Lewis Pass

The Lewis Pass crosses the main divide from the northern end of the Canterbury Plains, and can be approached either from Kaikoura to the north or Christchurch to the south.  It passes through typically barren east coast terrain along the river valley of the Bealey River, rising gently all the while, until it reaches a short sharp rise to the Maruia Springs hotel located just over the top.  The contrast between the two sides is sudden and dramatic, as you leave the barren rain shadow country of the east and plunge into the thick wet rain forests of the West Coast.  The hotel has some interesting mineral hot pools, whose waters are heated not by volvanic activity but by the immense pressure on the roots of the still actively forming Southern Alps.

From here you travel through to Maruia Junction.  From here you could either travel north to Murchison and on through to Nelson, or through o Greymouth via the Rahu Saddle, a low pass with miles more dense bush either side of the road, great for some high speed riding.  At the end of the Rahu Saddle you come to Reefton, through dense rain forest that comes right to the edges of the road until you get to Reefton, the first town in the world to have electric street lighting - very progressive for the day, but now little more than a small rural ghost town, a faint echo of past glories.  If Westport is your goal, head north to pass through Ikamatua, scene of a major earthquake thirty or more years ago.  Otherwise head south to Greymouth, traveling through the Grey River valley.

Copyright Steve Carr, 1999-2007

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