We formed up opposite the local school so they could inspect the vehicles. Haigh did a superb job giving the kids a tour and answering the tough questions. The motorbikes seemed to be a favourite. The young kids shamed the convoy crowd by actually knowing the words and singing the national anthem – especially those pesky Maori bits!
We backtracked to the Rainbow ski field access road and entered the station. This track has been tar sealed for kilometres by the good ratepayers of Marlborough in an attempt to boost tourism. Like many South Island back country tracks, the road was pushed through to provide access to install power pylons, so the landscape comes complete with these monsters.
Turning off the sealed ski field highway the track instantly got a lot rougher. A highlight was several river fords which made for excellent photos. One ford claimed a motorcycle as a victim and it got loaded onto the recovery trailer.
We stopped at the cobb cottage where the $40/vehicle toll was extracted from us. The nice lady gave us a rundown of local history and showed us the historic cottage she lives in part-time. We did notice some modern gizmos like a flush loo in the back shed and a gas heated outdoor shower with a view.
We chugged on into the mountains with simply spectacular scenery. Paul Baptist said it was the best $40 he had ever spent. It was a real highlight!
Richard Taylor started to experience overheating problems with his half ton Dodge. The Toyota diesel powerplant was sweating and the water recovery bottle’s lid wasn’t working. A couple of hills later clouds of steam erupted, and Richard pulled aside to let it cool so water could be added. The recovery crew worked with him and made sure he was able to continue.
Going through the gate from Rainbow to Molesworth saw an immediate improvement in roading standards, courtesy of the taxpayer.
We stopped at Lake Tennyson which, true to form, was cold with a wind blowing down the lake. It was a beautiful drive down the valley to the old St James homestead. The house burnt down decades ago but we enjoyed looking around the outbuilding and their amazing artefacts. Tom Grace explained the workings of the stationary conventional hay baler. Men would fork hay in the top and then wire was passed through the machine and tied off around the haybale. Tom said that even with gloves it was very hard on hands.
After the short drive to Hanmer going very slowly down the steep descent from Jack’s Pass we left the smell of burning brake pads behind and formed up in a tight parade formation to make a big splash in a little town.