Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Kaikoura Loop

Catch-up (July 28th, 2017)

While in Hanmer Springs we decided to do a day trip through to Kaikoura. Originally we were going to take the 5th-wheeler through and stay a few days after we left Christchurch but decided against it after checking the long range weather forecast- wet and miserable! 

Stop/Go on the Hundalees
Also both SH1, the coast road south (more slips), and the Inland Kaikoura Road (snow & flooding) had been closed several times during the two weeks before we left. And while we'd heard reports that the road was not too bad to tow over, we decided after driving it that it was a good decision not to take the van through there, as much as we wanted to support the local community for a few days.

Parititahi Tunnels
The decision to which way round we were going to drive to Kaikoura was made for us by the time we got to Waiau; the Inland Road was closed due to snow so we headed over Leader Road to the coast and exited onto the main highway just north of Parnassus.

Buckled road on the Hundalees
It had been raining on and off most of the way but it bucketed down over the Hundalees- a winding climb through the hills, with many road works and an undulating road surface, due to sections of it slumping away into a empty void or buckling, under the forces of the earthquake (above). I wonder who that wings (NZMCA) member is below?

The majority of the earthquake damage and consequently, the road and rail repairs south of Kaikoura are right on the coastline- there were over 25 large slips on the coast road between Oaro and Peketa. There's activity happening from all directions and angles with many Stop/Go sections.

We timed it just right, the weather cleared as we made our way through the busiest section of the coast road repairs. Excuse the quality of the photos; they were all taken through a dirty windscreen- I'd have loved to have stopped and got out to take photos- so many interesting shots!

We did pull into one of the rest areas near Goose Bay to check out the rocky coastline. It's very hard to get an idea of how much the seabed has been pushed up here due to the tide being on it's way out, but the bleached rocks and seaweed indicate where the new low tide zone is- this would have always been under water before (click photo to enlarge). The seabed rose up to two meters along the coast during the violent 7.8 earthquake.

A new species of Kaikoura crayfish? Or 'Orange is the new black'? High-vis orange was everywhere.

Many of the rock slides still had a fair bit of repairs to be done to stabilize them...

Steel poles, wire fences and rock cages didn't stand a chance against the forces of nature. 

Traffic lights controlled this section around a rocky point. I was wondering whether the portaloo was for passing people caught short or the construction crew....either way, imagine stepping out of there while everyone's lined up waiting for the lights to change- "Morning" he'd say as he stepped out re-arranging his hi-vis gear.

I wonder where this container came from (maybe caught in the earthquake while it was on a truck or train perhaps?) and it looks like that first blue container in the row of containers protecting the traffic from rock fall around the point did it's job.

It's not everyday you can drive the wrong way through a road tunnel on State Highway One.

These guys certainly earn their pay; hanging off rock walls and swinging about on the end of cranes high above the road. All in freezing temperatures with a negative wind chill factor blowing through too.

Our last Stop/Go, this one with her very own kiosk, tied down for good measure. The Stop/Go Operators were all very friendly, waving and smiling to every vehicle and having a chat if you were the first car in line. What a cold job though.

We drove through the township and around to the Esplanade to have lunch; the weather was closing in fast and it was very cold, not pleasant at all.

I'm sure there are now many more rocks sticking out of the water in the bay, although it's still hard to tell which ones are new because the tide was on it's way out.

After a quick lunch we drove out to Point Kean where you can definitely see the change even with the tide out; dried green seaweed stuck to parched rocks- the new exposed low tide zone would have once been always under water. 

High tide used to come just about to the edge of the carpark, where the brown seaweed line is above; the seals (spot the seal?) resting on the rocks between there and the tarseal. There are nowhere near the numbers of seals here today, they obviously have a lot more rocks to navigate to get to this area now.

The huge papa rock platform at Point Kean was always exposed at low tide but now the tide looks to be miles away from where it used to stop. The photo set below was from one of my previous blogs- you can see the raised papa rock above, lower right is the same one in the first photo below. And the bottom left photo below was taken at the same spot as the single photo above with the seal in it. 

We headed back through town, the weather had cleared off the mountains across the bay...

...but by the time we got around to South Bay- as you can see by the spots on my camera lens- the rain was torrential again. I took a quick photo of the construction work at Kaikoura Harbour- the seabed lifted so much here that the Whale Watch and other tourist boats have only been able to exit and enter at the top of the tide.

And further round at the Kaikoura Boating Club ramps the change is even more noticeable.

With the wet weather looking like it was in for the duration we headed off home, this time taking the Inland Kaikoura Road which was now open.

With quite a distance to travel we only stopped a couple of times; here on the edge of a steep cliff with no barrier (don't do that with kids in tow) overlooking the Conway River.

Much of this road has now been repaired following the 'quake, with just a few short sections with road work or speed restriction signs. 

We passed the grit spreading and grader truck exiting the area near Mt Lyford just as we drove into another snow covered landscape.     

We've yet to visit Mt Lyford (let alone see it- it's always cloudy when we drive past), we seem to always be driving past the end of the road after a long day exploring when all you want to do is get home; to eat, to warm up or to just have a lie down.

There was one last stop to take a photo of this very muddy waterway making it's way through the bare willows.

Total distance travelled- 275km
Hanmer Springs to Kaikoura via SH1 coast road - 145km
Kaikoura to Hanmer Springs via the Inland Kaikoura Road- 130km
And you'll notice on the map that the road is not marked between Oaro and Kaikoura- Google maps won't allow it as the road is currently closed for critical repair work, it should reopen again for weekend periods from September 14th onwards. Check the NZTA Road Status maps for updates.


  1. That was really interesting and so fascinating to see the changes through your eyes. We have seen many different views in the various media reports but this hit the spot perfectly, the places I intend to be and photograph when I get back there next year :)

    1. You'll certainly see some changes when you do visit Carol but it'll be even harder to pick the repair work once it's all finished. Even driving through the town I could see buildings missing but couldn't remember what was there before the 'quake.

  2. Being able to photograph as you drive through, even through the windscreen certainly adds allot of info and authenticity.. As the driver I often see a photo but can't even stop, Even if I ask to take a photo it won't be as my vision.
    Once again you show your class and creativity.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the blog Jimu, yes, I guess I am lucky in that I can take photos as we travel. David's very good, he cleans the screen for me before we leave our base- inside and out! Of course if it rains it makes it harder but I still get the shot!

  3. You went the right direction. We towed our van from Waiau to Kaikoura up the inland and back the coast last month. Could not get a good look or photos of the reconstruction as it was always behind us and on the drivers side.

    1. Hi John, that's a good point! I hadn't thought about it like that so it was just as well the closed road made the decision for us.


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