Tourists seem to fall broadly into three categories. Firstly there are domestic tourists, many of whom are of the older generation leisurely travelling the country in their own car or motorhome – although if you read on, you’ll notice that there is a sub-category to this genre called ‘men who don’t listen to their wives’. They are generally considerate, move at a good speed, or pull over if holding up traffic.

Then there are the busloads who stop at pre-arranged places to view a waterfall, watch a seal or take a comfort stop and are then loaded back on board by an experienced tour guide and off they go again. No problem there either.

Scenery along the road to Jackson Bay

It’s the last faction, pairs or groups of mainly European freedom campers driving small, mostly silver, cars or small vans that is the most problematic. I’m generalising here but I saw enough incompetent, inconsiderate driving between Wanaka and Haast recently to last me a lifetime. Just a few examples of the wonderful motoring skills on display included overtaking on yellow lines, overtaking without indicating, holding up traffic, speeding on straights and crawling around corners, and driving aggressively when overtaken.

There’s a reason why Haast is a UNESCO world heritage area. The grandeur of its mountains, waterfalls, rivers, lakes, beaches and bush is simply outstanding. But our intention to stop at some of the many viewing spots along the highway was thwarted by our reluctance to find ourselves again behind one of the genius motorists who were treating the highway as if it were a private driveway.

Memorial to the pioneer settlers

By the time we arrived at Haast for a coffee stop I’d had enough and just wanted to reach our destination of Hokitika without delay. However, my husband, who was driving, had an equally strong desire to see Jackson Bay, and we turned left at the next intersection. I’m glad we did because the dramatic landscape, dense beech and podocarp bush and expansive views of wide rivers made the 51km drive along the mainly straight, sealed road to Jackson Bay a very pleasant experience.

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