Cromwell or is that Countwell

Leaving Kinloch as the clouds started to lift the drive back along the lake offered a better view of the mountains than the drive in. It really is a stunning place. Not hard to work out the attraction for all the tourists coming here, there are just too many for me. I know I’m one of the thousands of tourists but feel it’s almost overkill in places like Queenstown.


People we had met along the way talked about the freedom camp at Lowburn (#8674) alongside Lake Dunstan it’s about 4kms North of the town of Cromwell on State highway 8. It was easy to find with a number of vehicles already parked there but it’s a large area with plenty of space so we had no problem finding a good spot.


The travel directory talks about two camps being here the first an L shaped area just before the main area but this is now closed with prominent signs stating no freedom camping so just the one spot.


It was out with the camera on our arrival getting photos of the mountains on both sides of the lake. Central Otago is a place that we could consider living it’s so pretty with so much to offer and if you stay away from Queenstown house prices are still reasonable but in reality it would be too cold in winter for the two of us and family are all in Auckland


Sunday mornings in Cromwell there is a Farmers Market so we thought with the early bird catching the worm we would be there for the opening at 9am to grab the best stuff before things sold out.

So it was an early morning bike ride along the lake towards the town. We kept stopping to admire the views and take photos as the light shone through the trees, reflected off the lake and highlighted the mountains it was just a fantastic start to the morning.


The market is held in the Heritage Precinct a courtyard in the middle of the buildings. Interestingly all the buildings in this area are reproductions of the original buildings constructed as part of the project when the Clyde dam was built flooding the original part of Cromwell. It still looks historic and if you didn’t know you would probably be fooled quite easily.

The market had around 20 stalls offering a wide range of products although not all made or grown in the area with us purchasing some Stewart Island salmon (delicious). As we where on our bikes we had to be a little cautious with the amount we purchased and it was hard to know when to stop we did however do our bit to support the local economy.

On top of the Salmon we also purchased some of the local lamb, pork, cheese, bread  and stopped for coffee. I thought we did quite well.


The rebuild of the heritage precinct includes a number of buildings alongside the lakefront and with the market in full swing there was a very festive atmosphere that made walking around all the more enjoyable especially when there aren’t the hordes of people that you find at Queenstown.


Tucked away in the precinct are a number of cottage gardens that someone or some people have obviously spent a lot of time and effort on to make them as pretty as they are. Also tucked away off the main route is the replica bakery as well as the Lilliput Library a great idea for book exchange that I have noticed around the country.


We returned to the Motorhome with all of our goodies from the market had a bite to eat for lunch and then set off back towards the town for another bike ride with the intention of riding beyond the town to Bannochburn following the trail alongside the lake.

The path alongside the lake is mostly smooth and flat but is infested with rocks that appear in awkward places it’s not an issue on my bike but as Sarah’s bike is more of a road going bike she has to be a little careful otherwise it’s quite easy to loose your balance when hitting a well placed rock. But with a glorious day there was no need to hurry it was just a gentle ride to enjoy the views.


As we again approached the historic precinct we came across these two churches that would have stood on top of the hill before the dam was built the Stone Temple as it is now called is in private hands, has been fully restored and is available to rent either for accommodation or for weddings etc. The Catholic Church below is still in use every Sunday.


To really give the feel of age there are a number of ruins left on the waters edge including the old school hall that is now used as a Pentanque court twice a week with everyone welcome to play. It was good to see a number of people there taking advantage of the facility.


It’s hard not to notice all the people fishing in this area and while we where talking to one of the locals near the wharf we met these two lads who had caught a very nice trout from the jetty. According to the lady we where speaking to it’s only the kids who catch the trout she said they catch them and the adults don’t since we haven’t tried fishing here I have been unable to test this theory.


