Skipper and First Mate Millard (Big Bear and Pepe)
Thu 11 Sep 2014 22:47
The Buller Gorge
A little while ago we saw the advertisement above, immediately added to our individual Bucket Lists.
The Buller Gorge is just a little way off the main road through to Murchison. The charge to cross the swing bridge is five pounds return for the two of us, marvellous if that goes to upkeep and maintenance, no arguments from us. We went in to pay and loved the gephyrophobia poster on the wall. As soon as we got out onto the bridge Bear adopted the pose.
Bear isn’t happy at cliff edges and not entirely fussed on high, see-through things like the top of the Eiffel Tower. Although this bridge is see-through there is nowhere for your feet to escape so he was quite happy and after swinging around at the top of the mast on Beez, Bear has got much more immune to the whole thing. I guess if you have a fear of heights, don’t like see-through things or things that wobble – this is not for you. If you do get one way and can’t face coming back there is a comfy seat to zip line back across but having zipped at Queenstown we were more interested in walking.
The Buller Gorge is a gorge located in the northwest of the South Island of New Zealand. The Buller River flows through the deep canyon between Murchison and Westport. Land Information New Zealand lists two sections for the gorge, Upper Buller Gorge and Lower Buller Gorge. State Highway 6 runs alongside, but considerably above, the river through the gorge. The Stillwater - Westport Line railway also runs through the gorge. New Zealand's longest swingbridge at one hundred and ten metres spans the Buller River fourteen kilometres west of Murchison.
The Buller River is in the South Island of New Zealand. One of the country's longest rivers, it flows for one hundred and seventy kilometres from Lake Rotoiti through the Buller Gorge and into the Tasman Sea near the town of Westport. The Maori name for the Buller, Kawatiri meaning deep and swift, is rarely used. Scene of earthquakes, floods and home to hundreds of transient workers during goldmining times, the gorge has been a challenge to horsemen, coach drivers, roadmakers and bridge builders. Māori travellers used the river as a highway and helped early European explorers and goldminers to negotiate the treacherous rapids. Road travellers today can take time to enjoy the scenery between Murchison and Inangahua Junction in a very short time compared to the seven weeks it took Thomas Brunner to make the journey in 1847.
The punt, a wooden bridge and then the iron bridge.
In 1890 the iron bridge replaced a punt that operated on the river for many years. No longer did horse and carriage have to board a wooden pontoon that, linked to cables spanning the river the river, employed the force and angle of the current against its hull to move across the river.
The 1938 swing bridge. Errrrr that doesn’t look so safe.
Rex Smith of Murchison has lived by the river for sixty three of his eighty three years and has worked in construction gangs along the Buller and its tributaries. One of the more memorable projects was the construction of the swing bridge. “There had been an old swing bridge across the river there for a long time which was mainly used by miners, farmers and hunters. A man had bought the mining rights and wanted access to process the gold. In 1974 I was involved in building a new swing bridge which was made up of aluminium panels six feet by three feet wide. It was a challenging project with the river roaring below. It hadn’t been up long when a big flood ripped out the large panels leaving the abutments and ropes,” he said.
It’s very hard to picture the gorge in full flood, the last time was just a couple of years ago when the water came up to the grass by my right hand.
What a difference between the muddy floodwater and the glacial blue we saw.
In some ways the bridge looks more impressive from the other side because you look up at it.
A little way back from the bridge is a picnic area, decorated with this unexpected bevy of beauties, heading straight for the ‘one careful owner’ collection for the year.
The hands down favourite was of course the truck.
“Foliage” I hear you cry, you connoisseurs of the ‘one careful owner’ brigade. Well dear reader as you now well know, New Zealand has been thin on the ground providing for this blog subject. I mean look at the ‘egg events’ crossing the Pacific when eggs were hard to come buy, make hay and all that..... In this lady's defence I am quick to point out and in my newly formed appreciation of all things lichenology, there are good formations to be seen. But, at the end of the day, well New Years Eve in fact, it will be down to our esteemed senior judge, Big Bear Millard and guest judges picked at random from the unsuspecting in the Opua Cruising Club.
For now I can tell you there was special mention, by himself, for the crankshaft below and the cheeky bit of moss on the engine block........ we’ll just have to wait and see.
For now time to cross the bridge once more.
ALL IN ALL SUCH A GOOD EXPERIENCE, NOT TO BE MISSED