Kurow to Christchurch – Wednesday 11 March

Great news this morning. I woke to blue skies, sort of. Rain looked highly likely but it wasn’t raining yet.

I asked at the motel about the road conditions on the Hakataramea Pass road According to the motelier’s husband all rivers on the route were bridged. This contradicted what little I had read on the web, so I tried to confirm that at the garage when I refuelled.

“Mate, don’t worry. The fords won’t be deep. You’ll get through no probs. That’ll be $17.63.”

Great. Conflicting reports. I chose to mentally prepare myself for the garage owners version.

The road was sealed for about 25kms then turned to easy gravel. About halfway (40kms) I came to a gate. On the other side there were five 4WD vehicles and around 20 fully armed army personnel in camo. It was a surreal site – they blended perfectly with the surrounding landscape. Body-less arms waved me through.

The road narrowed, markedly, and a sign warned of steep grades, fords and unpredictable weather conditions.

As I climbed upwards an army truck rattled by, and then later three more 4WD’s with more army waving me on. The temperature dropped further and a light dusting of snow became apparent on the tops of the surrounding hills.

I crossed five or six fords, one of them giving me a bit of a fright and a flashback of my experience the day before.

At the pass (965m) snow was falling, lightly, but enough to leave a dusting on the ground.

Hakataramea Pass
Hakataramea Pass

I was nearly at the other end. The last ten kilometres was almost the worst of the trip. A wide, open and flat road but absolutely no formed tyre tracks – just a two or three inch layer of gravel. It was like riding on marbles.

Hakataramea Pass, Mackenzie Country
Hakataramea Pass, Mackenzie Country

Once off the track it was a 26 km trip to Fairlie. I stopped at a café and warmed my feet near a two bar heater.

My last detour of the day took me on the inland scenic route via Geraldine and the Rakaia Gorge. I wanted to visit Mount Somers. My great grandfather opened the first general store there in 1892 until he sold it in 1923.

The current store was not the original. In fact it wasn’t even in the same location. But I asked the lady that owned it about William Thomas Doak. She phoned a lady who was a volunteer at the local museum. That lady would meet me there in 15 minutes and show me what they had on my long lost relative.

William Thomas Doak, Store-owner, Mt Somers
William Thomas Doak, Mt Somers

When I arrived at the museum her brother turned up as well. He had photographs of my great grandfather – a sepia of him standing outside his store with a small child, and a wedding photograph. I also discovered there was a rail siding (now dis-used) named in his honour – Doak’s Siding.

From Mount Somers it was a quick dash via the Rakaia Gorge to Darfield. A pie and a flat white and the last 30km into Christchurch.

Then it rained, and rained, and rained. I’m hoping it’s rained itself out and that tomorrow will be a clear run through to Picton.