Lower Buller Gorge being particularly spectacular and much used by thrill seekers in jet boats. I’m sure I was equally excited throwing around the sure-footed XK8 on the endless series of superb bends. The roads are generally quiet, well graded and avoid very sharp deviations, even posting an advisory speed before each corner to assist with the driver’s approach. I soon found that one and a half times the advisory limit afforded the ideal blend of exhilaration and caution, whilst always remaining below the maximum 100kph permitted of course. We reached the coast just south of

➥ This we followed to the sea, the

Westport and joined a road hailed as one of the top ten driving routes in the world. This is still the same Highway 6 that we had so far travelled but here hugs a rugged coastline of ever changing panoramas. A major highlight was at Punakaiki where we took a short walk to view the extraordinary Pancake Rocks, whose distorted formations are pierced by the waves to form spectacular blow holes. Our night’s halt was the town of Hokitika set tight against a beach famed for sunsets and distant views of the Mount Cook, the highest of the New Zealand Alps.

Raining cats and petrol

So far I had been in the country for twelve days without a drop of rain, but all was to change. I had read about the legendary precipitation on the west coast and now I was to experience it. The day dawned dull and deteriorated from there but interest along the way continued as we entered former Gold mining territory.

The tiny village of Ross was one of many settlements that flourished during a brief gold rush in 1860s. It is also the place where the largest ever golden nugget was found weighing ninety nine ounces and later given to George V as a coronation gift from the New Zealand Government. As we approached the high

mountains visibility declined with the ever increasing rain, and coach loads of tourists scuttled for shelter in the glacier village of Franz Joseph. Rain was a minor irritation to us but what was more of a concern was the slight whiff of petrol which began to occur after switching off the ignition. An inspection revealed a leaking fuel pipe and without any tools to remedy the issue I called into the only garage for miles at Fox Glacier village. The proprietor was a dry and engaging character, and genuinely interested to see a Jaguar in his workshop. He deftly re-seated the connection while I checked on the breakdown cover that was provided with the car. In answer to my


question if he was an agent for this breakdown service he cunningly replied that his was ‘the only garage in Fox Glacier if you understand my meaning’. So out came my wallet!

He then explained that his brother owned the next garage, some eighty miles down the road, and if we had any further trouble we should call in there. In the event the repair held fast and on my return Rentaclassic happily refunded my expenses without question. We stayed the night at Fox Glacier with biblical downpours continuing unabated, the local news declaring that some ten inches were recorded in 24 hours. Such a deluge is

not uncommon for these mountains but it is not what an XK8 convertible is accustomed to and by morning some three inches of water had collected in the passenger footwell, blown in through an ill-adjusted window by the high winds. Fortunately dawn brought about a change in the weather and the skies began to brighten.

Golden nugget: Ross, a village that has survived the 1860s gold rush

Panoramic: Lake Pukaki, looking towards Mount Cook

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