Sun 5 March 2017
- Km today: 40
- Total Km: 877
Alps 2 Ocean
It is another big day today with the most kms to do so I get an early start after a light breakfast provided by the hotel. It’s a Sunday morning so there is no traffic about which is good as the first section is along the road. It is at least interesting with dramatic scenery, cool old rock masonry buildings and a historic cemetery. There is quite a wind going down the valley and this helps to keep me cool, although sometimes it also gives me a knock around. The walking poles come in handy for keeping balance. I pass the first of three dams today. All three dams are part of the larger Waitaki hydro electric scheme which starts from Tekapo. The Waitaki dam was the first to be built here back in the 1930’s for hydro electricity and also as a source of jobs during the depression. The dam was built with manual labour and the support given to the workers formed the basis of the social welfare system. It is another 6km onto the Aviemore dam. Here I crossed the dam to the northern side and would follow it for most of the day. Aviemore was built in the 1960’s to create Lake Aviemore and generate more power. As I cross the dam I am more exposed to the wind and it buffets me until I walk far enough to be in leeward. The wind also whips up the lake with big waves – boaties arrive looking disappointed and head off elsewhere. I love the view from this side of the lake, the azure blue water and the brown of the mountains. I keep my phone in my pocket as much as I can otherwise I will consume the battery with pictures.
Any road kill is almost mummified with the dry heat so the first time I spot something I think it looks strange but don’t want to dawdle around such things either. Further along the road the smell is obvious to upcoming death. Quite unexpectedly it’s a kangaroo – well at least like a kangaroo. There are wallabies here and they are considered a pest therefore I will encounter with displeasure the numerous wallabies that lay alongside the road. Those passing in cars wouldn’t notice; cyclists peddle a little harder to escape but I need to hold my breath for quite some time with each of these little suckers. I arrive at the first of many lakeside camping grounds. Camping and caravanning is very popular here – many people hire a site for the whole season and leave their caravan or tent there until it must be removed for winter. Most of the sites are unoccupied. I’m guessing it is very different from the Christmas and New Year holiday period. Some people are put on the lake, mostly zooming around towing inner tubes or water skiers. I wander along and snack on the apple trees that are numerous along the road side.
Eventually I reach the road climbing up to the Lake Benmore Dam. This dam is massive and built with earth rather than all in concrete as dam construction technology allowed. At the top I met some 4WD enthusiasts who had come across the mountains and lakeside on private land from Black Forest on the northern side of Benmore. The dam is wide so it took a bit of time to cross and then make my way down the other side. At the visitor centre is an example of a penstock ring and a bulldozer used for the dam construction. There were 120 heavy earth moving machines during the construction and almost 1,500 workers. Another hot and dry 7km later I arrived in a quiet Otematata. Maybe quiet now as the Country and Western weekend was just wrapping up at the pub. I got a room at the holiday park lodge for the night. It used to be workers accommodation during Benmore days, so had all the facilities even if not much love since perhaps the 60’s.