It had been a while since a Pheasant road-trip around the South Island and even longer since I’d accompanied Dad to one of his work farm-visits. So Mum, Dad & I set off north to visit Adele in her new home near Westport – stopping overnight as Dad had some of his last farm visits. While Dad visited clients near Cust, Mum and I popped into Oxford – disappointing. But I’d had my eye on the map and was keen to go exploring the Ashley Gorge a bit.
I wanted to see this end of the Ashley River as on the Kiwi Brevet this year we ended up further up the Ashley River in a part of the country I previously had no idea about. But we turned away from the river at the bottom of Lees Valley on to a off-road route and so I never saw the road through the Ashley Gorge.
After driving half an hour up the road, I was glad that the Brevet route didn’t go through there. I was expecting a nice winding road carving through the hills at close to river-level. It definitely was not. As the road left the tarseal/tarmac/asphalt it climbed steeply, working the car’s engine hard and wound its way high above the river as we gazed over the precipitous drop below us. After half an hour of steady, but by no means quick, progress we were left look at this:
I realise just how isolated Lees Valley is now – and am quite glad we got into it on the Brevet through MacDonald Downs Station. Mindful of the time remaining to return to pick Dad up, and Mum’s desire to buy chestnuts from a roadside stall, there was no point in descending to the river to turn around right away. Having collected Dad, it was off again north to Culverden.
Near Culverden are Keith and Jenny, who are in the middle of trying to organise the finer points of moving on from their farm that they’ve had over the last twenty years – there’s an awful lot to do and many things to be moved or disposed of. They must be some of Dad’s oldest clients, of about forty years, so there’s a little history there and I was amused to stumble upon a photo of Dad standing around an open fire near the beach where we lived thirty-odd years ago.
Apart from my fleeting Brevet ride past, it must be about fifteen years since my last visit – so it was good to see Keith & Jenny and hear of their plans for retirement and of some of their travels. While Keith & Dad were out together looking over the farm one last time, I was intrigued by all the things that there were to get rid of after twenty years – naturally I went and poked around through various sheds. I found a few new things, but a lot things that remind me the eighties and nineties – & some that predated my memory.
A good flying visit, no doubt more of Keith & Jenny to be seen as they move much further south. Strangely for Culverden, it was pretty damp – so as we drove on there was a lot of cloud and mist to see, particularly over the Lewis Pass. With a few more stretches of the Brevet route much more easily driven than ridden, it was through the tortuous Buller Gorge to turn up at Adele’s home-for-a-year-or-so at Carters Beach.