Thursday, 5 March 2020

Moody Mavora & Snowy Garston

Catch-up (early October 2019)

From the DOC camp at Cascade Creek on the Milford Road we returned to the NZMCA Park at Te Anau for a few days. After a week out of range, it was good to have cell phone & internet reception again before we headed to our next destination Mavora Lakes- one of our favourite South Island destinations- which is also out of range. 

The road to the lakes leaves the main highway about halfway between Te Anau & Mossburn and from there, there's 'just' 34kms of gravel to travel until you reach the lakes turnoff which is then followed by another 8kms of gravel to the lakes; past South Mavora and onto North Mavora Lake.

For the first 15kms or so we travel in an unseen grader's freshly scraped track. We not-so-quietly curse as clouds of dry dust billow out behind us. Sometimes you just can't win; another couple of days and the dust would have settled and the road would have been silky smooth. I guess dust is better than being rattled to death by the corrugations although we have them to contend with for the last half of the journey.

Never mind, our favourite camping spot is free which isn't really a surprise, only the hardy (or crazy) camp at the lakes at the tail end of winter when the weather swings between bitterly cold & freezing cold.   

North Mavora Lake & Mt Cerberus
That would be hardy people, crazy people or hardy crazy hunter people. There's a hunter's camp up the back of the plateau, tucked into and sheltered by the thick bush. There are a couple of pig dogs in a kennel beside a horse float and down in the horse paddock I can see two horses. 

As soon as they spot me, they gallop over to the fence for a chat & a pat and then follow me along the fence line hoping I have something tasty for them. I don't, there's just dry grass and more dry grass.   

I'm keen to cross the swingbridge and check out the bush for Robins/Toutouwai & Rifleman/Titiponamu...

...but all I manage to find is one lonely robin who watches me expectantly, hoping I'm going to scrape some leaf litter for him. Of course I oblige.

It really was bitterly cold. As night closes in, snow starts to fall and David is not impressed. He's turning into a fair weather fisherman. The snow doesn't amount to much and is gone by dawn. Thank God for our diesel heaters, we're kept toasty warm inside.

The next day I walk up to the plateau behind and disappear into the bush...

...there are a few more Robins up here but still no sign of any riflemen. In fact the bush is very quiet, perhaps it's just too cold for them and they've moved deeper into the bush seeking shelter.

I break apart a rotten log and several birds are very keen to see what I've unearthed. Although not so keen to share as they chase each other about trying to keep the spoils for themselves.

Several more 'crazy' people have arrived overnight, one parked up in the wide expanse of tussock on the lake shore below Mt Cerberus...

...and the other sheltering in the trees near the fire pits. 

David has been reluctant to get the inflatable boat out, it has been very cold & windy, and the forecast is for more wind and heavy snow. We'd also had some unsettling news from family on the way in that had us distracted and with no cellphone reception, we'd started to worry that we really should be in range. 

So when we woke the next morning, and with the weather no better, we made the decision to head on out.  

We'll leave Mavora Lakes for the summer this time. 

South Mavora Lake & the road out
We decided to head to the NZMCA Lowburn Park at Cromwell, somewhere where we could settle for a few days and re-plan our next few weeks. We needed to stay around the lower half of the South Island in case our Southland family needed us to head back to Winton to look after the house & cat if they were suddenly called away.

On the way to Cromwell we stopped for a night at one of our favourite (and 'secret') freedom camping sites near Garston.

Brightwater & Castle Hill, Garston
Although we missed the 'Closed due to Lambing' sign on the way in, seeing it on the passenger side of the road the next morning on our way out. Oops! We'd both been reading the trout fishery sign on the driver's side instead.  We also didn't see any sheep until the next morning, they must have been hiding under the willows at the far end of the paddock.

But we did see the neighbours walking their goats. The goats were having a great time too, snatching mouthfuls of grass, running to catch up, kicking up their feet and racing ahead of the others. 

It was once again bitterly cold overnight, our diesel heaters working overtime until we went to bed. We very rarely need to leave them on overnight due to the van's insulation and our winter bedding.

Sometime during the early hours of the morning I heard the familiar gentle splatter of snow on the roof. I silently hoped we'd be snowed in for a few days but on opening the door the next morning there was just a thin layer covering the ground. 

Never mind, it was still a wonderful sight and a winter wonderland 'Out There'. I love waking to snow, being 'johnny-on-the-spot' and able to step outside in my dressing gown & gumboots to take photos, all within 5 minutes of getting out of bed.

The Mataura River had turned a dirty brown, rain has obviously fallen in the back country.

Here's the stock bridge the afternoon before the snow fall (this bridge is my favourite piece of farm equipment in all of New Zealand) 

Thick cloud gave way to blue sky...

... and the snow started to disappear before my eyes.

And by the time we were ready to pull out the snow had gone and dark clouds had rolled back in.


  1. Stunning scenery as usual Shelly. Mavora Lakes is on our list for next month! woohoo... can't wait! 34+ km of gravel roads seems a long way way to go for some "Hobbit" spotting though :) Do you think it's worth the detour from Te Anau to QT for a lunch stop and a couple of hours exploring?

    1. It's a beautiful area as Shellie has shown Tim. I'd suggest at least an overnighter as it's a 70 return trip on gravel. Great exploring further up valley into the Windonburn if you have a 4x4 you can disconnect, or a great area to just soak up 😊

  2. Thanks Sharon. We don't even have a full day sadly... maybe a little ambitious then to make it there and back again in a few hours :'(

    1. As Sharon has said Tim it's a very long way to travel just for a couple of hours. You recall what I often say; when it's gravel it always feels like double the distance. If it's a brilliant sunny day then I'd say go for it (as long as you're only doing Te Anau to Qtwn and not Milford to Qtwn). If you get a chance drive down the track to Kiwiburn about 5 kms before the lakes turnoff, cross the swing bridge and take the right fork of the Kiwiburn track, just a couple hundred meters up and the bush & moss surroundings are magic.
      It's also a shame you won't have time to continue on past the Mavora Lakes turnoff, but then you've probably read my post on that area-

      Enjoy your travels!

    2. Here's the Kiwiburn track blog-

    3. We're coming from Manapouri but have to drop our hire car off in QT by 5pm. So many nice things to see! :) Ok maybe we'll decide on the day based on the weather... i can see my lady not being too impressed if we travel for miles on a gravely road in the rain, only to take one photo and then turn back again! :)

    4. Well at least you don't get dust in the rain....only mud! :)


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