While my friends Jill and Ian were down staying me a few weeks back, I took advantage of the fact I had a great driver on hand, so suggested we do the road to French Pass up the Pelorus Sound. It was a day of fun and spectacular views. I would say this is the most Scenic Drive in New Zealand, but it's not well publicised.
We left home fairly in the morning. Our first stop was at the Pelorus River about 40 minutes down the road. I wanted to take a look as autumn colours had started..
It was quite blowy and a bit chilly. I was trying to get photos of the leaves blowing past me with no luck. But from the trees, you could definitely tell summer was over and winter was on it's way.
We forgot to fill up the car before we left though, but fortunately there was a couple of pumps on the side of the road that were operational via credit card, at Rai Valley just before we turned off, about half an hour from my home.
After turning off the main Highway (6), the first part of the drive was through the Rai Valley farmland area. The paddocks were lush in comparison to dry Marlborough. Up some pretty steep hills and into Okiwi Bay which was dotted with campgrounds and kiwi baches. I quite like the idea of staying there over the summer one year.
Up over the hill and then things started getting spectacular. From the top of the hills where we were driving we could look into bays. Full of mussel farming too.
The road we were on was only built in 1957. Prior to that supplies to the outlying farms would have relied entirely on boats. The road was sealed most of the way, but after Elaine Bay it was metal from then on. Elaine Bay was also a tiny little settlement with a few baches and a campground. We stopped for morning tea there, but it was bitterly cold from the wind coming directly into it so we didn't hang around for too long.
We left Elaine Bay, and hoped there would be a nice 'hot chocolate' shop at French Pass. It was that cold. I love my outside temperature gauge in my car, so found it interesting what temperature it was. 12C. Jill was ready to bop me over the head and dismantle the guage by the end of the day!!!
The road goes along the top of the hills, with little offroads taking off to the various bays. Back on the hilltop road, not far from Elaine Bay, the vistas really started opening up.
And a bit closer...
Interesting to see that small square patch of commercial forestry on that hill. The rest would be sheep farming.
Further along the road, another side road took us down to the bay where this particular farm had the farmhouse. I wouldn't mind living there - I thought it was beautiful. Although I guess it would be remote..
From up on the hilltop road when we looked down and saw this, we saw a small waterspout travel up the channel. It was very windy, and you can see how windy it is by the waves being pushed into the bay. There were heaps of cool letterboxes up this way as well. My favourite was the old fridge letterox...
My fridge isn't that much younger looking, but this one is much better as it has a padlock. I'm sure if I padlocked mine I would lose weight quite quickly. It's nice to know my fridge can be used as a letterbox one day soon. It's slightly bigger than this one, but that's okay - it can fit much bigger parcels in it :)
Back up to the hilltop road, and onto the remote French Pass farm that takes us out to the French Pass settlement. We stopped to talk to some cows.
They were quite skittish, so I sang to keep them there so I could photograph them. Jill mentioned something about me being certifiable. Fortunately I'm deaf and didn't hear her properly. Don't take any notice of the blue sky and sun - it was still only 12C, and windy as heck.
Further along the road we were coming to the end of the road where French Pass is situated, and this view greeted us. That's D'urville Island on the left, and beyond that I guess is the North Island. On a clear day I'm sure you'd be able to see it.
This shot looks good in Black and white as well. And then we were at the pass itself. It's a small, very dangerous strip of water where boats plied to and from Wellington and Nelson. Here the water races through on each tide at up to eight knots creating whirlpools, eddies and currents, a truly awesome passage feared and respected by mariners. Once navigated by Maori in canoes it proved more difficult for French Seafarer Dumont D'Urville. In 1827 he spent several days investigating the passage before venturing through it. He described the sea as a seething sheet where great precaution needed to be taken. On his journey through he clipped the reef twice before ‘floating majestically into Admiralty Bay.
Even here you can see the seething current between the mainland and the island, and a small boat about to take it on! Not for the faint hearted!
Round the corner and there was the French Pass settlement, consisting of a beach and wharf where water taxi's take tourists over to D'Urville Island on which there is a camping ground and lodge. We didn't go this day as the water was fairly rough. It's something on my to do list for the future.
It's quite a pretty bay, but it has a very big downfall. There wasn't a cafe where we could get a hot chocolate. I was cold and wanted one. That blue water has not been touched in photoshop, it is straight out of the camera, as is. It's one of the thing I love about the Sounds - the water is always such a spectacular colour.
This was the water taxi going to and fro between D'Urville Island and French Pass settlement. I would say it would double up as a fishing boat.
And a view of the wharf from the beach, which was sandy. However some interesting coloured rocks on the beach - many of them red. I'm not a geologist and would love to know what kind of rock this was - I took a photo of a cliff face not far from the beach that shows the red colour...
We stopped and had lunch at a small reserve at one end of the beach. We ended up sharing our lunch with some of the locals. They loved our fresh bread, but didn't like tomatoes. Meet the South Island Weka, the bird that won't eat tomato...
They are slightly different to the North Island Weka - the NI one is more Teal coloured, the South Island one is a bit duller. The North Island Weka is endangered, but the South Island seems to be more in abundance.
We were still craving a hot chocolate so decided to start heading back the way we came and to stop somewhere on the way home for one. The drive back was a little different, as the sun had finally come out...
I found another interesting letterbox on the way back. The little letterbox with the big view...
Views to Australia! I wouldn't mind putting my next house on that spot! Seems wasted on a letterbox!
Did I mention that the views were spectacular?
Just as well Ian was driving. I would have probably driven us off the road by now while looking at the views! To give you an idea of what the road was like ...
They were okay - but not that wide. I wouldn't have liked to have met one of those cattle trucks up there!
That road turning off to the left takes us down to the rusty fridge and remote farm pictured earlier in this blog. Just at the top of that road, the wind was coming up full strength and would buffet my car strongly. Very exposed place. I tried to capture the tussock grass blowing, but couldn't do it justice.
Just along from here, this view came into sight. I got Ian to stop at the side of the road so I could take the shot. I had to do it from the car as it was so windy, I wouldn't have been able to stand up properly with my lack of balance at the best of times. Even taking the shot through the open window was a mission.
When I turned to tell Ian that I had finished. He was nowhere to be seen. He had got out of the car, and was acting quite strangely. My certifiable behaviour is obviously leanred from my friends! I have the proof!
I actually have a number of these shots. Here Ian is jumping into the wind, and the wind was carrying him backwards by about half a metre - it was THAT strong. How fun! It was a fun day full of laughs.
Just a couple more images of this drive...
I was taught to call these old 'barns' by their proper names on these trip. The old kiwi woolshed. These are iconic around New Zealand.
This one was also in an amazing spot with a fabulous view. I wonder if I could convert this one into a house for me later?
This last image is one we found when we came back into Okiwi Bay. I'm not sure if these possums were hunted or whether they are roadkill. They were placed rather macabre-ly on this bridge so I stopped to photogarph it.
Possums are a huge problem here in New Zealand. They were introduced from Australia back at the turn of the century for hunting. Unfortunately they have no natural predators here, so they're busy chomping through our native forests unchecked. Last count they were 30 million of them - about 7 per person, so I don't feel sorry for these 6 at all. They are protected in Australia, and some Australians get really upset that we kill them. My answer to that, is they are welcome to come and pick them and take them home! All of them!
We finally got our hot chocolate at Havelock that afternoon - only 15 mins from home. It was the best hot chocolate I've ever had. The very next day I went out and bought a thermos flask. I figure if I'm going to survive the South Island's remoteness, I'm going to need one.