Cheryll's Writing Journal

Musings, rants and ravings, plus gems of insight nobody wants to hear now that I've finally got them. Also neat stuff I found on the 'Net when I should have been updating this blog....

Monday, January 10, 2011

New Zealand - To Nelson

We came back from the Forest Primeval at Te Nikau to the Wild Coast Cafe around lunchtime and caught the northbound NZ Transit bus, which is much bigger than expected, and full of really large windows so we wouldn't miss a bit of the scenery.

Along the coast, that scenery was pretty exciting, largely due to the unfamiliar experience of traveling on the left side of the road -- that part hanging on the edge of cliffs with sometimes very large drops to the rocky coast below.

In places, the road drops to single lane due to wash outs, and some even have traffic lights if the drivers cannot see the other end to know if there is oncoming traffic.
Traffic lights? This suggests a long term solution... And the story the driver tells, pointing out a little pole by the side of the road about 20 feet up the bank above the washout 50-60 feet below us, is that the river in flood a few years back filled this incredibly steep ravine over 100' feet deep.  No wonder the government isn't in a rush to spend millions rebuilding the second lane....

That big bus makes every tight turn seem rather exciting, as I mentioned. We were sitting near the front, which I do not recommend to the faint of heart, LOL. Driver was quite non-chalant, often driving with just one hand...not showing off or anything, but because he makes this 7 hour drive from Greymouth to Nelson every day, back again the next.  He's bored!

When we headed away from the coast, climbing into the mountains and dropping through lush valleys, the rain which had been threatening all morning arrived.  It was not bad, though, just drizzle, and not enough to ruin the views.
Most of the valleys had rivers through them. Large rivers in wide rocky beds, and with quite a lot of water from spring snow melt. And many of the bridges? One Lane. Not because of wash outs, but originally designed to be less expensive that way. Imagine squeezing the great big bus across this!
I swear, it looked like there wasn't 6" clearance either side! And note: driver is sipping his coffee and maneuvering one-handed.  =:o  After three or four bridges like this, and some of them offered tummy turning views hundreds of feet down into spectacular river gorges, my hair did quit standing on end, LOL.

You can see where part of the mountain looks forested and part bare...Native, jungly brush and trees have been cleared and fast growing conifers planted as seedlings. This is the lumber monoculture which provides exports mostly to Japan. It is just a mind-numbing huge operation, and can't be easy, either. It takes bulldozers to clear the underbrush, and these are not nice round foothill sized mountains. Whoever those dozer drivers are, they must have nerves of steel.

A couple hours along, about half way to Nelson, we stopped for snack and driver rest in a particularly beautiful valley, and tell me what you think this town looks like:
Snake River, Idaho? Durango, Colorado, back in the 1970s? Any small mountain town from the 1950s California? Amazing.

That is one thing we noted about much that we saw of the rural communities (and even some parts of the cities) on the South Island: the architecture and lifestyle remind me VERY much of my 1940-50s childhood in a rural farming area outside San Luis Obispo, CA.

As we came out of the mountains a few miles west of Nelson, the land flattened out into fields and vineyards and orchards. Thousands of acres neatly divided into relatively small plots: apples, peaches, grapes, kiwi fruit, blackberries in a snowstorm of of huge blossoms. And truck gardens of cabbages, lettuce and greens of all kinds, asparagus, onions and leeks.  Didn't see a single corn field or soybean planting, but maybe it was too early in the season for them.

We got into Nelson right on time, and I think the bus driver would have taken us right to our door, had we not arranged to be met. At least, he was arranging to do exactly that for one or two of the other passengers, who were headed to one of the backpacker hostels downtown.  Apparently on his way home.  Guess he takes the bus with him over night...

Baki and Dayanira met our bus and ferried us to Margaret's home, our residence for the next nine days.



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