Our summer holiday this year is a road trip around the South Island. This was all arranged before the earthquake in November and the subsequent closing of one of the two roads south to Christchurch.
The large earthquake caused multiple landslides and damage to the SH1 that is the main route south from Picton to Christchurch via Kaikoura. Its a stunning route and eventually it will be re-opened but currently only half the road is open. The section south from Kaikoura.
This meant that our trip south to Christchurch had to be re-routed via the inland route through the mountains and Lewis Pass. This is a spectacular route but wow it is long!
We got off the ferry at Picton at around noon and didn't arrive in Christchurch until 7.30 in the evening. This is an area with amazing scenery and fun to drive (especially if you select the right accompanying sound track!) but not easy. The roads are winding in places and there are quite a few one land bridges to cross.
As this in now the only road south all the tourist traffic and freight is diverted on this route and so the traffic is reasonably heavy. At least by New Zealand terms. This meant we occasionally got stuck in a line of five cars attempting to pass a big lorry. You also have to be wary of the odd hire car driven by tourists who are clearly not used to driving on the left. We met a car on a bridge about to cross the centre line to our side of the road and a tourist on the ferry terrified the car behind by dramatically shifting into reverse rather than drive! We also met a scary Japanese couple in a rental weaving all over the road clearly trying to interpret the signage and figure our where to go.
All the cafes and little shops on this route are now a little overwhelmed with the amount to passing trade they are now dealing with. I imaging their trade has more than doubled since the November earthquake and some of them are struggling to cope with the tired and starving tourists that suddenly arrive.
The opportunities to stop on this route are also rather rarer than on other roads and we found ourselves contemplating at one point whether to stop and pee behind a tree. My youngest refused to do this so thankfully some enterprising land owner had hastily set up a burger van and long drop toilet on one section of the road and so we thankfully took advantage.
It was a fun but exhausting journey and when we finally reached Christchurch I was extremely grateful that our chosen Bach was absolutely beautiful and rather luxurious!