Friday, 21 February 2014

Athol in the Valley

Athol is a sleepy little settlement nestled in a sheltered valley between the Eyre & Hector Mountains  on SH6 & located half way between Lumsden & Queenstown. I imagine it would have been a busy rest stop in times past but now with faster cars & better roads it looks like the traffic tends to cruise straight on through heading for the popular tourist destinations in either direction. Even the cute little two roomed school is now closed.

We're parked up at the Athol Lodge & Holiday Park which, as we've found with past properties, is a rather grand name for a lovely small, tranquil & well established, campground tacked onto a farm. We have glorious views over a sheep paddock past the trees lining a river to the range behind us including one of the three Domes, Middle Dome.

There are just six powered sites, each with their own "ensuite", toilet & shower. What a great idea, no distance to walk, your own bathroom that you know no one else has used & easy to clean for the owners. There are plenty of non powered sites down past the laundry too (complimentary cold wash & drier available). There is also a  "Lodge" further down the property. This is another area well known for trout fishing & we've already met a number of overseas people who have come here just to fish.

Of course the first thing we had to do was check out the river. Luckily there is an anglers access track right beside the camp ground as there are also plenty of signs elsewhere saying "NO TRESPASS, NO ANGLERS ACCESS", the farmers in the area have obviously had enough of fishermen leaving gates open or disturbing stock & crops.
The river is running low, it was crystal clear & ice blue with plenty of deeper pools & a few rapids. Within minutes David had found plenty of big fat brown trout feeding off the back of the under water debris as we walked up stream and swimming around in various pools.

David making his way up stream looking for trout.

The trout are obviously line shy though as so far he hasn't managed to hook any. An American guy who is staying in the camp ground, & has been coming here for the last 8 years, said they all would have been caught a few times over. He gave us a few other streams to try but I don't think we'll get there this trip. Still it's been great stalking them with rod & camera!

The valley is surrounded with high country sheep stations, most of the side roads lead to more stations further inland. Along the valley are plenty of barley & wheat crops just about ready to harvest along with swede & brassica crops for the stock. Rain is desperately needed in this area, just not until after tomorrow.

Shearing was happening on many of the farms that we passed, these merinos have been brought down from the high country & were waiting for their turn in the woolshed. Merinos with their dirty grey wool & cute faces stand out amongst the other  "fluffy white" sheep paddocks. They have the unusual habit of grouping together, heads to the centre, to keep cool. It was a stinking hot day and there were trees on the boundary but most of them were gathered in little groups around the paddock.

We went for a drive around the area & down a few of the side roads, David looking for other streams & me looking for old woolsheds & abandoned buildings to shoot, of which there were plenty.

This is the range that we can see from our campsite, part of Middle Dome & also Nokomai Station. Nokomai Station is the station where we are going tomorrow on the "Hidden Valley" 4WD Safari. Nokomai Station Road runs along the base of these "hills" and we'll be following the river and the road 10kms in to the meeting area. We already have some of the 4WD lingo sussed, apparently we're driving a "shiny"- hopefully it will still be shiny when we come out, well at least have not much more than a squirt of water will wash off! And according to a fellow camper who is going on the 4WD trip too (he has a mean machine with 2 inch thick ropes & chains onboard along with other 4WD paraphernalia ), this will be a "shiny" trip- easy! :) We'll let you know.


  1. Heading into majestic country now.
    Many of the old country buildings your showing remind me of home!
    I hope if you do catch some fish, there not all catch and release!

    1. You'll enjoy the last then post Jimu & the next one has even more "majestic" scenery. I like that description, it fits very well.
      Yes, not all trout are catch & release. We do have to catch some first though. :)
      Thanks for your comment


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