Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Camp Sites


I hope everyone had a happy Easter and that you managed to have a few days rest & relaxation wherever in the world you happen to be. Summer is virtually done and dusted down here in the south of the South Island and autumn is quietly getting underway. We've already had a handful of frosty mornings and many of the deciduous trees are starting to turn colour. The autumn colours will be magnificent in another 2-3 weeks and I'm looking forward to seeing them again. We're staying on here in Central Otago for a little while to catch the colours and fill in a few exploring gaps before we head off to the West Coast. Well that's the plan anyway, but as David tells people when they ask him where we're headed, "Ask me tomorrow".

It's been a busy few weeks for us and I've struggled keeping up with photos and blog posts and as the regulars will know I'm already well behind. We really need to stop somewhere awhile and not do any exploring. Well, we have now stopped for awhile- at Glendhu Bay on Lake Wanaka- but I don't think I'll get away with no exploring. I will try and fit a few more blog posts in over the next week or two though.

You'll recall that we were camped at Omakau beside the Manuherikia River, with relations of mine who where passing through the area. Once they left, we shifted camp from underneath the willows to out beside the river on the dry river bed. 

And there we stayed for over a week along with another fifth-wheeler owned by a lovely lady, Helen who was accompanied by her cute little poodle Buttons and a cat. Helen was also a very capable fly- fisherwoman so David and her had a few in-depth conversations on techniques and gear and comparing catch tallies. 

David was off fly-fishing most evenings and enjoyed getting back into a sport he loves, after a few too many months spent fishing using other methods. And although many of the trout were small, these weren't any of the lazy lake trout or fat canal fish he has seen lately, these ones put up a great fight, testing skills and techniques. And all were caught and released.

David could have quite happily stayed on at the river for Easter but with our tanks nearly full, supplies low and having visited quite a number of places we missed on our last trip into the Maniototo, it was time to pull out. Plus I had a plan in mind...

Our next stop was at the NZMCA Park in Alexandra where we've stopped a number of times in the past. It's a great place to park for a night when you have chores to do in town- laundry, groceries, gas bottles, diesel tanks and dump station all done and dusted in amongst a town preparing for a long weekend.  And with the new dump station just across the highway and down the road a bit, it's now even easier to get everything done and ready to move on again. 

We left Alexandra the afternoon before Easter heading for Wanaka. Originally we were planning on staying at the Poolburn Dam for a couple of weeks, which would have included the Easter break. We usually make sure we're all settled into a camp and have a good spot well before a holiday break but in the end we decided after two day visits to the dam we wouldn't haul the 5th-wheeler up there this time. 

Which meant we had no plans for Easter- totally not like us at all. And especially when we decided we'd visit Warbirds Over Wanaka instead. Warbirds where over 50,000 people converge for an incredible air show over the long weekend. Warbirds which we visited two years ago when it was last on, and where we stayed with over 100 other RVs up on the terrace overlooking the airfield. 

I have no idea why we decided to visit it again. Although a Martin Jetpack debut might have had something to do with it for David. That, and a predicted fine weekend for me, which meant I could get some great aircraft shots. Unlike the last time, when, although the weather raged elsewhere around the country (Cyclone Ita), it was still overcast and cold in Wanaka. We decided we'd just go for the day this time (instead of a 3 day pass) and we'd park in the paddock at Windermere Farm right next door to the airfield.

David wasn't too happy to be heading into the Easter traffic when we pulled out of Alex but it actually wasn't too bad, although the numbers of motorhomes on the road increased considerably as we approached Lake Dunstan. We stopped at our favourite spring water well at Lowburn and filled our drinking water containers(40 litres)- it's been a long time between rainfall lately as, unusually, we've managed to fill them with rain water right through the summer.

We carried on along Lake Dunstan, through Luggate, past the airfield, turning in at the road sign pointing the way to Windermere Farm. Thankfully we were just ahead of a bad crash with one fatality that happened just before Luggate. The emergency vehicles raced past as we were driving across the paddock looking for a place to park. 

It was practice day and our set up was interrupted by the roar of jets passing overhead and taking off from the airfield. 

Windemere Farm has a large paddock right next door to the airfield, it's a very popular place to park and stay at $15pp per night. It looks like the vans are tightly packed in here but this is the front couple of rows where people like to park so they can see the planes as they rise from the end of the runway. Behind these, there's plenty of space to park either on your own or with good gaps between vans. It's also great because you get a wide view of the planes passing overhead or doing maneuvers. 

If you had tickets for the show it was just a short careful walk across a smaller paddock (pockmarked with huge rabbit warrens) and through the Warbirds carpark to the entrance gates.

From our paddock we could see the NZMCA Rally vans on the terrace above the airfield- this was where we were parked at the last show.

And up close- with members on their deck-chairs lined up along the ridge. It's a great view from up there, especially of the larger planes coming in to land. But there is a fair hike back up the hill once you've slid to the bottom to see the air-show up close. The rally costs do put a number of members off, while the parking fee is similar to Windermere Farm, you also have to have a 3 day pass. At one stage you also weren't allowed to leave the site for the duration of the show but this changed the year we went, and again for this year; you are able to leave on the Sunday. Even though many still talk about being locked in for the whole time (an urban myth taking shape).

