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Letters from New Zealand (Part 4)

Philip and Yvonne Haslam are long time Twyford Moors customers having had their XK120 restored by us over ten years ago. Since then they have taken their trusty Jaguar on many trips around the world. Here's an update from their latest journey to New Zealand.


Jaguar XK120 fully restored by Twyford Moors"So, it's the home straight now. Three and a half weeks, and just 1 to go.

When we left you, we were surging south. The countryside is changing drastically,  just as we had been told. Hills were becoming vast mountains, and the valleys between them narrowing, creating what is known as Fjiordland. The Southern Alps are gigantic, with peaks completely snow covered,  which,  contrasting with blue lakes, produce picture postcard images.

If anything, the roads are getting quieter and we seem to drive for hours on end without seeing anybody. Incidentally we've noticed a strange habit that the highways authorities have when warning you that there is a dearth of fuel stations ahead. About 25 kms out of town, you suddenly come across a sign announcing that there is no fuel ahead for 150 kms. On more than one occasion we have had to retrace our steps, begging the obvious question as to why the signs can't be on the town boundaries  !

Wrong Way New ZealandWhen Captain James Cook arrived in New Zealand in 1769, it appears that one of his first tasks was to name everything in sight. It seems that he started out with the really easy ones, like 'The Cook Straits', but then appeared to experience extreme mood swings when it came to passing  judgement on certain other landmarks. We've come across ' Foul Wind Point' ( named, presumably after having consumed a dodgy curry ), Measly Beach, Snuffle Nose, ( or, as he said at the time, Snuffle Dose' ), ; Farewell Spit; Shag Point ( from which we deduce that he was probably a smoker ? ); a range of mountains that are delightfully  called 'The Remarkables'; 'Flat Bay ' ( where he was probably considering renting an apartment); 'Gropers Bay' ( just who was on that ship with him ?);, and, possibly the best of all , when he was lost in Te Anau ,  the wonderfully titled 'Wong  Way' ( and if you are inclined not to believe me, see one of the photos !).

All indications had been that the south of South Island was to be something special  -  and it certainly has lived up to expectations. We seem to have moved up a gear in our activities too. I mentioned before about the Shotover Canyon Jet boats, but it deserves another mention. These boats hold just a dozen people,  and are powered by two 5.8litre V8 engines, capable of 660bhp, and travel at 55mph, rocketing  us through the fast flowing, steep, rock sided canyons at death defying angles. The pilots are highly skilled and thrive on frightening the passengers to death by executing 360 degree turns, missing rocks by inches, and, with a draft of just 4 inches, skimming underwater obstacles by fractions. It was exilleration of the highest order. Mrs H was seriously impressed !

Jaguar XK120 restorationMilford Sound, in the heart of Fjiordland was as stunning as billed, and maybe more so as our boat intercepted a school of dolphins which swam alongside us, for 40 mins,   leaping 3 feet out of the water. The vast Fjiordland is so impressive with the vertiginous mountainsides and depths of 250 metres, that at times it became quite difficult to suppress the desire to yodel.

We have been variously staying in hotels, motels, and have taken our first tentative steps into using Air BnB - with great results. We have stayed in some remarkable homes, and with always such welcoming hosts. None more so than at Invercargill where we stayed with Ross and Christine in their beautiful home on the outskirts of town. A huge added bonus for me was that Ross owned an Alfa , which he has restored lovingly over 15 years. Following a drive around in each others cars, we were able to yarn for hours about ' things motoring ', and, even better, the following morning  Ross took us to meet David Brown,  who runs a superb workshop,  building tool room copies of XKSS's and GT40's. 
We were really fortunate to see an almost completed XKSS  ( following an 18 month build), destined for a client in New York. David literally makes every piece in house, and, having acquired full detailed drawings for the car, has ensured that his cars are built to painstaking detail. It was a privilege to meet him and be shown through the whole manufacturing and assembly process.

