Day 54: Twizel to Ohau

Fri 17 March 2017

  • Km today: 24
  • Total Km: 967

Alps 2 Ocean

Today is the final section which I will make of the Alps 2 Ocean trail from Twizel through to Ohau village. It is a fairly brisk morning yet the rowers are on their cycles early heading towards Ruataniwha as we set off from Twizel. This section starts from the Lake Ruataniwha river bridge where the salmon farm is located on the main highway. Campervans here line every metre of the canal having been parked up for the night. Stacked up one after the other along the canal bank. It has to be a ‘must do’ overnight location based on the sheer number of vehicles. It is a stunning clear morning, the sun is out, sky is blue and sounds carry easily in the still air.

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Lake Ruataniwha is an artificial lake, it was formed as part of the hydroelectric project. The lake is named after Ruataniwha Station, which is a large sheep station in the area and Ruataniwha was a Maori chief who was drowned near Moeraki. Ruataniwha is one of New Zealand’s main rowing venues. As I walk along the southern bank of the lake, rowing boats are already making their way leisurely down the lake to their starting block positions.  It won’t be long before the gun goes and they heave their way back down to the finish line. There are quite a few teams on the lake this morning, I can hear both male and female crews some a relatively quiet whilst other crews are shouting and blinding – they won’t realise that every word carries across the lake this morning to my innocent ears.. The trail meanders through pines and elms along the lake edge cliff which is high above the water. There are orange TA markers at intervals but often I cannot see the next pole. Not that it matters as there is only one way forward; farmland to the left and a steep drop to the right. Despite the lake and hydro scheme the land is bone dry. Underfoot is dry and rocky, the vegetation hasn’t tasted water for weeks – the prickly matagouri looks dead but is cleverly hibernating in the dry heat. Towards the head of the lake the trail turns away from the lake edge and follows the Ohau river, which carries excess water off Lake Ohau down to Ruataniwha. I am walking along the boundary between Otago and Canterbury. The land is as rocky as the bottom of the river yet irrigators are being installed onto the farmland adjacent, converting the unproductive rocky landscape into pasturable paddocks for livestock. From the river the track banked up to skirt a steep embankment. The sun was high as I climbed up the road which ran through exotic pines. The smell of pine warmed in the sun is one of my favourite aromas and I inhale deeply to get the full pine experience. This wonderful sensation along with the vista I now have across the river valley to the mountains in the background is one of pure joy. I could be in North America I think to myself as I clamber about the trees trying to find the best spot to take a picture.

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From the pines it is not much further until I finally reach the Lake Ohau outlet weir. This small concrete dam syphons lake water and also has an overflow when the lake level rises. The is a portaloo here but unfortunately no fresh running water so I conserve my bottled water for the walk ahead. From the weir a well formed path commences around the southern shore of Lake Ohau to Lake Ohau Alpine Village. The windswept lake is rough and waves crash against the shore as if it was an ocean. The shore is rocky and beach less unlike Pukaki yesterday. I am pleased for the wind however as I would be sweltering in the blatant sun otherwise. Already I have smothered myself in sun screen and thank my lucky stars for my buff which protects my neck so effectively from sunburn. It is a dry prickly environment around the lake. At one point I come across a pile of animal bones which have been bleached in the sun. Someone has placed part of the skull onto a tree branch and I think to myself that this perfectly symbolises the harsh environment hereabouts. Across this end of the lake, Ben Ohau rises formidably from the water. It looks massive and timeless, as if its right to be here is indisputable. I admire its presence and how the shadows move across its face during the afternoon. The sun is behind so I have to bide my time until I can get a picture. When the track reaches the road there is an apple tree in the car park. There had been a couple of apple trees prior however the fruit was hard and inedible, a consequence of environmental I’d say. However the last tree had tasty fruit finally. Shortly down the road the familiar black Corolla of my parents pulled over. I was glad they had arrived as it turns out that there are no facilities in the Ohau village, only houses. There was another tramper in the village so we offered her a ride to Lake Ohau Lodge and drove there for a quick look. The lodge is in an enviable location with superb views of Lake and mountains. It looks like it would be a fine place to stay sometime.

Tonight we will stay in Omarama. I want the folks to experience Hot Tubs Omarama. However firstly we sidetrack to the clay cliffs. It turned out that they have already been there this morning but I really want to see it for myself so back they go with me. The clay cliffs are on private land which thankfully is open for visitors with a $5 donation. The clay cliffs are an amazing semiarid badlands of deep ravines and pinnacles eroded into ancient river gravels and lake silts situated on the active Ostler Fault Line. The folks stay by the car and I walk up to the cliffs to experience this wonder for myself. The camera was going crazy as there are so many peaks and angles to photograph. It is quite extraordinary and should be a must do on anyones list when in the area This evening we went to the hot tubs for a soak accompanied with some beverages. My second visit in a week and just as fabulous.

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