Day 19. Friday 24 November.

It’s time to start the trek to Christchurch – the long way. Highway 1 has been closed for 12month due to the earthquake, so the route to Christchurch traverses the central Alps, heading west then south. What a bonus for this inland road, with continuous widening and upgrading in order to handle freight and travellers. But the downside is…all the freight and travellers.

Back up the windy road to Picton and then a short hop to Blenheim for a walk and to get our daily coffee. The short walk into the town centre was along the river and we commented yet again on the clean, clear flow, with no shopping trolleys upended…and only the occasional drink can or beer bottle resting on the bottom – and feeding in front of us was a huge trout (D reckons 3-4 kg), happily just hanging in the current waiting for its dinner. Coffee was in a ‘Bar, Bistro and Patisserie’ called Saveur (which we think might be French for something – any clues, HJ?) It might well be French for toffee nosed, because we were quickly ushered outside to a seat on the porch: D thinks because of his T-shirt attire (most were more suitably attired) but T thinks it was because we were just there for coffee. Sitting behind us was Brian, from Harcourts, on the phone busily working through his contacts list: we admired the schmooze!

That was the fun part of the day. From then on it was drive, drive, drive….with a couple of stops to revive. The vineyards out of Blenheim carried many familiar names but when you’re touring, there’s no point in stopping to sample, notleast because we already had. We have no trouble finding the labels in our price range at retail outlets.

A snack by the lake at St Arnaud, which was a lovely setting in Nelson Lakes National Park, but with quite a few other visitors and too early for us to call it a day. One who almost got the Ove treatment was a young boy at the campground who taunted and chased a drake: if it wasn’t for the facts that tossing your swimmers at a duck is pretty low grade crime, and D had done pretty much the same thing at the same age he would have been severely spoken to.

Average speed never got over 55 kph, mostly because of the constant road works. But as previously reported, motorists were relaxed, courteous and tolerant – and, would you believe, mostly obeyed the road works speed limit signs! D continues to marvel.

Things were looking a bit weary at about 5 PM: the DOC’s book and WikiCamps NZ had no campsites listed where we were headed before dark, nor were there any commercial camp grounds. We have been constantly amazed at how late some folks pull in to campsites, having crept along very narrow mountain roads at 10 PM.

Unexpectedly, we found a DOC’s campsite about 20 km outside Springs Junction, on the Lewis River and beside beech forest and it is perfect for our needs. The beers have been opened – which seemed to be enough of an invitation for our sandfly mates to join us. Tomorrow we’ll go over the Lewis Pass













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