Leaving the madness that was Mt. Cook we drove towards the Ohau Canal POP (#8107) with the view to spending the night but having missed it on the initial drive past we ended up at the bottom of the gully next to the power station, Asking a couple of people who we found fishing at the power station who pointed us back up the road. The spot is obvious coming up the road as you can see all the campers parked next to the canal with their rods out but they are hidden by the hill coming the way we did or that’s my excuse and i’m sticking to it. With campers parked end on end with no space apparent for our camper we moved on.
Consulting the directory we noticed two DOC camps further up the road at Lake Ohau setting off in search of these we reached the first just before the Ohau village but access to the camp looked difficult for the camper so we decided to carry on to the second spot. After a few kms on gravel road some of which was very narrow (just as well it’s a quiet road) we reached the Round Bush Reserve a small camp with payment by donation into an honesty box. We found a park right on the waters edge commenting to each other that this is what the real NZ is, remote, waterfront and beautiful.
With the camper parked up it was off for a wander to explore the area around the campsite. It was so sad to see the larger rocks along the shoreline covered in Dydimo this invasive weed is like sludge completely spoiling the pristine look in areas with larger rocks. The camp itself however is what the high country is all about with hills surrounding you stony streams and tussock grass a great spot.
Taking advantage of all the water freely available I decided to wash the van as it was looking really dusty and dirty from the gravel roads, even though I knew we would be driving back on gravel to the main road it just had to be done. The van looked so much better afterwards.
Waking the following morning to one of the most spectacular sun rises I have seen on this trip it was again click, click, click on the camera to try and best capture the moment. Regretfully red sky in the morning shepherds warning proved the case with the wind rising and the rain clouds closing in. As the driveway into the camp is a steep gravel road with difficult turning at the entrance we did not want to get stuck as we have once before on a similar road so we made the decision to leave.
Before leaving we went for a walk along the road reaching the ford crossing with the crystal clear water racing across the road it was very picturesque. Walking back to the camp we went to see the building Sarah had spotted from the lake shore the day before and found this wonderful hut, whilst it was all closed up you could imagine if you got stuck in winter it would be a great place to hide from the elements.
As we drove away from the camp Sarah insisted that I stop and inspect one of the signs we had seen along the roadside as I was 100% certain that they stated no camping. Another large mouthful of humble pie to be swallowed as the signage allows for 3 nights freedom camping as long as you are self contained. There where a number of these areas scattered along the lakeside, maybe if I had read the signage better on the way in we might have stayed at one of these places instead but the whole area is well worth a visit.
Not far along the road once you have left the lake front you reach the plaque commemorating the “Spade Line” a boundary between two districts that was dug by hand. Although the sign tells you where the line is neither of us could see it, but an interesting stop along the way.
Onwards to the Benmore dam for some spectacular views and a bite to eat for lunch. It’s an easy drive across the top of the dam but there is still that moment of irrational fear as you drive across what happens if…….
There are camps everywhere along both sides of the lake below Benmore with masses of caravans most surrounded by green shade cloth where people have claimed their spot for the summer. You can buy a season pass for $330 that runs from September to April apparently on the day the season opens there is this mad rush with people driving to claim their spots. As I reckon we saw over 1000 caravans in the multiple camps it would be an amazing sight on the roads opening day!
We stopped on the way towards Kurow to inspect the irrigation system as well as to have a quick look at the graveyard but mostly so Sarah could pick some of the sweet peas that where growing in abundance on the side of the road and this place had a huge stopping area.
We spent the night at the NZMCA camp in Waimate (#8209) for some strange reason I took almost no photos during our time there. We did however go for a bike ride into town and had a look at the memorial gardens, well worth the visit. The camp itself would be one of the nicest we have stayed at with almost park like grounds, close to the dump station and water on site. We would have stayed longer but had arranged to spend the next couple of nights with my mums cousin Jon who lives just out of Timaru.
Arriving at Jon’s place before he got home from work he had told us just to park up on the front lawn and make ourselves at home which we duly did finding a great spot close to the house but sheltered among some of his many trees. Once settled we set off across the road to find the river passing the beehives we crossed through one field of turnips to come across more blackberries although these weren’t as ripe as others that we have found. The river was more of a stream but apparently does become a raging torrent sometimes. After a quick look it was back to Jon’s place with a quick stop next door to inspect the old Bedford truck with the keys in the ignition security is maybe not an issue around here.
When we first met Jon back in around 1990 he was a meat and three veg man provided the three veg where all potatoes as he did not eat greens. That’s one of the things that has always stuck in our minds so we where absolutely stunned to arrive for the first time at his house to discover the garden with green vegetables growing and unless Jon had changed from his confirmed bachelor ways this was unheard of. Turns out he has changed his ways with cabbage even on the homegrown menu together with beetroot, garlic, onions, tomatoes, chillies, carrots, berries of every description and of course potatoes.
Jon has done all the renovations to the house himself restoring a 1902 villa and has done a magnificent job creating a warm friendly house that now has extensive plantings and over two years of firewood all chopped ready to go.
Once Jon got home from work he came down to the van with Boy (his dog) and we had a very pleasant evening with a few wines and chicken kebabs for dinner cooked on our BBQ as semi payment for having us stay. I think Boy has taken a real liking to Sarah and in return she has taken a shine to boy as have I. There may be a dog napping when we leave!
Tomorrow Jon has promised to show us the highlights of Timaru that cannot be accessed in our camper but more about that on the next post.