Having left Waiuta we headed for the Reserve Camping Ground in the small town of Ahura having been recommended this place as a cheap place to stay with power, water and free use of the washing machine. Having misread the sign initially we thought it was only $15 for the night so really cheap but missed the part about extra people $10 each. Even so $25 for the night with 2 loads of washing done was still good value for money.
This camp is not in the Travel Directory but is on Campermate and does according to the locals attract a large number of tourists over the summer period as it’s so well priced but it was very empty the night we stayed.
That evening we headed across the road to the small local pub to grab a bottle of wine to go with dinner but it turns out that they don’t have a off licence. It would cost them around $3000 pa to have this licence and there simply isn’t enough business to justify the expense. So we sat down to have a glass of wine there and got chatting to Mandy the owner/manager. Turns out that they brought the hotel a year ago from the previous owners of 22 years.
As we where the only clients in the hotel we had a chance to have a really good chat to Mandy about the place she told us that when they brought the hotel it was very run down so they have spent a considerable amount of time (and money) bringing the hotel back up to standard. Mandy then took us for a tour of what they have done with the place.
Starting with what used to be the unused lounge bar Mandy and her husband John turned this into a dinning room for meals Friday, Saturday, Sunday nights. The rest of the week pub snacks are available across the bar (fish and chips etc) They also do takeaway meals so if you didn’t want to cook one night you could take the meal back to the motorhome.
They have done such a good job here it looks it really welcoming with Mandy telling me bookings are essential. Upstairs they have turned what were dreary old single bed rooms into really smart queen bed rooms that are more the standard of a good quality motel than a back country pub.
We all know how difficult it is these days to run a successful country pub. So it was great to visit such a nice place with both Sarah and I leaving the hotel thinking we would be really happy to find a place like this to stay with a really great host and good quality rooms to spend the night. 5 out of 5. If you do wish to visit the pub is closed Mondays and open every other day from 4pm till late.
It was a really quiet night at the Ahura camp that night even though it’s fairly close to the main road there was very little traffic noise. One thing that consistently amazes me about the South Island is how theft free these places seem to be with the best equipped kitchen of any camp we have come across, it would be so easy to walk off with some of this stuff.
One other little fact about the town of Ahura is that the army visit on a regular basis staying at the local hall then travelling inland on a daily basis to conduct live firing exercises. This obviously brings in some much needed cash to the small community with the soldiers spending up at the local store and pub during their visit.
The oven in our motorhome is really small, so small in fact that it almost put us off buying the van as Sarah is such a keen cook. However we have been slowly learning to use it and that night we made this roast pork. Yum!!
As I have said previously when you have no fixed plans or timetable it gives the freedom of being able to backtrack if you need to and with a few people we had met on the road telling us that we should have visited here or gone there we decided to back track to visit one of these place Goldsborough a DOC Camp about 9kms in from the coast on a nice sealed road so really easy to get to.
Like a number of the DOC camps in the South we have visited this one has a number of areas where you can stay so it’s not everyone in one large field making for a more private camping experience. As the name would suggest Goldsborough is another gold fossicking area and the site of an old gold mining operation.
With a couple of walks leading away from the campsite it was time to get the new tramping boots on to give them a better test run than we managed at Slab Creek. The signage in the hut shows the tracks but states nothing about the condition or the steepness of the tracks which as we where about to discover was much more challenging than anything we had attempted previously.
Putting on an extra layer of clothing before starting the walk which started easily enough as we crossed the bridge over the stream that runs next to the camp and then almost immediately started up hill which continued for the next 30 minutes. I thought that I had been receiving mountain goat training before Christmas with some of the walks we had done but they were just a walk in the park compared to this.
It felt at times that we where walking up a mountain side and to a certain extent we were but what made it more difficult was the fact that if you weren’t walking through a muddy bog you were trying to navigate the large rocks that littered the path hoping that we wouldn’t slip on them. When we finally reached the top of the hill the track breaks out onto a gravel roadway that leads to another track further up the road. Thinking that the other track might be in better condition that the one we had just used we decided to follow the road to the other track and take that route down.
Of course just to round things off as we were walking along the road the heavens decided to leak liquid sunshine. So it was just as well we had purchased some decent rain coats when we brought the boots.
I won’t say big mistake I would probably use a word more like giant or humongous as the track down is even steeper than the one we just walked up. At times the track even appeared to be just a couple of tree roots and some rocks stuck in the side of a small cliff or a stream bed that had cut it’s way through the mud to leave high sided banks with slippery surfaces all-round.
We did however manage to get down without any major incident and I only went for two slides but Sarah managing to be much more cautious stayed on her feet the whole time, although I did play gentleman helping her on some of the more difficult descents. Without a doubt although this was a difficult walk it was enjoyable and we walked it the right way round if we had attempted to walk up the track we came down we would have given up so major sense of achievement here.
Coming down out of the forest walk the path flattens out as it follows the river where just off the path Sarah spotted this memorial to someone. The plaque was to badly faded to be read but someone obviously takes care of it as some of the flowers did not look that old.
Like a few of the camps we have stayed at recently it was patrolled on a regular basis by a family of Weka who also played the role of motorhome inspectors should you leave your door open. In fact one lady we spoke to had one come in right behind her to steal an apricot out of her fruit bowl that she had placed on the seat behind her whilst she was doing something. Funny thing this lady also recognised Sarah from our visits to Puriri Bay in Northland when we where there in November.
From Goldsborough we moved onto the freedom camping area at Lake Brunner (#6600) a really well set up spot right on the waters edge. With super clean toilets onsite as well as a flat level area to park this spot really is well set up. Apparently they do patrol on a regular basis to ensure all campers have the latest self containment certificate and this is good to hear although we didn’t see anyone checking.
With the motorhome parked up it was time to set off far another walk along part of the Ara -O Te Kinga trail we didn’t intend to do the full 8 hour walk but thought we would do the 3 hour walk to the two lookouts. The trail starts off really well with gravel paths and reasonably level if a little muddy in places.
However that was not to last as the track started to deteriorate rather rapidly with the waterfall running down the path as shown above and trees that must have fallen in one of the two cyclones earlier this year starting to appear across the path.
At the sight of this sign we both started laughing as it had been fairly muddy for the last 10 minutes or so of walking although apart from the fallen trees the track was still in reasonable condition. this however was not to last.
A few minutes further up the track the number of fallen trees became more numerous, then we reached this point where after scrambling over some of the trees we could no longer find the track amongst the debris of all the other trees. Deciding at that point after about 35 minutes of walking that it would be dangerous to continue without knowing where the path was we decided to return to the motorhome.
So intent on the climb up that neither of us noticed the seat just off the path till we descended providing this very pretty spot with a little sneak peek of the lake below.
Back at the motorhome it was the chance to have a good look around the lake area as well as take a heap of photos to add to the thousands I have already taken on this trip. As you can see from the photo of the jetty the lake is higher than normal but after speaking to one of the locals we discovered that the lake has come much higher and would have been lapping at the door of the motorhome a couple of years ago during the “big flood”.
All in all we both think the tramping boots have been a great investment and the walks that we have done with them very enjoyable. Long may it continue..