The Worlds Fastest IndianThen Ross whisked us off to see Burt Monroe's ' Fastest Indian ' bike ( from the film of the same name - if you haven't seen it - it's an absolute must ). Just before Burt died, he passed his bike to his close friend Norman Hayes. His bikes have then been on display in Hayes  ironmongery shop in the centre of town. What is so delightful is that the Indian, together with a fine collection of other bikes and cars, are just scattered around the shop, between concrete mixers and lawnmowers,  rather than in a stuffy museum. 

Wriggling up the east coast, following a brief visit to Bluff , the most southerly point of South Island  ( Yes, you've guessed it. Despite it having all the paraphernalia of a 'final' destination,  like signs pointing south and saying 'Last stop before Antarctica', it isn't. There's a lump of inaccessible rock somewhere else that actually is slightly further south. It's just that nobody has been able to get an ice cream vending machine there, so it's been ignored ! ), -phew, back to original sentence - we visited peaceful Curio  Beach , where I swam in the perishing Pacific Ocean,  with dolphins playfully surfing the waves with me, just 3 feet away. There apparently  is a petrified forest there too, but it was clearly frightened to death, as we never saw it at all.

Drove over Drybread  Road, Brassknocker Road and around Dog Kennel Corner yesterday !

Frazer Pit - New Zealands largest gold mineWhat a day we had last Thursday. Left Dunedin in skies so clear and so blue, over yet another 'Haslam Grade 2 ' coastal road alongside the Pacific.  Sometimes at beach level, the next moment 500 feet up, rendering  us speechless ( err, not quite, I'm  told !) . Turning inland the road took us up and up over the Otaga hills, until suddenly we were confronted by quite the most gigantic hole. ( almost large enough to drop all the North Island 'experts' into !) Investigation told us that it was the Frazer Pit - New Zealands largest gold mine ( see impressive photo).

The road rolled on in huge sweeping curves for km. after km. - the temperature soaring to an impressive 30 degrees. Sustenance was at hand in Ranfurly, ( apparently designated as the art deco centre of  South Island, but, if truth be told, only a shadow of Napier), in the form of a 'blood orange and cranberry  sorbet'. Fantastic. I'm applying for the Foolow  franchise.

Next stop on this roller coaster day was Mount Cook, ( there he goes again, naming things !) NZ'S highest mountain at 12,140 ft. Access to it is up the coast of Lake Pukaki, which is quite the most iridescent blue you can ever imagine. The whole trip up the valley was so exceptional that it's impossible to do it justice in words. So I'm not going to try  -  just go there yourselves,  and enjoy the photos.

Fully restored Jaguar XK120 DHCThe only negative on this remarkable day was when a coach driver told us that his passengers had asked him to drive twice round a car park, so that they could look at our car, and attempt to identify it. Best guess from one elderly lady was that it was a Studibaker.  I'm only just getting over it hours later.

So, thoughts about the trip. We've been asked many times which island we preferred  -  North or South, so it's been fascinating drawing some conclusions.

N has unrivalled Pacific coastlines, whilst S has the rumbustious Tasman Sea ; North has quiet smooth bays, whilst S has massive seas crashing on to rocky coastlines ; North has 90 Mile Beach, whilst S has amazing Milford Sound ; North has bustling Auckland and Wellington, whilst S is all calm and tranquil; Northern 'experts' can't sort batteries.  Southern ones can. North has the oh so beautiful Coromandel and Bay Of Islands, whilst S has its Alps and Fjiordland;  N seems to have more craft breweries, whilst S has the incomparable Sauvignons. N has fab caramel slice, but it was easily trumped by Glenorchys apple and plum cake. And so it goes on........... and, so, which one to choose ?

Why bother - just go to both of them as we did !

.........and the XK ?.......well, after 5113 miles, it is still just flying. It's done everything we asked of it - driven us in style, comfortably, quickly, noisily,  and, although it needed a new battery ( don't we all ? ), reliably. I've washed it,  cleaned it, and am just about to hand it over to Alastair,  as he has very kindly offered to pop it in a box, and send it off to its next destination. The land of the rising sun.

Sorry to have droned on for so long, but there's been stacks to see and do.

Phillip, and she who must be obeyed ( at every junction, at least ), Yvonne"

Jaguar XK120 drophead coupé restoration

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