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Published: 25 March 2022

By Andy Ross

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The Corriedale sheep

North Canterbury is unlike the Canterbury Plains, those flat miles of farmland that surround Christchurch. 

This area of the South Island is hilly and the drive towards Lewis Pass snakes through the hills, past tiny scatterings of houses strung along the roadside, and alongside farms and pastures, crossing rivers and streams until, suddenly, swooping through a gap in the hills at Weka Pass, Waikari slips into view. This is the terminus of the railroad, nowadays a vintage steam railway, and, close-by, is a site of ancient Maori rock paintings. It is also the home of a statue to the Corriedale Sheep, a cross-breed that was developed in New Zealand to suit the climate and pasture as well as to provide both wool and meat. If you are interested in sheep breeds, and the history of this particular one, have a look at this website.

This journey back to Greymouth - Mawhera in Maori (pronounced Ma-fer-a) - is stunning; it took about seven hours because we kept stopping to gawp at the view. The route through the pass is alongside rivers for much of the way as they cut through the mountains and what mountains they are! Huge and imposing, grandiose and magnificent. As if that were not enough there are also opportunities to stop for coffee and cake, and a small museum with a working stamp mill that was used to crush rock for gold mining. This will probably become our preferred way to get across to the interior of the South Islands even though it is much longer.