The Longest Driveway – Quail Flat (Part One)

“A Mish a Day” #25 Quail Flat – Part One. Ka Whata Tu O Rakihouia / Clarence River. 25.10.2014. Focus on the journey at hand until the destination was the theme of our epic mission into Quail Flat. Some call the 4WD road into the Clarence River via Blind Saddle New Zealand’s longest driveway. At 30km+ it makes the trip to the letterbox a real mish!

The stunning landscape is usually seen by kayakers and rafters as they make their way down the mighty Waiau Toa/Clarence River. The river is the divide between the Seaward Kaikoura Range and the Inland Kaikoura Range, and with massive mountains on all sides it is a real challenge to get to. With most of the 2014 winter snow gone, the always battle-ready 1997 Honda CRV was loaded up and prepped for yet another 4WD track which probably wasn’t supposed to be included in the ‘Comfortable Recreational Vehicle’ part of the name. Leaving Christchurch, Jeremy and I headed up the East Coast, and turned off onto the very picturesque Inland Kaikoura Road. We left the bump-free comfort of the sealed road behind at Mahunga Station, and from then onward we were on 4WD tracks.

The Kahutara River is the first real obstacle to get over after leaving the road, and river crossings aren’t the mighty CR-V’s strong point. We didn’t mess around in the river, and bounced our way across the watery barrier between us and the track up to Blind Saddle(1088m). The drive over Blind Saddle is breathtaking, with views to the Pacific Ocean from the 1088m high point. Little did we know that the next time we would be here we would have a storm nipping at our heels. Once over the saddle the mountains of the Kaikoura Ranges present themselves in all their glory, and snow still clung to the tops of the bigger peaks in the huge mountain range. There was also some snow to negotiate at the top of the saddle as the road had just been opened after a cold winter. We started descending down the many zigzags that lead down to Seymour Stream. The rough road is dotted with huts from yesteryear and on our way down into the Seymour Valley we passed the historic Tent Poles Hut, and then Warden Hut. Lower down we got into the rocky riverbed of Seymour Stream. This area is known for flooding and blocked access in or out of the Waiau Toa / Clarence Valley. Like on some hikes I have been on, it is a strange feeling knowing that if it rains you will be trapped from the outside world by a swift un-crossable torrent. The trusty CRV got us through every challenge, and eventually we made our way alongside the Waiau Toa / Clarence Valley to Forbes Hut. Located east of the Seymour/Clarence confluence, the hut acts as accommodation for both people who have driven in via the road and also those who have floated their way down the twists and turns of the long Waiau Toa / Clarence Valley. We bounced down the last section of the riverbed and just after midday we came across the hut and enjoyed lunch in the epic location…

The Battle Ready 1997 Honda Cr-V

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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