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Stage 459 – Lake Station Airport to Wairau River Crossing

Stage 459 is the biggest of what’s left on South Island. By the time you get to halfway on this stage, it will literally be downhill all the way to Picton at the end of the South Island leg of New Zealand. The bad news, however, for there’s usually bad news somewhere along the way, is that the first fourteen miles of this stage climb nearly a thousand feet so you’ve got to earn that run in to the east coast.

The rollout is calm as the St Arnaud-Kawatiri Highway (Route 63) heads south east alongside the Buller River, its compatriot now for the last few stages. There’s a left/right wiggle in the road after a mile where the road crosses Holmstead Creek as it’s about to flow into the river then it’s straight for a couple of miles more as the road starts a steady climb past Nelson Lakes Airport.

There’s another water crossing, this time of Speargrass Creek, a tributary of the Buller River, further up the hill at four miles before the road runs straight all the way to six miles, and that’s where things get tasty. Having gained two hundred feet in six miles, the road now gains five hundred feet in two miles, crossing the Buller River in the process, never to be seen again because it flows from its source at Lake Rotoiti just two miles to the south.

The climb continues, albeit at a much reduced gradient, through Saint Arnaud at nine miles before the road becomes lumpy flat as it passes the Woodsman’s Den on the way out of town. At ten miles, the highway runs very close to Black Valley Stream which has meandered its way down to the roadside before the climbing starts all over again. The road rises past the junction of the Korere-Tophouse road at eleven miles before finally reaching the summit at the border between the Tasman and Border districts fourteen miles. With almost two thousand feet of elevation on the clock and only three more stages to Picton after this one, it’s time for some fun.

The start of the descent takes Route 63 down to the very wide Wairau River at sixteen miles: the road and the river are heading north east between mountains north and south, and it will remain that way all the way to the coast. As the descent continues, the road runs ever closer to the water and the two run side by side to the finish just a couple of miles from the Wash Bridge where the road crosses over the river.

Distance: 22 miles / 35 kilometres

Ascent: 1286 feet / 392 metres

RGT Magic Road: APaPPYJxIgyK

Total distance: 21.49 mi
Max elevation: 1970 ft
Min elevation: 916 ft
Total climbing: 1288 ft
Total descent: -730 ft

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