Friday, 10 July 2015

A Return to Wanaka

Back to catching up on the last of the blogs from a few weeks ago-

After a lovely few days at Ohau B Canal near Twizel it was time to move on. I thoroughly enjoyed Ohau and I’m looking forward to returning sometime in the summer to explore the area further, and perhaps David will also have better luck with the salmon next time.

The landscape heading up the Ahuriri River valley towards the Wether Range and Lindis Pass was stunning. You’ll recall we’d had the first snow fall of the season while parked at Ohau (not the more recent ‘Big Snow’), the remnants of that first fall looking like a dusting of icing sugar across the tops.

This first photo(below) is approaching Lindis Pass Summit and looks totally different to the second photo which was taken on my recent trip back to the MacKenzie Basin to see the snow.

Although, this second photo is heading down from the summit- you can see the back of the summit sign on the right, further down the road.

I was looking for an area for David to pull into so I could take some scenery photos before we left the Lindis Valley behind us but unfortunately the one I directed him into turned out to be one big muddy mess. David was not impressed. And nor was I when I couldn’t find any decent shots to take and my shoes were covered in mud.

We headed back to our favourite Wanaka camping ground, The Outlet, for a few days. The campground is beside Clutha River's outlet from Lake Wanaka, hence the name. You can compare the autumn photos from our last visit in the link above.

The road to the camp ground is part of the lake and river reserve and the campground is set back up side roads in amongst the maunka to the left. I don’t think the weather must have been too great on our last visit as I don’t recall seeing Mt Aspiring across the lake ahead of us. It must have had it's head in amongst the clouds for most of the time.

We set up camp on a slightly elevated site with views out to the river and lake, the level plateau we parked on last time had been roped off due to the recent rain but we were quite happy with this spot as there were just a few permanents at this end of the camp, the overnighters were sited closer to the entrance. It was nice to sit in the slide out with the warm sun streaming through the windows all day. The trade off was the front door opening into the cold shade. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

Wanaka town was looking pretty as a picture in the winter sunshine.

Looking across the Wanaka Marina to Roys Peak Conservation Area. I became very familiar with the marina during this trip, I wonder if you can guess why?

Another shot for me of the famous Wanaka lone willow. I had good intentions of getting up early and shooting it at sunrise but it was just too darn cold and I was just too darn lazy. It’ll keep.

We took a drive out towards Mt Aspiring National Park stopping just before Glendhu Bay to take a photo of Mt Aspiring, the most prominent feature in all the views as we wound our way around the lake. It looked pretty impressive towering above the surrounding mountains especially as it was still a long way up the Matukituki Valley to the mountain itself.

We stopped to watch a group of army guys climbing the rocks at Hospital Flat, an acclaimed rock climbing area near Diamond Lake. Hospital Flat was not named because it hospitalised climbers, it was where farmers & drovers left ailing stock to convalesce before they were moved further up the valley.

We stopped at the Diamond Lake carpark for lunch, we came here last time in the early autumn and the colours from the poplars and willows along the river were stunning. Now it’s a more muted tone. I can see the road to the Treble Cone Ski Field in the top right of this photo, the skifield wasn’t open but it couldn’t have been too far away as it snowed a couple of times while we were in Wanaka.

After lunch we drove back towards Wanaka turning off just past Hospital Flat and taking a side road up the west side of Lake Wanaka towards West Wanaka Station where there are a couple of long DOC walks in the Mt Alta Conservation area. We had no intention of hiking them today, we were just tiki-touring and keeping warm inside the ute.

We crossed the temperamental Matukituki River, a river than can be little more than a trickle in the summer that becomes a raging torrent in the winter and spring with the snow melt from the mountains and the many glaciers in the Mt Aspiring National Park. It looks like it took out the bridge at some stage which has now been replaced with a suspension bridge.

We drove through the front paddocks of West Wanaka Station to the end of the track. We always feel a little anxious driving through farms, it feels like we’re trespassing even though they are public access roads.

We stopped at Homestead Bay to have a look around and found these Kereru (native wood pigeons) resting and sunning themselves in a willow tree beside the track. They kept a weary eye on us but were too lazy to move, even when we walked up underneath them.

A vehicle track lead out to the lake’s edge and the braided river mouth of the Matukituki; there’s actually an island that separates some of the braids, that’s how wide the mouth is.

Finished with West Wanaka we headed back towards town and took another side road opposite Glendhu Bay that headed up the Motatapu Valley for about 8kms, ending at a small wooden non-descript bridge and another large high country station. But there was nothing non-descript about what was beneath the bridge or in fact who used to own Motatapu Station. The station once belonged to Shania Twain, the Canadian singer and songwriter. She sold it after her marriage broke up but I'm not too sure who owns it now. Whoever it is they like their privacy too, there are plenty of signs around saying 'Private' or 'No Entry'.

And beneath that bridge lies the Motutapu Gorge, a very narrow and deep chasm that the Motutapu River flows through. It was dark and uninviting on our visit but apparently there’s a very popular swimming hole located in the gorge and reached by following the river upstream from a nearby carpark.

Popular but very dangerous as the ice-melt fed river rushes through the gorge between boulders and over waterfalls. Three years ago a 15 year old boy lost his life in the gorge when his foot became stuck between rocks and he fall over a waterfall backwards. He was submerged and breathing in an air pocket before finally being rescued and flown to hospital over 3 hours later. Sadly hypothermia and the stress of the ordeal caught up with him and he died during the night.

On the way back down the valley David took the opportunity of driving through a fast flowing ford a few times to try and clean some of the mud and cattle poop off the ute. Secretly, I think he just wanted to hoon it for a minute or two.


  1. My guess is Grebe hunting?.

    1. OK Mr Anonymous, you win the chocolate fish! You're one smart cookie! :)

  2. Liking this post been to 99% of the places , magic pics once again Shellie

    1. Thanks Francis, Wanaka is a lovely spot although a little cold at this time of the year- especially if you aren't into skiing.


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