Thursday, March 25, 2010


Today we drove from the Abel Tasman area to Karamea on the Northwest coast. As the crow flies it isn't that far between them, but there are no roads that go direct, so we drove south, then west to Westport and then north 100+ kilometers to Karamea. Total distance about 340 km.

The weather was party to mostly cloudy and in the rain for the second half of the trip. However, the country side is just beautiful. The south island is very mountainous, so we are constantly driving through valleys or up and over mountain ranges.

A few words about driving here. Of course, they drive on the opposite side of the road from the US. So far it has been easier to get used to driving on the opposite side than I expected. I have had some experience in the past, but that was over 2o years ago. There are very few 4 lane roads here and only around the large cities. The rest of the roads are all two lane. The more heavily traveled roads had reasonable lane widths and usually have shoulders. The less well traveled roads are narrower, and have no shoulders. The mountain roads are pretty much nape of the earth. The not only are narrower that we are used to, but are very windy and in some places relatively steap. They are fun to drive on, but when going up or down the side of a mountain and meeting oncoming traffice can be a little exciting sometimes. Another thing we have noticed is many of the bridges are one lane. hey are well marked, and there is a set of rules about who has the right of way, so are easy to navigate. There were a couple of sections of mountain road that we drove on today, that were one lane. Either we could see oncomeing traffic or it was controlled by traffic lights.

Of course my sister and brother-in-law are really enjoying the roads in their Mazda Miata. The Ford mid-sized car isn't quite as nimble. It does fairly well and corners flat and is stable. However, I do have trouble keeping up with them on the really windy sections of the road and tight hairpin corners.

We stopped in Westport for lunch and to visit the Coal Museum. This area was a major coal mining area. The coal mines were up toward the top of the mountains, so in one area they built a cable system that would send the full coal hoppers down to the bottom of mountain for loading onto coal trains and pull the empty coal hoppers back to the mine level. In places the grade was almost 45 degrees and I gather the cars really move rapidly up and down the mountain.

The museum also had the only known example of a Duzgo, a local New Zealand car that was built for a few years. I had to include a picture of it here.

Tomorrow we are going to explore some of the area and will have an update tomorrow evening.


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