My first experience of this revered stretch of our country was in late 1949 when the Dicks and Dickettes moved from Auckland to Dunedin, with Father Dick piloting a huge Wolseley limousine that had been imported for a proposed royal tour in the mid-thirties that never eventuated.
We’d crossed from Wellington (with the Wolseley as deck cargo) on the slow old, lop-sided Tamahine.
After a couple of days in Picton with my uncle and aunt we headed down the coast with my father expressing some fear and trepidation at the journey ahead, and my mother pale and silent with worry; the road was little more than a track and had a fearsome reputation.
What I remember most about that trip is the constant changing of gears as father negotiated steep hills and tight bends on a narrow gravel road that seemed to be never ending.
I have a fleeting memory of Kaikōura as a little, scattered, gritty bleak settlement devoid of any pleasures.
The highlight of the journey was the tunnels …“Dad, toot the horn!” – TOOT, TOOT, TOOT!
In the late fifties, when I started wearing long trousers, was shaving, and owned my own car, my first two expeditions to the North Island from Brighton were via the ferries from Lyttelton – the famous overnight service, with a cup of tea at 5.00am brought into your cabin by a person in a stiff white uniform!