of the home that my parents and sister lived in some 50 plus years ago. Not too much had changed
to the house but Picton as a town had certainly grown from what I remembered as a weekend visitor from Wellington.
We were starting to tire of travelling as we drove the road known as the Queen Charlotte Scenic Drive westwards from Picton and then eventually turned north to head up the eastern side of first Mahau Sound and onto Kenepuru Sound where our accommodation for the next 3 days at Te Mahia Bay was located.
It didn’t take long to crack open a bottle of wine and sit back on the terrace outside our unit and enjoy the last warm rays of sun and reflect on what had been a very long day of travel and a drive of many interesting and new sights to us.
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