New Zealand: High Moutain Pass

Written by Harold McNeill on January 31st, 2012. Posted in Travelogue


This shot provides a view of the road on the opposite side of the valley as we proceed around a band. In many places the road clings to the cliff anywhere from 500 to 2000 feet above the Shotover River.  Link here for full set of photos.

To the Shotover River Gold Mines

In Queenstown Lynn and I booked for a trip to the Shotover River. This was listed as a “Jet Boat River Ride” but, as it turned out, the real adrenaline rush was the one hour and fifteen minute four wheel drive to reach the river launch site.
For the trip our driver and guide, Craig, a young man who has made this trip dozens of times, was one of those people that truly make a trip special.

I managed to snag the “shot-gun” seat but fifteen minutes after leaving the secondary for the gravel mountain road I was not so sure it was the seat I wanted. Lynn was right behind me in a single seat and if she had a choice I am sure she would have abandoned the trip.

Although I took dozens of pictures (it kept my mind off the drop) it was hard to capture this road in two dimension. I wish I had used the video feature on my camera.

As we wound our way into the moutains we climbed from 500 to 2000 feet on a single lane gravel road that was barely wide enough to negotiate with our four wheel drive bus. In many areas Lynn and I were on the cliff side and you could not see the road below our window. The river would be our first stop if the side suddenly caved away or the driver made a misstep.

You must also remember this is a two way regulard NZ highway (see the road sign photo) with the usual rules – speed 80 km – you’ve got to be kidding. If you meet another vehicle, in most places you cannot pass as the road is only one narrow lane, therefore one vehicle must back up until you reach a section that will allow the pass. As you pass, one vehicle pulls to the cliff edge and the other squeezes by on the cliff side.

Anyone, even a new driver, can take to this road and we heard that on a few occasions drivers simply abandoned the trip as it would take (I am sure) nerves of steel or the fearlessness of youth) to actually drive on this road.

The road continues for what seems forever until we finally wind down into a valley to catch the jet boat for a further ride up the river. The boat ride at high speeds through screaming turns seems positively tame compared to the road trip. On the river we pass the location of the river flood scene in the “Lord of the Rings” and do several high speed 360 degree turns along the route.

Returning from the jet boat, Lynn and I seriously considered catching a “chopper” ride out as it provides regular service for those bus riders who might choose an alternative route out but opted for the bus as we did not want to bail on Craig. Several people from our bus waited for the chopper.

Not wanting to be a seat hog, I checked to see if anyone else might wish to ride shotgun but there were no takers.

Lynn and a couple of the passengers asked me not to talk to the driver (a nervous reaction on my part) as he always choose to look at me when he answered and I suppose they figured he should be watching the road.

Craig tells me that for years he has wanted to become a pilot and while I encouraged him to live his dream, I cannot imagine how flying would provide any greater thrill than taking this bus through that mountain road several times a week.

When we finally reached the paved road the muscles in my legs ached after compressing the floorboards for over an hour.

Lynn was still in a state of shock but I suspect she will now consider a normal paved mountain pass switchback road, like those in Canada, to be rather mundane. I also think she might even consider a parchute jump to be OK as it would be over in less than five minutes.

Shotover River
Queenstown, NZ


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  • Mike Fedorowich

    September 1, 2023 |

    I have gone through the above noted text and have found it quite informative.
    I am a former member with several law enforcement agencies from across Canada.
    I worked in the First Nations service under the authority of the RCMP with the over sight of the OPP. My law enforcement service was conducted under the authority of the Nishnawbe – Aski Police Service in North West Ontario the Louis Bull Police Sevice in Hobbema AB, the Kitasoo Xaixais Police Service in Northern in side passage on Swindle Island, the Lac Suel Police Service North West Ontario and the Vancouver Transit Authority Sky Train Police Service. I’m presently dealing with an RCMP member for falsifying a report against me for a road rage event. Court case is finished and the charge was dropped but I have an on going complaint with the member and have forwarded to the WATCH DOGS IN OTTAWA FOR the RCMP review and consideration. I believe the said officer is in violation of his oath of office and should be held accountable for falsifying his RTCC all the while dragging me through the court system here in Nanaimo. RCMP continue to stonewall the appeal but Ottawa and the crowns office are still looking into the matter. if your able and find the time or the interest in this very brief introduction, I would very much like to speak with you and would be grateful to hear any wisdom that may come across from your end. I served with First Nations Police Services for ten years in isolation and six years with Transit Police out of New West Minster. I do value and appreciate any time you could spare to chat for a bit on this particular subject matter. Respectfully with out anger but an open mind, Mike Fedorowich Nanaimo BC 250 667 0060

  • Harold McNeill

    February 28, 2022 |

    Hi Robert, I do remember some of those folks from my early years in Cold Lake (Hazel was my aunt and our family spent many fond times with Uncle Melvin, Aunt Hazel and Family. I knew Lawrence and Adrian. Having read a half dozen accounts it is clear their were many false narratives and, perhaps, a few truths along the way. I tried my best to provide an even account from what I read. Cheers, Harold. (email:

  • Robert Martineau

    February 25, 2022 |

    Its been a long time since any post here, but its worth a shot. My Grandfather was Hazel Wheelers brother Lawrence, and son to Maggie and Adrien. Maggie Martineau (nee Delaney) is my great grandmother. The books and articles to date are based on the white mans viewpoint and the real story as passed down by the Elders in my family is much more nefarious. Some of the white men were providing food for the Indians in exchange for sexual favors performed by the Squaws. Maggie was the product of one of those encounters. Although I am extremely proud of my family and family name, I am ashamed about this part of it.

  • Julue

    January 28, 2022 |

    Good morning Harold!
    Gosh darn it, you are such a good writer. I hope you have been writing a book about your life. It could be turned into a movie.
    Thanks for this edition to your blog.
    I pray that Canadians will keep their cool this weekend and next week in Ottawa. How do you see our PM handling it? He has to do something and quick!
    Xo Julie

  • Herb Craig

    December 14, 2021 |

    As always awesome job Harold. It seems whatever you do in life the end result is always the same professional, accurate, inclusive and entertaining. You have always been a class act and a great fellow policeman to work with. We had some awesome times together my friend. I will always hold you close as a true friend. Keep up the good work. Hope to see you this summer.
    Warm regards
    Herb Craig

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Hi Dorthy, So glad you found those stories and, yes, they hold many fond memories. Thanks to social media and the blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with many friends from back in the day. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Well, well. Pleased to see your name pop up. I’m in regular contact via FB with many ‘kids’ from back in our HS days (Guy, Dawna, Shirley and others). Also, a lot of Cold Lake friends through FB. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Oh, that is many years back and glad you found the story. I don’t have any recall of others in my class other than the Murphy sisters on whose farm my Dad and Mom worked.

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Pleased to hear from you Howie and trust all is going well. As with you, I have a couple of sad stories of times in my police career when I crossed paths with Ross Barrington Elworthy. Just haven’t had the time to write those stories.

  • Howie Siegel

    November 25, 2021 |

    My only fight at Pagliacci’s was a late Sunday night in 1980 (?) He ripped the towel machine off the bathroom wall which brought me running. He came after me, I grabbed a chair and cracked him on the head which split his skull and dropped him. I worried about the police finding him on the floor. I had just arrived from Lasqueti Island and wasn’t convinced the police were my friends. I dragged him out to Broad and Fort and left him on the sidewalk, called the cops. They picked him up and he never saw freedom again (as far as I know). I found out it was Ross Elworthy.