Tuesday, 26 March 2013

THAT Road Trip

We pulled out of White Star around lunch time and drove the short distance to Cabbage Bay, just past the tiny settlement of Colville. We parked up on foreshore reserve where we began our anxious wait for 5 o’clock to roll around. 

Low tide at Cabbage Bay
I wandered off to do a bit of bird watching & located a healthy population of around 20 or so NZ Dotterel & a few Banded Dotterel (and a dotterel that was banded), the tide was on its way in & they were congregating around a small stream to swim & preen.

The critically endangered NZ Dotterel with a Banded Dotterel behind
 As previously mentioned we’d made the decision to leave for Port Jackson late in the afternoon so we wouldn’t meet too much traffic, if any at all. Most campers leave Port Jackson & the other two smaller DOC camps, Fantail Bay & Fletchers Bay in the morning when they’re also less likely to strike opposing traffic and any day-trippers would hopefully be at the tail end of their outward bound journey where the road isn’t quite so bad to pass.

The hours ticked by very slowly & every vehicle that went past David analysed; "Was that a local? Would they be coming back down later? Was that bus heading up? Thank God that truck left early; no need to meet him on the road. Oh no how many more are heading south?" There did seem to be quite a number compared with when we did the trip on the weekend. By 4 o’clock we could stand it no longer, let’s just DO IT! Get this over & done with. It is, after all, only 26 kilometres.

And it was fine for the first 10 or so kilometres, we did meet three or four cars but we were able to pull over on the verge to let them past. Unfortunately the sun was low in the sky, the glare & the reflection off the dash onto the windscreen were bad. We hadn’t allowed for that when deciding to leave later in the afternoon. We managed to get through all the one way bridges ok, they had ample room, but it was a little tight on the first ford. I had to hop out & hold back a marker post that was leaning inwards so the van could squeeze past. There was enough room but you had to approach them dead head on which was a little difficult when there was a corner just before. David got it right on the next couple though & we sailed through.
We cautiously crept up to every blind corner, with the chief navigator & sometimes co-pilot straining to see around the right hand ones to confirm that there were no cars approaching. I was also looking well ahead when the road was in view to report any noticeable dust clouds which would mean a car was heading our way. On one occasion we pulled into safe area and waited about 5 minutes for a car to pass, we could see it coming way off in the distance.

We knew the last third of the road was going to be the worse and it was. I had to keep reporting on the distance between the van wheels & the edge on my side with the van being wider than the ute. David was tending to hug the road wall on his side but occasionally he had to pull it round a tight & narrow corner. Whenever I said “you had about 6 inches spare ” he knew it was serious. There were a number of “bottomless” culverts with no edge that dropped away into the tide below, they scared me a bit, lose a wheel into one of those & we’d have been a goner.
Finally the long & tough haul up the side of a steep hill, over the top and Channel Island came into view. We both breathed a sigh of relief, not long now. But as luck would have it, we met two cars on the downhill stretch, both on blind corners, both came to a skidding halt & both had to back up. We had to pull off the road as best we could to manoeuvre past them, I tried not to look too closely over the edge. 
One hour 45 minutes after leaving Colville we pulled into the campground just in time to watch the sun disappear over Kaiiti Point & the sky to turn a brilliant orange. We can now rest up for eight days, problem is David is already thinking about his plan of attack for the return leg. We’ll be leaving at 6am in the morning………
More photos here of Port Jackson

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