Lake Rotoiti, St Arnauds or Murchison?

wairau valley

The inevitable Wairau Valley vineyard

This is a new route for me and it should be a pleasant drive along the Wairau Valley. I’ll have a look at St Arnaud, it sounds so French, and at at Lake Rotoiti. The sandflies and wasps are said to be horrific 😦 I will probably stay the night at Murchison

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With scenery like this it is tempting to stay here and I can always be flexible 🙂


The classic view of Lake Rotoiti.

Things to do:
– Take a walk through the Murchison township; visit the museum for a fascinating insight into the history of Murchison and its people

“The world’s earliest non-military suicide attack is believed to have occurred in Murchison on 14 July 1905. A long-standing dispute between two farmers resulted in a court case, and the defendant (Joseph Sewell) had sticks of gelignite strapped to his body. When Sewell excitedly shouted during the court sitting about the other farmer “I’ll blow the devil to hell, and I have enough dynamite to do just that”, he was ushered out of the building. Sewell detonated the charge when a police officer tried to arrest him on the street, and his body was blown to pieces, but nobody else died from their injuries.”

Dinner is sorted. Dasha spotted this on the way in to Murchison, loving the art and from the reviews, the food is excellent.


Dasha’s photo from April 2016. I will be dining at the Cow Shed Restaurant!—murchison

Murchison Accomodation : Riverside Holiday Park,

19 Riverview Rd, Murchison

Phone 03 523 9591

$25.00 per night, free wi-fi.


Geraldine to . . . . . somewhere on Arthur’s Pass


I’m hoping for this at Arthurs Pass

Much of the route runs along the bottom of the Southern Alps firstly on SH 72, then SH77 and finally SH73 until I turn left, south of Sheffield, on to SH73 to go over the Alps.


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I had intended to bypass Methven until I read it’s Maori name was Piwakawaka, meaning fantail, one of my favourite birds and was also home to New Zealand’s first (unofficial) Police dog.

The bronze dog statue at the entrance of the Mt Hutt Function Centre celebrates ‘Rajah the Wonder Dog’ who was owned by Police Constable Robbie Robertson and lived in Methven from 1929 to 1936. While he was never an official Police Dog, his skills made him the perfect companion. Amongst Rajah’s claims to fame were his almost psychic ability to retrieve items hidden around Methven, understanding 52 commands and receiving an invitation to show off his tricks in Hollywood USA. Rajah’s work mostly consisted of finding weapons and other notable items, and he was also infrequently used to locate remains. During his time in service, Rajah only failed once in finding his objective – the body of a woman believed by police to have been the victim of foul play and dumped along the railway line that was still under construction at the time. However, it was revealed a few years later that the body he was looking for had been embedded inside a concrete pillar.



When Rin Tin Tin died in 1932, a representative from the now defunct Fox Film Corporation proposed that Rajah be used as his replacement. The family ultimately declined the offer, citing that it was too big a move and instead chose to put Rajah to work doing performances around New Zealand, including in Christchurch and Timaru. Rajah was also able to continue working as a police dog.


The road follows the foothills of the Southern Alps, on the Canterbury Plains until Darfield. The Canterbury Plains are New Zealand’s largest area of flat land, with straight roads cutting across a mosaic of paddocks. This area 40 kilometres west of Christchurch, where seven roads converge, is known as Charing Cross. I’m not going there, though it’s not far off my route. I think a land based photo wouldn’t have the same impact!

Charing Cross

Charing Cross

At Darfield I turn inland after a stop for photos. Darfield the epicentre for the 7.1  (10  kilometre deep) earthquake in 2010, the first one causing damage to Christchurch (40 kilometres to the east), followed by the 6.3 February 2011 one, centred 10 kilometres south east of Christchurch, in which 185 people perished. Dasha and I visited Christchurch in April and the damage is still evident. I was staying in Christchurch during the 2010 quake and will not forget the sounds, like a train coming through the wall nor physically being unable to get out of bed. It occurred at 4.35am.It was dark and cold.


At Darfield – the earth moved!


I saw scenes like this, quite surreal!

I have to stop at Springfield, population about 220  🙂



The town has a Gothic Revival architecture church dedicated to Saint Peter, designed by the architect Cyril Mountfort. It was the birthplace of Rewi Alley, notable for his work in China in the mid 20th century. There is an extensive memorial dedicated to him, located in a small reserve off the main road. It includes a large stone carving and a number of panels giving details of his life.

