Thursday, August 3, 2017

Hanmer Springs to Murchison Via Lewis Pass


Slow going, but oh what a drive from Hanmer Springs to Murchison. This is a fun story about some backpackers who are working as STOP/GO sign turners along the route.

It used to be a road for an idyllic sightseeing trip through the mountains; a chance to take the longer scenic route from Picton to Christchurch.

But chat to anyone who has driven the alternative inland highway route in either direction recently and most will talk of one-lane bridges, traffic snarl-ups behind trucks and endless waves of roadworks.

Weather conditions were just about perfect: 0C climbing to 3C (37F) at the pass and plenty of sun around noon.

This was one of about a dozen full stops we made along the way to let the road workers make repairs. The increase in traffic along this route is astonishing. At our campgrounds in Murchison, the young man who checked us in said all their motel rooms are filled--with road workers.

Before the earthquake, 372 vehicles passed through the small village of St Arnaud, perched high in the Nelson Lakes National Park on SH63. The village now averages 1901 motorists a day.

I couldn't stop thinking about the trucks making this extraordinary journey to get goods from Christchurch to Blenheim/Picton and vice versa (some of the roads are narrow).  I found this story about some truckers quitting, and after driving this alternative route today can't say I blame them:
Linehaul truck drivers forced to drive the overnight "white-knuckle highway" are quitting their jobs in favour of safer day shifts with other haulage firms.

Picton driver Barry Peters left his employer last month because he feared for his life driving the alternative Picton to Christchurch route, an inland detour while the quake-damaged coastal highway was repaired.

At three and a quarter hours--and some pretty intense driving--this was by far our longest drive of the trip. Art is now taking a well-deserved nap.

Art's been reading books about NZ sheep stations, so I snapped a pic of this sign and looked it up. Turns out it was for sale at some point, all 63,000 acres of it.

Sheep in black tights

I happily made pictures as all those pauses along the way.

Mountains, rivers, and native NZ beech forests. It was a beautiful drive.

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