After leaving Gabriels Gully the plan was to head towards Middlemarch were we could start or at least ride some of the Otago Rail Trail. However with both of the E Bikes almost flat and the sun not providing enough power to charge both bikes it was time to head somewhere we could connect to power.
At the end of State Highway 8 it was left for Milton right for Balclutha even though this was the opposite direction to our intended destination someone (I cannot remember who) had told me about the camp at Kaitangata so we headed there. On reflection maybe they had just mentioned the camp in passing because at first we could see no real reason to stay there other than the power. Although the backpackers Sarah spoke to thought it was good value compared to the DOC camps as it had good hot water showers a working kitchen @$12 per person it’s also cheaper. For us with power it was $15 each anymore than this and I think we would have driven on without staying.
Although we didn’t try them the camp office is also a Pizza Place with a number of people turning up at dinner time to collect their orders. They did smell good.
As soon as we had arrived I plugged the bikes in, after an hour or so there was enough of a charge to get out for a look see. Kaitangata is a small town, very much blink and you will miss it but it was a very important town in the 1800’s for coal mining. In 1879 there was a terrible accident at the mine with 34 people killed 5 of whom appeared from the memorial to be from the same family.
It’s still very much a coal town now with the smell of burning coal wafting over the camp later in the afternoon early evening in fact it got so strong we had to close all the vents to try to keep the small from overpowering us.
The town runs alongside one branch of the Clutha River after it splits into two at Balclutha following the road along the river we came across a number of whitebait stations. Some just sheds or ramshackle structures others appeared on a grander scale one on the other side of the river complete with a sky satellite dish. The photo was taken with my phone so the I couldn’t zoom in to get the shot but I am sure you get the idea.
The main street of the town is wide enough to be called a motorway but for most of the time as we cycled around there was almost no traffic on the road. The town has a number of empty or rundown looking buildings including the old Masonic Lodge in the photo. If you pass through here in April the walnuts would probably be ready to pick with the trees growing everywhere.
There is really only one store in town with that store serving as dairy/takeaways. We decided that we would sample the Blue Cod with some chips with the chips at $1 per scoop we ordered $2 worth thinking that maybe they where half or quarter scoops. It turned out there were so many chips we couldn’t eat them all. What’s more the chips are all made in store giving them that special “homemade” taste. with the Blue Cod @$4.60 a piece it was great value. Well worth a visit if you are in town.
One thing I do need to mention was the traffic noise that started just after 5am. Considering what a small sleepy town this is Sarah and I were almost searching for earplugs given the volume of traffic going past. It’s hard to know where everyone came from but we presume a large number were going to the meatworks on the other side of the river. As we had been well away from traffic noise the last few days it’s possible that we noticed it more than someone else might but it certainly woke us up.
We have been blessed with some terrific sunsets whilst we have been away and the sun setting over the Clutha river just outside the camp was another of those moments. So yet again it’s one of those places that has far more to offer than on first appearance and whilst I wouldn’t book my holiday here as a place to pass through for the night it was a good camp to stop at.
Looking at the travel directory we saw there was free overnight camping at the Wangaloa Domain (#8952) since this was only a few kms up the road we decided to go to investigate. It’s a gravel road for about 5kms but the road is in good condition with no ruts most unusual.
One problem we did have is the lack of signage there is one sign on the road that says Shortcut Rd and that’s it so had we not read the directory we would not have known to turn off here. Slightly further down the road we reached a crossroad with no signage whatsoever thankfully the phone had signal so a quick reference to Google Maps had us arriving at our destination. The directory also mentions the Golf Club and you can also see this from the crossroads but signage would certainly help. Maybe the locals have removed them to keep people like us away from their beautiful beach.
The Domain itself is rather rutted maybe from all the locals accessing the beach here with there vehicles. It’s also not that level but there are a couple of good spots to park up. with good views over the beach.
It’s an easy walk down to the beach at the Southern end of the Reserve through some steps in the gully. Once on the beach it’s soft white sand that stretches into the distance. It’s probably not much of a swimming beach as there are a large number of rocks covered in seaweed just out from the shore line but a very pretty place.
One thing we did find interesting was the number of what appeared to be burrows in the cliff. You can see from the second photo that these are well above any usual tide line so well protected from the sea but not really high enough for flying birds so we wondered if they might be penguin nests. The only problem with this theory is that penguin nests usually stink and these where odour free. I would love to hear an answer if someone knows what they are.
It was back along the beach to the Domain that we came across the collapsed structure that would have been similar to the Tepee styles that we had seen at the top and in the central South Island so the builder is maybe getting around?
Once back at the domain we decided to check out the old building in the corner. This would have once been a toilet but has long since had this removed so if you are coming to stay it’s very definitely self contained.
Had we not needed to connect to power for the night we would have loved to have stayed here it’s another of those place that typify what remote camping is all about in New Zealand. From here it’s onto Middlemarch to start the Otago Rail Trail. I know I said that in the last blog but in the end there was so much to say about these two places that I needed to leave the Rail Trail to it’s own blog.
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