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On 15 July 2007, a statue of a giant pink doughnut was erected to promote the upcoming movie, The Simpsons Movie. It was subsequently set alight and destroyed by an arsonist on 25 September 2009. A tyre painted pink was used as a substitute until it was replaced with a concrete version unveiled on 1 July 2012


Only in New Zealand 😉

From Springfield the road begins to climb steadily at first and then steeply up to Porters Pass 945.5 metres (3100 feet) above sea level, 18 km (11 miles) from Springfield). This is the highest point on the road.


Porters Pass


Castle Hill is easily recognisable by the huge rock formations on the hillside. A signpost on the left shows the start of the track, there is a small car park. Keep walking past the smaller rocks near the road until you reach the more majestic formations further on. There are all sorts of shapes as though a giant sculptor has been at work creating arches and weird prehistoric animals so large that the spectator feels insignificant.


Awesome (and another LOTR site.

The Bealey and the moa!

As you drive into the hotel car park (where I hope to be staying) note the moa, the large bird depicted on your right, to remind us of the story of the group including Paddy Freaney, the owner of the hotel, who claimed a few years ago to have found a surviving moa and produced a photograph to substantiate their claim.


This will be an awkward selfie . . . . . . .

Accommodation: The Bealey

12858 West Coast Road
Arthur’s Pass National Park

Phone +64 3 318 9277


Over Arthur’s Pass to the West Coast again, then on a bit . . . . .


I’m not sure what I imagine Arthur’s Pass to be like, I didn’t get Haast Pass correct and I probably won’t with Arthur’s. So who was Arthur? In 1864  Arthur Dobson and his brother Edward went over the Bealey-Otira Pass and it was named after Arthur. Maybe he was the older brother?

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The park is very distinctly split by the main divide of the South Island. The eastern side is typically drier and consists of beech forest and wide riverbeds, while the western side contains dense rainforest. Much of the geography was formed by ancient glacial action, forming flat-bottomed U-shaped valleys. In the middle is a high range, consisting of large, snow-covered peaks and scree slopes.

West and east!

Arthur’s Pass National Park is not far from the Bealey and the Waimakariri River bridge has a magnificent view of mountains at the head of the valley. The weather is often clear here when it raining at Arthur’s Pass Village.


The road then runs through beautiful bush beside the Bealey River until you come into the alpine village of Arthur’s Pass, 5 km south of the mountain pass with the same name. Its elevation is 740 metres above sea level surrounded by beech forest.


From Arthur’s Pass, across the  Southern Alps to Otira, there is native bush and Mount Rolleston. I will do the Chasm and the Dobson Nature Walk (hopefully there will be wild flowers) and maybe others as there are many choices. There is always the weather(;  I’m now back on the “wet” side.


The Otira Viaduct

The next section is one that is unique to New Zealand and of which we are proud. It is a piece of engineering involving viaducts, bridges, rock shelters and waterfalls redirected into chutes.In places the road not only hugs the cliff but hangs over it!! It descends, steeply  😦


Rock slide and Water Bridges in the Otira Gorge.

Once through the gorge there is the interesting little village of Otira, originally a stop on the Cobb and Co stagecoach from Canterbury to the West Coast. The Midland Line was extended from Stillwater to Jacksons in 1894 and then Otira in 1899, when the pass was navigated by coach from Otira until the railway tunnel opened in 1923. During construction of the tunnel, Otira housed about 600 workers and their families.


The Otira Railway Station was opened on 13 November 1900 (ex-Goat Creek on 15 October 1900), and closed in February 1992. In the 1950s the town had a population of about 350, but this had dropped to 11 in 1988 and was 44 in 2010.

The township is principally old Railways housing, much of which was constructed in Hamilton and shipped south to be assembled on site. As well as the railway station, there is a pub, a fire station, and 18 houses, 14 of them tenanted in 2010.


Until . . . . . . . . . in 1998, Bill and Christine Hennah bought the hotel and town on a whim for $73,000. In 2010, they listed their property, which included the hotel, hall, fire station and 14 rentable houses on 20 hectares of leasehold land. At the time, Christine Hennah estimated the total worth at about $1 million. It has since been purchased and is going through a revival!


Jacksons Hotel, nearing the coast.

Now back on safe ground, no overhangs etc the road follows the Taramakau River to Kumara Junction where I turn right to join the West Coast again, south of Greymouth. It’s a brief return, a mere 20 kilometres, before turning inland again at Greymouth to head to Reefton, an hour on.

Accommodation: Reefton Motor camp

Ross Street

Reefton 7830

PH 03 732 8477


Click to access arthurs-pass-brochure.pdf


A look at Reefton, over the Lewis Pass and to the East Coast for the first time!



