Day 168, January 23rd
Starting an hour or so outside of Blenheim we cruise the rest of the way to township and pass through without stopping. We are headed toward the Port Underwood coastal drive following a GPS point to get to it. We stop immediately before the gravel road begins its steep curvy ascent into the headlands poking out into the sounds. There is a nice little beach side campsite that we stop to rest few a little while at. Nearby there is a mobile cafe so we wander over and pick up some coffee for the road. Then we begin! We have about twenty kilometers to the GPS mark we are heading toward and the road gets interesting as soon as we turn up the aforementioned steep road. It’s nothing the Pinata can’t handle! Just pop it into 2nd gear and cruise up the hill. Jonathan doesn’t like sitting for long periods of time in the lower gears, but sometimes it’s inevitable. The headland has lovely bush surrounding the road as you climb up, the downside being that there are no views! When the first pocket view opens up we both gasp, the sight is beautiful blue water with green islands and headlands in front of us!
The low level clouds only add intrigue to the view in front of us! If only the bush had been chopped down a bit shorter! We turn down from the first headland and end up at a pebble beach with a grassy knoll.
As we climb the next few headlands we have view after view and sight after sight. All the picturesque landscapes are only visible through pockets of bush, but when we do catch a glimpse we can’t take our eyes off it. It’s a good thing there were so few cars on this little gravel road because Jonathan kept hopping out and running around in the brush trying to get the perfect picture!
When we finally reach the GPS marker on our route we pull out the guide book and read about the drive we are about to start. Turns out by the time we had reached the marker we had already driven halfway and passed all the hikes in the area. Oops! Guess we’ll have to do this drive a second time in the future. After using the 2nd gear so much, for both limiting speed going down hills and maintaining speed going uphill Amelia noticed an odd smell. We’re very sensitve to odd smells and sounds, hmm, wonder why. It smells like the transmission is getting a little hot, so Jonathan adjusts his driving accordingly. Instead of speeding down hills in 2nd, he pops it into neutral and relies on brakes to keep the speed down. It’s working great until Amelia comments that something smells, but a different smell this time (she’s got the nose of a blood hound!). She pokes her head out the window and exclaims “The tires are smoking!” Uh oh! Quickly, Jonathan pulls the car over onto the side of the road. Managing to position the vehicle in the shade. Amelia hops out of the van, fire extinguisher at the ready! There’s no fire, only smoke, it’s apparent that the brake pads got too hot and they are still relatively new, so they are a little more susceptible to overheating. We “calmly” sit on the side of the road waiting for the pads to cool down. At least we got a few more nice pictures!
After letting the pads cool for an hour, we slowly drive the rest of the way into Picton and stop for lunch, allowing the pads to cool further. After lunch we head down to Blenheim and talk to a brake specialist who assures us that because the brake pads were new they should be alright, but to keep an eye on them for the next couple hundred kilometers. If it starts feeling odd then we’ll need to replace them again. At least we don’t have to replace them yet!