Highway 72

NZ Southern Alps

The Solid Beauty of the Southern Alps


Tuesday 18th June 2013 – day 13 of our South Island roadtrip. Woke up in Amber Holiday Park in Christchurch – an oasis of calm in the middle of the city. After a lazy start to a sunny day, making full use of the facilities (hot showers, dump station and book exchange) we decided to escape from the city. It was to be a day on the road, with no aim other than to continue South towards the Catlins.

The air was crisp and clear, the snow clad mountains looked sparkling and majestic on the horizon. On the recommendation of some friends, we took the Inland Scenic Route (highway 72) rather than the faster Highway 1. With a bit of guidebook flicking and map flapping, a plan for the day started to emerge.

Great Pies

PiwiWiwi outside the Famous Sheffield Pie Shop

Head to Sheffield for the best pies in New Zealand – no contest!

First stop – Sheffield and it’s Famous Pie Shop. This unassuming bakery is deserving of its name, stocking a mouthwatering array of home bakes pies, pastries, cakes and breads. We stopped for a delicious pie each, and then greedily Niall ate a second and I failed to resist one of their chocolate & raspberry brownies (by far the stickiest, richest most delicious brownie I’ve had for a long time).

Eating the best pies in NZ

Anna & Niall enjoying Sheffield’s famous pies

Surprise Gorge

Rakiai Gorge

Gorge-ous

Back on the road with full bellies, we continued to skirt the foothills of the Southern Alps with pastures on one side and the solid beauty of NZ’s longest, highest mountain range on the other. After a while we drove across a bridge, with the wide Rakaia River to the left, and the deep Rakaia gorge to the right – too stunning not to pull over & take a picture. There’s a community campground just after the bridge – a nice little stop to stop for the night, however it was far too early for us to call it a day so we hopped out and spent a little time exploring through the pines and down to the river bed.

Waterfalls

Sharplin Falls

The might of Sharplin Falls after heavy rain

Just 25km further along the road we reached Staveley. I’d noticed on the map a loop walk to the Sharplin Falls starting in the hills above this little village. Needing to walk off our pies, we decided to take a look. We were not disappointed. The easy (yet pretty steep) 45 min walk through forest to the falls was well worth it. One section takes you across a long gantry nailed to a rock face, with signs at each end warning you of falling rocks. The falls are an impressive, wide, gushing torrent of water (probably made more so by the amount of rain the area had received in the past few days).

Back down in Staveley, we popped in to the village store to see if they had eggs. They did (free range and local – perfect). The café looked great (comfy sofas and vintage tea sets) and the food even better, shame we’d eaten so many pies just a couple of hours earlier! We left instead with the eggs, some good coffee and a beautiful postcard by a local artist (which I must remember to write).

Staveley Store

Staveley Store

Giant Jumper

The Giant Jersey of Geraldine

The Giant Jersey of Geraldine

Onwards and south and next stop Geraldine. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see the world’s longest mosaic – a recreation of the Bayeux Tapestry – an impressive 42m long labour of love created by a father / daughter team. They had even recreated the last section that has been lost from the original tapestry, and added a bit more in the middle (all of which has been deemed historically accurate by art historians at Cambridge University). The mosaic is housed at the back of the family’s wool / knitwear shop, the Giant Jersey, which is also home to the world’s largest sweater (all 5.5kg of it). How can you drive past these gems and NOT drop in?!

By now the sun was setting, casting a golden glow across the fields as we continued our journey South, by now on the larger State Highway 1. A quick detour off the main road took us through the historic town of Waimate, but it was too dark to really appreciate the architecture. Further south we stopped in at Niall’s relatives near Omaru, before finally pulling up at a Campbells Bay campground in Kakanui which had been recommended to us. Parked up listening to the waves break on the beach below us, we both agreed that we had had the perfect NZ roadtrip day. A wonderful mix of stunning scenery and great little discoveries.

The end (let’s see what treats tomorrow brings)