The 'wild' New Zealand view that gob-smacked author Bruce Ansley

Wild Roads - a New Zealand journey along plenty of history and character.
Robert Charles/Fairfax NZ

Wild Roads - a New Zealand journey along plenty of history and character.

Bruce Ansley says it is the most spectacular road he has ever driven on in New Zealand.

It's a route that takes the driver from Kurow in the central South Island to a place called Dog Kennel Corner, so named because dogs used to be stationed there to patrol the boundary between two high country sheep runs.

"I knew a lot of the history of the area, but I'd never driven it," Ansley recalls.

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"So I decided to change that. We drove up this valley, the road got narrower and narrower, we passed a deserted little town, then we even drove through what appeared to be a farmer's back yard.

"Then we climbed through a creek and reached the top of Hakataramea Pass - and we were presented with the best view of Mt Cook I have ever seen."

All is described in vivid detail in a new book just published by Waiheke Island-based Ansley, who is one of New Zealand's most well-known authors. The book is Wild Roads, which showcases 60 of our country's wildest motoring routes, each article featuring images from photographers from all over New Zealand. 

Ansley is one of those people who can tell a great yarn, and that's what makes Wild Roads an excellent read. Here's an extract from his chapter on that drive along the so-called Haka Highway:

"The mountains on either side grow closer. They squeeze. We pop out, onto a smooth saddle between the ranges. The Hakataramea Pass!

"And a gate: 'Keep shut at all times'. In other words, close the bloody gate and don't be distracted by the most spectacular view in New Zealand, the South Pacific, possibly at that moment the whole world. It is so sharp, so huge, it seems to penetrate your eyes."

Doesn't that just make you want to go there? Trouble is, the same applies to all 60 of the wild roads described in the book.

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As Ansley says, Wild Roads is not a guide, or a history. It is a story of New Zealand roads and, through them, other stories which show we're a nation of contrasts. The roads have been chosen not necessarily because they are wild - but because they are wildly beautiful, or lonely, or interesting.

Varied, too. Ansley's selection includes Cook Strait ("the best drive you can have without driving"), and Auckland's Karangahape Road ("It's reputation wraps it like a wizard's cloak") as well as plenty of the more traditional wild roads throughout New Zealand.

A feature of the new publication is a selection of magnificent photographs. PHOTO: ROBERT CHARLES/FAIRFAX NZ

Ansley has lumped his 60 wild roads into eight categories - High Roads which take in the likes of the the Rimutakas Road, Crown Range and the Takaka Hill; Long and Winding Roads which include the Kaikoura Coast, Homer Tunnel and Mangatupoto to Stratford; Roads to Somewhere such as Westport to the Town That Never Was, Baring Head, and the Opito Road; and By-Roads such as Rawene to Ahipara, the Marokopa Expressway, and Beaumont to Balclutha.

Odd Roads includes Cook Strait and the Old Christchurch Road; Feral Roads includes the Old Dunstan Road, Skippers Canyon and Tophouse Road; Slow Roads features the likes of Raetihi to Whanganui, Molesworth and the Coromandel Coast; and Low Roads includes the Buller Gorge, Manawatu Gorge and - maybe appropriately - Karangahape Road.

Author Bruce Ansley, who has written a new book detailing 60 of New Zealand's wildest roads. PHOTO: FAIRFAX NZ

Despite the fact there are 60 wild roads described in this latest publication, Bruce Ansley reckons there's already a Wild Roads 2 waiting in the background.

"As I travel around New Zealand, everyone I talk to seems to offer up another wild road to drive," he says.

"And the good news is that each has a story attached. So that hasn't changed - in fact the only thing that has changed is that the road signs have got a lot more serious."

Wild Roads: A New Zealand Journey will be released on October 1. It will carry a retail price of $50.

* Have you got your own favourite wild road? Let us know what and where it is, and why.

 - Stuff


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