In 1888 Reefton became the first town in New Zealand and the Southern Hemisphere to receive electricity, the work of Walter Prince, and its streets were lit by commercial electricity generated by the Reefton Power Station. Many of the heritage buildings have been restored and offer an insight to the past. The Lewis Pass is 66 km to the south-east.

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Lewis Pass (el. 864 m.) is a mountain pass connecting the West Coast with north Canterbury; it passes through extensive unmodified beech forest.The actual pass is the saddle between the valleys of the Maruia River to the northwest and the Lewis River to the southeast. The saddle is located close to the small spa of Maruia Springs.

There doesn’t appear to be so many points of interest on this route except for Maruia Springs and the better known Hanmer Springs and a few short walks.


The Lewis Pass road

The DoC Camp at Marble Hill is spacious plus is the starting point for a trek to Lake Daniels for the trampers/hikers. There is a place marker there that is right on the
Alpine fault Line!!! Those on a short time can enjoy a five minute stroll to the “˜Sluice Box,” where the Maruia River forces its way through a narrow marble gorge.

The Alpine Nature Walk is  a 20 mins loop track at the start of the St James Walkway. It leads through an alpine wetland, with views of Gloriana Peak and the Spenser Mountains. It is accessed from the St James Carpark 400 m east of the Lewis Pass on SH7.


The Alpine Nature Walk has a pretty ttarn lake,

I’m not a fan of hot springs (and New Zealand has many) but I will take a side trip to have lunch at Hanmer Springs. The hot springs were produced by the fractured rock bed along the Hanmer fault.


Hanmer looks a pretty town!


Winter bliss for those who like it!

Not far from Hanmer I turn left onto a minor road, SH70 (the Inland Kaikoura route), to travel to Kaikoura.


The Waiau River.

Just after Waiau pull off while still on the hill overlooking the community and the Waiau River valley for one of the most spectacular scenes one will find. The rest of the 100k road seems singularly uninteresting but it is a quicker (albeit hilly and windy) to get to Kaikoura.

Accommodation: Alpine-Pacific Holiday Park
69 Beach Road
Phone: 03 319 6275

$42 .00 free wifi


Kaikoura to Blenheim


Most Kiwis will associate Blenheim with wine.

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I don’t know what I am going to do after leaving Kaikoura except for stopping at Ohau Point to see the New Zealand Fur Seals. They give birth from November to January and I will be there at the beginning of December. When Dasha and I went in April we were enchanted by them playing and swimming at the waterfall and sleeping in the bush beside the stream. I took lots of photos but they weren’t great as I didn’t realise the light was so poor.



Before the arrival of humans there was a population of about 2 million. They were taken as food by Maori and, at the onset of European arrival, sealing for meat and pelts in the 1700s and 1800s pushed them to the brink of extinction. Now the population is about 200,000 and rising and they are protected.

There are many adults at the beach and it’s here they give birth, so it’s a good place to sit and watch and hope for that perfect shot. . . . . . . .


This must be the perfect shot!

I’ve travelled this road a few times without stopping. It would be good to take my time, to stop when I feel like it, to take a side trip to the salt works at Lake Grassmere.

Sea water is pumped into the 688 hectare main lake continuously throughout summer.
As nature does its work and evaporation increases the sea water’s strength, it is pumped into a series of concentrating ponds, where further evaporation takes place.
When the brine reaches saturation point it is transferred into crystallization ponds during the summer months.
The salt crust is lifted from the bottom of the crystallization ponds and transported to one of the two washing plants where it is washed in brine before being stacked in 20-metre high piles.
The snowy stacks of salt are something of a landmark, readily visible by day and night from the Blenheim – Christchurch highway.


Another possibility for a good photo or two?

I could stay at Blenheim for a night, I’ve only stopped there once to use the public toilet in the supermarket carpark. This naive young woman from the country was most impressed by the automated toilet paper dispenser. I am far more worldly now, 5 years later 😉

The motor camp in Blenheim is by the bridge over the Opawa River.


I’m not sure why anyone would want to camp under an earthquake risk on State Highway 1  when there are many more appealing areas in the camp . . . . . . . .

“Both the Opawa and Wairau Bridges are vulnerable in an earthquake and cause problems for larger freight vehicles. Improvements are most important for the Opawa River Bridge, which is too narrow for two wide vehicles to cross at the same time. This is a potential safety risk and makes journey times variable and unreliable.”


A large truck, a small car . . . . .

