Taking the road less travelled

By David Thomson on Sat, 20 Jan 2018

Drivesouth has eased into 2018 in our usual way, by looking back on some of the cars that made a lasting impression on our road test team over the past 12 months.

Since we rolled over into the New Year, I have also been easing into my 2018 motoring regime exploring some interesting roads in Western Southland.

A visit to that part of the country wasn't in our holiday plans pre- Christmas, but as luck would have it we ended up with a couple of free days either side of commitments on Stewart Island and in Bluff.

Accommodation options are rather limited when one makes a spur of the moment travel decision in early January. As a result we ended up based in Tuatapere for a couple of nights, staying at a modestly-priced and most pleasant establishment called the Last Light Lodge. We spent most of one day exploring the Riverton-Aparima South Coast Heritage Trail.

Then we ventured into Fiordland National Park, visiting Lake Hauroko, and taking a completely unplanned half-day jaunt up the Borland Rd, which is the access road for servicing the power pylons that run from the Manapouri Power Station to the Tiwai Point Aluminium Smelter. Our final day involved a circuitous drive from Tuatapere to Invercargill, and to Bluff, via Clifden, Ohai, Nightcaps and Winton. As it turns out, there is a surprising amount to see and do in Western Southland.

The roads are superb to drive on, and were very lightly trafficked even at what was the peak holiday period.

The icing on the cake was nice weather, at a time when storms and floods were ravaging much of the North Island and parts of the South Island, too.

A neat little motoring aside was the completion of a further step in my mission to drive on New Zealand's northernmost, easternmost, westernmost and southernmost public roads. It's a mission I started way back in 1991, on a road trip that took in the northern, southern, eastern and western extremities of the North Island.

That allowed me to tick of the country's most northern public road and - if one sets aside roads on the Chatham Islands - our most easterly public road too.

As a frequent visitor to Stewart Island, I have driven on the country's most southerly public road, Ringaringa Rd, a number of times, and walked it plenty of times, too.

As for the most westerly public road, as best I can figure out it happens to be Lilburn Valley Rd, which runs from SH99 to the shores of Lake Hauroko.

The other candidate, though a private road open to the public rather than a proper public road, is Borland Rd.

Either way, I can now state with some surety that I have traversed New Zealand's most westerly public road. That's a small but satisfying milestone with which to have opened my 2018 motoring year.

David Thomson