Disembarking the ferry, we left the busy port of Picton, and drove through the Wairau Valley. Grape vines have been planted in this part of the country, as far as the eye can see, together with their respective wine making establishments. There are some big names in the wine business down here, such as Stoney Creek and Nobilos. Big money and big business indeed, fortunes must be tied up in all these thousands of acres of wine plantings and the specialized people and equipment needed to develop world famous wine.
Premium NZ wine starts here
The rows of grape vines gave way to native bush,and we noticed plenty of manuka trees in flower. No doubt there were plenty of bees buzzing around, taking the nectar back to the hives to turn into lovely golden manuka honey. We whizzed past the interesting little Alpine village of St Arnaud. If we weren’t on a mission to get to our overnight stop after a long day of travelling, we would have rather liked to stop and explore – perhaps next time.
We were staying the night the NZMCA site at Murchison, this site has doubled in size since our last visit six years ago. And with water, rubbish disposal, and a dump station available, it is very well set up indeed. After paying our fees, I visited the swap a book library, picking up one or two books, and leaving behind even more which I had finished with.
Staying the night at Murchison
The NZMCA site is nestled between two of Murchison’s historic 19th century buildings, bounded on one side by the Murchison Theatre, on on the other by the rather dilapidated Commercial Stables building – now a 2nd hand shop, it seems.
Old Murchison buildings
In the camp grounds we saw a lovely timber and copper sculpture, made by Graham Snook of Mapua, in remembrance of the massive 7.8 earthquake of 1929. This was centered in the Lyell Range west of Murchison, devastated the town and caused serious damage throughout Greymouth, Nelson and Westport. The artist states: “The separation between the twin sculptures represents the many chasms which opened up the land. The suspended twin copper discs which turn and spin in the wind represents the movement of the earth. 17 small copper discs are inserted in the sculpture, one for each human life lost in this tragedy”.
Murchison Earthquake 1929 sculpture
On the road again the next morning we saw one of the results of that massive 1929 earthquake when we stopped at Maruia Falls, on SH65. There was a nice large carpark set away from the busy road, plenty of room for our 4WD and caravan. And what’s this we saw poking around in the bushes – it’s a weka, one of our native flightless birds.
A landslide in the Maruia Valley diverted the course of the Maruia River further west, forcing it to cut a new channel over an old river bank. Once the river had eroded the gravels, the bank became the Maruia Falls.
First view if Maruia Falls
Who wouldn’t want to see the “best view”?
So down the easy path we trotted, remarking that we were sure we clambered up and down steps cut into the bank last time we were here. This current well maintained path was much easier to negotiate.
What a lovely sight, the Maruia Falls
That was well worth a stop, and plenty of other tourists obviously agreed, as people were coming and going in the car park. Continuing on our way along the Shenandoah Highway, we then went up and over the Lewis Pass, enveloped in misty clouds, and driving through forests of beech trees. And there were plenty of these fellows along the road, we reckon we must have been stopped about 40 times by work gangs such as this on our trip over the last two days.
And yet another stop on the road
Driving down the final hill before our destination, we got great views of the Waiau River, a good example of one of New Zealand’s braided rivers. A braided river flows in multiple, mobile channels across a gravel floodplain, with evidence of recent channel migration within the active riverbed and the channels repeatedly branch and rejoin creating an intervening pattern of low islands and shallow bars.
Pulling in to the Hamner River Bridge NZMCA site, we were surprised to find just one other van in residence.
Staying at Hamner River Bridge for the night
But that soon changed as the afternoon wore on with one arrival after another. This camp site has no facilities at all, rubbish is “pack in and pack out” and there is no water available. If anyone arrives with an empty water tank, they will be in trouble!
Tomorrow we are making our way to Christchurch to catch up with son Michael, and a little R&R. Then we won’t be quite so rushed and can settle down into holiday mode.