Not far beyond Cromwell as you head towards Bannockburn the bike trail changes from a nice level track to a bit more of an uphill downhill ride with the track also changing from rocks to being quite sandy in places. It became very hard for Sarah to negotiate the track with her road tyres and after a couple of kms we decided to head back before reaching our destination when we reached an almost shear cliff face (read steep downhill and sharp uphill). The track is also covered at the sides with wild thyme giving a really nice smell and Californian poppies giving a burst of colour.


That evening we spent happy hour with our neighbours on either side Aileen and Stewart who are on an extended trip around New Zealand in their Hymer that they purchased new when they lived in England. With a drop down bed above the two front seats it’s amazingly spacious despite only being 6 metres long. They say that they have looked long and hard for a replacement but have been unable to find something that lives up to this, it’s not hard to see why.

Also joining us where Roland and Gloria in their Autotrail that they only picked up 10 weeks ago. it’s such a small world with Roland and Stewart having worked together some 30 years ago.


Later that evening I went for a walk around the camp to see how full it was as we had heard a number of vans arrive. I counted over 80 vans in the campground with the Warbirds Over Wanaka show only a few days away you could imagine that it will only get fuller as people arrive in the area for the show.


The next morning with tanks full it was off to the dump station early where we met two couples ahead of us who had been staying at the Rotary Glen NZMCA camp (#8675). So with them leaving we thought maybe we can be one of the lucky 10 allowed to stay each night and headed back to check it out. Sure enough there where only 8 vans in the camp so we checked in.

It’s always nice when you meet up with people that you have met on the road and although Peter and Tracey where just leaving the camp we caught up with a cup of coffee and the news from each of us since we had last seen each other in October at the annual Dethleffs gathering.

It was also nice to catch up with Steve and Fiona who we had met during our time in Gore who feature in the latest Motorhome Destinations magazine with an article on their lifestyle.


Heading out of the back of the camp for a stroll to the shops after parking we came across this hillside. I am amazed that it hadn’t collapsed with all the rabbit burrows that had been dug into the side of the hill. For those that haven’t been to Rotary Glen it is located on the 4 Barrels walkway that leads right through the camp from the vineyards above and surrounding the camp. A number of locals appear to use this walkway judging from the number of people walking past during the evening.


Back from the walk we jumped back on our bikes to head up the lake past our original camp at Lowburn where we crossed the 45th Parallel again but the third time where there is some sort of marker to tell you that you have crossed it. From here there is also a walkway that scales the hills behind the lake. It looks almost vertical but we did spot a couple of people almost at the summit.


That evening the sun treated us to a spectacular display firstly lighting up the top of the mountains behind us while everything else was in shadow. Then illuminating some really unusual cloud formations. Finally setting behind the van in a blaze of orange.

But the real fun and games came that evening… My earlier photo shows the camp full sign and clearly states a limit of 10 vans at anyone time as this is all the resource consent allows. Returning from our bike ride we noticed a caravan entering the camp despite the camp full sign they claimed to have called the camp custodian who said it was all OK not satisfied with their explanation I phoned him myself to discover that they had told him it looked like someone was leaving, This did not happen so they made 11.


Later that evening another 3 winged members, two of whom had sat outside the gate waiting for darkness the second joining his friend who should have known better arrived. I am annoyed that people are breaking the rules especially when so many people had arrived at the gate and driven away clearly aware of the limit I vented my frustrations on the NZMCA Facebook page at the time of writing less than 24 hours later it’s had over 210 comments from fellow members who are as annoyed as I was. From the comments on the Facebook page from other members it’s obvious this is not the first time in fact it sounds like a regular occurrence.

This morning as we prepared to leave one of the people who had broken the rules was busy waving someone else in even though there where still 11 vans there telling them don’t worry there is plenty of space. There might be plenty of space but you are breaking the resource consent rules and the camp will be lost because of ignorant people like you.

After we had left the camp we ran into another of the campers who was there last night and like us he was also annoyed at the situation but neither of us wants to be the police confronting the members who should know better.

Enough said.
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