So Dasha and I were about to go over this bridge, this very narrow bridge. The truck at the northern end, a large one, was stopped to allow the medium sized truck in front of me across. I was two thirds of the way across the bridge when he moved onto the bridge. I was not feeling too confident about this. As we approached each other I had to pull further to the outside of the bridge as I was in danger of being scraped by the truck. It was close, very close and all that was harmed was my wing mirror. I was not amused, the inconsiderate swine had miscalculated my size. On the other side of Blenheim we had another near mis, when I moved to the left for an approaching large grass cutter. At the same time a motorist passed me and another passed the grass cutter. We were all moving and briefly were four abreast across State Highway 1. On  a sweeping curve 😦


I like estuaries with the bonus of a ship wreck!

The Wairau Bar is possibly New Zealand’s most important archaeological site, it is a place that connects us with our Pacific past. The gravel bar, formed where the Wairau River meets the Pacific Ocean at Marlborough’s Cloudy Bay, contains archaeological evidence of New Zealand’s earliest human inhabitants. Based on carbon dating and midden site excavation, historical and scientific consensus dates the human settlement of the site to approximately 1100-1350 AD.2.15pm. At the Wairau lagoon there are two shipwrecks.


The now extinct Haast Eagle, the largest eagle known to have existed, lived in the area. Coincidentally, I ordered a replica of it’s talon a few weeks ago!

I was thinking about doing an ecotour of the area until I saw it was $220 for four hours, so I may go solo!

Accommodation: Blenheim TOP 10 Holiday Park

78 Grove Rd, Mayfield, 7201

Phone:0800 268 666

$42 per night (2 persons – I wonder if it is $21 for one. I somehow doubt it)

Wifi – cost


MAP of my possible travels.

Nothing is set in concrete though this is probably where I will go. I don’t want to visit cities, I want to be able to watch the waves, watch the birds and, on the easterly route, go to places I haven’t been before.
It was always a given I was going to do the full West Coast, this time my route to get there will be a little different and I will go further north and further south.


The Southern Alps extend much of the length of the South Island and the  tallest peak is Aoraki/ Mount Cook, the highest point in New Zealand at 3,724 metres (12,218 ft). The mountains are cut through with glacial valleys and lakes,3,000 glaciers larger than a hectare!

The Southern Alps lie along a geological plate boundary, part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, with the Pacific Plate to the southeast pushing westward and colliding with the northward-moving Indo-Australian Plate to the northwest. Over the last 45 million years, the collision has pushed up a 20 km thickness of rocks on the Pacific Plate to form the Alps, although much of this has been eroded away. Uplift has been most rapid during the last 5 million years, and the mountains continue to be raised today by tectonic pressure, causing earthquakes on the Alpine Fault and other nearby faults. Despite the substantial uplift, most of the relative motion along the Alpine Fault is transverse, not vertical.


So you can see that, with a few exceptions, I am going down the west side of the Southern Alps and back up the east side, close to the mountain range. I cross it three times on the Haast Pass, Arthur’s Pass and the Lewis Pass. I also go over Porter’s Pass, the Crown Range and the Lindus Pass plus several more minor passes. My poor 2002 Ducato, with no turbo, will be going slowly in some places!

It will be a great adventure, revisiting some places and I hope to see lots of wildlife. In the April South Island tour it was in late Autumn, this time it will be in late Spring.

I can’t wait . . . . . . . . . . .



Thinking . . . . . .



I haven’t finished my “Downunder” blog and I’ve started a new one. Blogging, it appears, is addictive 🙂 I was always going to want to return, you don’t visit the South Island a few times and that’s it done. I’ve been thinking about the places I want to revisit or places that we missed. So the planning commences . . . . . . . . . . .


The Kaitaki (the biggest ferry and always my choice) docked at Picton.

I expect to take the 9am ferry from Wellington to Picton, so I will have to leave home at about 6 am for the 90 minute drive to the ferry terminal and be there at least 60 minutes before departure. The crossing is three and a half hours. It takes a while to offload so I am imagining I will be off by 1.30pm at the latest.

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On the wish list is: A hike to the Humphries Dam

Essons Valley is located to the south of Picton and two small dams create reservoirs that provide Picton’s water supply. The walking track the Humphries Dam pass through a lush native forest that has been largely undisturbed by human activity with a variety of tree species and many ferns including large tree ferns. Time: Two hours . At Humphries dam, a picnic area is provided beside the lake formed by the dam.


I did both of dam walks on my first solo South Island visit in 2011 and met up with a lovely lady from Wellington who had just completed the Vineyard Bike Ride the previous day. I had intended to do one dam only but we did the two together.

Picton Accomodation:  Picton Campervan Park,
42 Kent Street, Picton

Phone:03-573 8875 (NZMCA discount)

$22 per night, wifi (cost?)