amidst relatively green hills, a feeling that one could be almost back home in the UK. I was looking forward to the next section

with great anticipation as we followed the Crown Range road up to a height of almost 3,700 feet, which makes it the highest main road in New Zealand. From May to September (the New Zealand winter) snow frequently closes this road and there are many skiing centres in the area. Nevertheless it is again well graded and the XK8 revelled in the sweeping bends, arriving to spectacular views from the top and a crowd of Chinese tourists gathering

Glitzy resort: Posing with the jet setters of Lake Wakapitu

Beware of Penguins & rain: Hugging the west coast

At Haast the road abruptly turns inland following a massive river bed which swells to fill the broad valley during the spring snow melt. The ascent of the pass is relatively gentle and reaches an elevation of just 1,862 feet; the lowest and most southerly of three road passes crossing the Southern Alps and, remarkably, not given a fully tarmaced surface until as late as 1995! Towering mountains exaggerated the lack of altitude on the pass and the sun shone so the roof remained open to the blue skies for the rest of the day. Shortly after crossing the watershed the climate and scenery altered dramatically.

Sun and stars There may be snow on high but the coast is predominantly sub-tropical forest or ‘bush’; dense, moisture laden and one of many remarkable features of New Zealand. The drive through these districts was fascinating especially when we could once again lower the roof and enjoy the sounds of the wildlife over head in the tree canopy.

In just a few short miles we travelled from the deep greens of saturated forests, through snowy heights to brown, parched landscapes where precipitation is minimal. This phenomenon is witnessed throughout the South Island and never before have I encountered such striking climactic diversity within a small compass of travel. Wide roads, little traffic and wide open vistas gave wonderfully pleasurable driving along the lengths of Lakes Wanaka and Hawea before arrival in the town of Wanaka. Clearly expanding as a tourist resort, there was much new building springing up and,

around the car to have their photographs taken. I was sadly excluded as the Jaguar was clearly the star. However, feeling a slight waft of celebrity we descended to Queenstown, beautifully located on Lake Wakatipu. This is a stunning and glitzy resort attracting the real world class celebrities. For example, Lewis Hamilton was there the day I arrived, taking time out before the Australian Grand Prix. Strolling around on a warm late summer’s evening, the streets were bustling with pavement cafés, bars and fashionable young people. Mark and I were the oldest people we saw by at least a couple of decades. The only comfort was that I was driving a Jaguar and they were not, and we also had a remarkably good pint of Guinness in a lakeside Irish pub! A glorious morning saw me up early as the sun was rising, firing up the XK8 and setting out for Glenorchy beyond the foot of Lake Wakatipu. Much of the area was used as a film location for the Lord of the Rings movies, the combination of austere wilderness and vast skies perfectly representing the mystical ‘Middle Earth’. It’s a huge tourist draw with helicopter rides setting off into the mountains at frequent intervals. This road is a scenic marvel although I enjoyed the drive so much I almost overlooked the view at times. This XK8 may have been twenty years of age but the steering was pin sharp and the suspension well maintained to provide a very rewarding driving experience. Sated by my thrilling early morning dash, I returned to our hotel and collected Mark


➥ 17

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