A coffee caravan set up shop in the middle of our paddock, I don't think they did too well- most RVers have their own facilities- but I do know he wasn't very popular with those around him. He had a huge old generator that he moved out into the open where it buzzed along for most of the day. We smiled when others arrived later in the evening and parked near him (and in between us and the coffee cart). They were going to get a rude awakening when he kicked it into gear for the coffee fix the next morning.

In the end we stayed for three nights and visited the show on the Saturday. Although I'm not so sure that was the best day as being the most popular day, it was packed solid inside with up to twenty deep along the fenceline. Many people had blankets spread out and deck chairs saving spots. It was impossible to get close to the runway unless you trampled across a few picnics and a large number of whining kids- once a kid has seen one plane he really isn't interested in hundred more! It was also impossibly hot, the sun streaming down on un-sheilded heads and bodies. I bet there were a few sunburnt bodies and heatstroke victims that night.

The weather was perfect all weekend and we had some lovely sunsets too.

Saturday was definitely the busiest day, the paddock thinned out a lot on the Sunday as many left...

And by Monday we had it nearly to ourselves!

It was amazing though, to watch the passing traffic on the main road outside. There were so many RVs passing by it was hard to imagine that there were that many out there- dozens and dozens of every type of RV in lomg rows with the odd car in amongst them, passing by. Not all had come from the show either as they came from the direction of Wanaka. And to think that there were just as many attending the 60th Anniversary NZMCA AGM Rally at Levin, in the North Island. It's no wonder the camping sites are so full over summer. Roll on winter! (she says selfishly).

It was time to move on- to Glendhu Bay, on the way to Mt Aspiring National Park and on the shores of Lake Wanaka. Wanaka town was packed solid with vehicles and people out enjoying the last day of the long weekend. We drove right on through thanking our lucky stars we didn't have to stop and join the melee. We did think about visiting the dump station but when we saw the queue eight deep we carried right on by; we'd dump at the camp ground. We arrived late morning to a campground also in chaos. It had been packed to the gunwales too, it's a large campground and just about every possible space had been taken. Most people had a late pass and we then found out that it was Southland's anniversary day today, so many campers were staying on until today.

The office was extremely busy and the manager told us to just find a spot and wait it out until late afternoon when we'd be able to then select an empty space to suit. 

We had a walk around and found an ideal position; close to the water for launching the dinghy, a gap between the trees so we had sun for most of the day and a view, power nearby (there aren't that many powered sites) but with a caravan on each side of us. We parked up and waited until one of them left, then turned the van  so it was parallel with the lake. Perfect! We're set for the next week or two. The only problem is that the facilities at this end of camp will be closed from today. But that's fine we'll continue to use ours. 

Still to come- 
A visit to the most isolated church in New Zealand


  1. A pleasant surprise to see you writing about Wanaka now. For us this is an ultra special place full of warm memories. Going there is like going home. Besides falling in love at first sight 16 years ago, much of this owes to the kindness and generosity of our dear friend who was once our B&B hostess.
    How I wish you'll drive to the end of Mt Aspiring Road this time and write a post about it. So far we made it to Treble Cone only. Perhaps we'll explore that area this time, or next time -- we'll be back again someday anyway :)
    Thanks for the tip about spring water well in Lowburn and hope you'll share more first hand info about autumn colours, we want to catch the colours too :)
    Can't wait to be back in Wanaka again. Friends and home cook dinner await us!

    1. You won't have any trouble finding the autumn colours when you arrive offstone, you'll just have trouble deciding where to stop! Everywhere you look it will be stunning autumn scenery, and especially in Central Otago.

      And yes, we're hoping to make it to the end of the road this time and also walk to Rob Roy Glacier. And we have a couple of other surprises in store too.

    2. Yes, exactly. We'll have that pleasant trouble :) A few that already popped up in my mind are Pattersons Ponds, Nevis, Benmore, Matukituki Valley, Glenorchy....oh, what about Hakatere? Was fascinated by a quick visit there in late spring and wish to return...help!

  2. Sorry to have missed you...we also were at Warbirds parked up on the Terrace.. most impressed with Jurgen.... the Austrian stunt pilot...the Catalina and the sound of the Martin Jetpack...most fun ...dragging my pet rock (rockweiler) behind the deckchair line saying...stay...sit etc etc..I even had a plastic bag for........
    Have been on the road since Feb with many adventures and photos.but unable to find time to blog, so much kudos to you for your prodigious blog output.

    1. Oh what a pity our paths didn't cross! It sounds like you had fun up on the terrace without us anyway. A pet rock? I'm sure that raised a few eyebrows with some of the 'road maggot' set ;) Relax and enjoy your travels- the photos (and blog posts if you carry them on) can wait. I'm in too deep now, too many disappointed people out there if I put my typing fingers away. Safe travels.


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