South Island meanderings…December 2017 (Part 4) Omarama-Lake Benmore-Deep Stream Walk-Kurow-Waimate

14 Dec – Set off from Omarama and headed southward along SH8 towards Otematata.  Stopped to stretch our legs at the boatramp along Lake Benmore and drove though the adjacent camping grounds (closed when we passed this way last visit).  Quite a large area with lots of permanent caravans set up but mostly unoccupied.

Boat ramp

We continued on to Otematata…a remnant Hydro Village.  A cafe, a general store and the Pub only places open on a Sunday.  We decided to drive the scenic route up to the Benmore Dam again.

Penstock display

Overview across the Dam and beyond

Drove to the top of the Dam and then up to the Lookout overlooking the area and the end of Lake Benmore.  Lunch break… while enjoying the view.

A serene Lake Benmore
Otematata township in the distance

The Benmore Peninsular Walk starts from the Lookout so we put on our walking shoes and set off.  The track headed up though the forest to a high point overlooking the northern reaches of Lake Benmore.

It was an uphill trudge in the hot sun but the views were well worth it in the end.  We could see a long way up the Lake with the mountains in the background.

It was a very pleasant walk along the ridge

Canoeists – little dots on the lake.

At one point we spotted a couple of canoeists far below us on the lake.

They were heading towards the Dam but we wondered where their starting point was…they had a very long way to paddle either way.

It was a circular track that followed the ridgeline for a while before heading steeply downhill again via lots of steps. We were glad we’d walked in the clockwise direction (by fluke) as it was a longer but gentler ascent than if we’d walked from the other direction and had to have gone up the steps.

A good view of the top of the Dam Wall through a gap in the trees on the way back.After our walk we looked around the Dam area then continued along the scenic drive across the top of the Dam.

Heading across the top
Power House

We’d decided to try stopping at one of the designated camping grounds along the shore of Lake Aviemore.  The first one we came to wasn’t too far from the Dam.

Lake Aviemore

There were a number of caravans parked around the camp but they were all deserted.  There were also a few roped off areas reserving spots…ready for the onslaught of campers over the summer holiday period.  Beside the road at the track entrance, there was a toilet block and a place to empty toilet cassettes.  Camp fee envelopes were provided but no-where to deposit them or any indication as to what we needed to pay.  In the end we stopped the night without paying but we didn’t use any of the facilities so didn’t feel too guilty.  We had a quiet night with just the local rabbits to keep us company.

Morning light

15 Dec – Continued on around the northern shore of Lake Aviemore in the morning.  Another reason for coming this way was to do the Deep Stream Walkway that we missed doing last visit, due to wet weather. 

The walk starts shortly before the Aviemore Dam.  The carpark is not very big but we were able to park there OK.  The weather was overcast and spitting with rain.  We decided to go anyway with the hope it wouldn’t deteriorate.

We walked over the road bridge to the start of the track and where Deep Stream runs onto Lake Aviemore.

Looking back to where the motorhome was parked

The walkway was a single-file track that climbed up a small bluff overlooking the deep backwater in the gully below.  The water was a deep blue and the views pretty impressive.  The track fell away steeply in some places…I didn’t want to fall in that was for sure!

View looking forward along the walk

We then descended down to where the backwater petered out and we were following the running stream.

Continuing along the riverside

We’d seen a couple of canoeists on the lake section and we caught up with them when the water got too shallow and they were preparing to walk upstream with their fishing gear.

From this point onward the track got more and more overgrown with every step and we had to bush-bash, climb over fallen trees, dodge hidden holes and basically try to follow the river bank as best we could.

But we were determined to reach the end of the track…where there’s supposed to be a picnic table…so we persevered.

It wasn’t far but slow going and yes we did find the picnic table along with a sign saying it was Private Land from that point on.

Sat for a welcome refreshment break before we faced the slog back again…but at least we could now follow our tracks that we’d made on the way in.

Other picnic spot on the way back (about halfway)

We also spotted a pair of Crested Grebes on the water…unfortunately they were too far away to get a clear photo.

Thankfully the rain that gave us a bit of a wetting at the beginning of the walk didn’t linger, so it wasn’t an issue in the end.

We were pleased we did the whole walk and actually made it to the end but the last part was barely passable.  The track has obviously been neglected for quite some time and if it’s not cleared soon, is going to disappear altogether.  The first section overlooking the lake backwater is in better condition but again, unless it receives some regular maintenance it’s going to be lost too…and that would be a shame.  It’s a pretty area and well worth visiting. 

Back at the motorhome we had a quick lunch before continuing on, driving over the Aviemore Dam and stopping for a few quick photos.

Fish spawning channel

Interesting to read that before the dam was built, the fish would travel upstream to spawn in the shallows of Deep Stream.  As the trout could no longer swim upstream to their natural spawning area, NZ’s first man-made spawning channel was constructed providing the fish a place to lay their eggs…thus sustaining the Lake Waitaki fishery.   Quite amazing how the fish have adapted their behaviour to suit.We then headed down the main road, past the Waitaki Dam to arrive at Kurow.  Intention there to shout ourselves a meal at the local Pub in the evening.  We parked up for the night at the Kurow Motels, which was just a short walk away, for the nominal charge of $7.50.

16 Dec – Someone at the Pub told us that the Hakataramea Valley was a nice drive so in the morning decided we’d have a look.  The road was sealed as far as Cattle Creek and from there on becomes a gravel road that continues on to join up with HW8 at Dog Kennel Corner, between Fairlie and Tekapo.  

We U-turned at that point and drove back to Wrights Crossing to cross over the Hakataramea River and drive the Meyers Pass Road over the Campbell Hills.

Hakataramea Valley

Another ‘adventure’ over a less used, narrow and winding gravel road that would eventually take us to HW82 south of Waimate.  We really didn’t  know what to expect but had read accounts of other motorhomers that have been over the road…so figured it should be OK.

Meyers pass is through there somewhere

In the event it turned out to be an interesting drive up and over the hill.  Yes it was narrow in parts but there were still plenty of places for vehicles to pass one another.  No-one told me about all the gates that I’d have to get out and deal with along the way though.

I think there were about five of them altogether, but it was good to stretch the legs and have a look around at the same time.  Pretty briar roses still in flower, beehives, great views.

The gates all had a sign on them to reassure you were still on a Public Road.  You couldn’t turn off anywhere once you’d gone though the first one (perhaps they’d printed too many signs and had to use them up..LOL).

Stopped to take a photo of an interesting looking historic bridge on the way up the Pass.

There was an area to pull off the road at the top, where the views took in the road up the Pass and the road out…snaking off into the distance.

The road just travelled
The way ahead
Our on-board map – blue line shows road travelled

We crossed over two concrete fords and one narrow rocky one along the way but there was no water flowing over any of them.

No big deal…but with a roaring stream going over it…that could be another story!
Last gate

The road eventually came out in farmland on the eastern side, joining the sealed road again at Pentland Hills.  Then followed a few more local roads till we reached HW82 at Waihao Downs.

From there it was approx 12kms northward to Waimate.  We’d decided to stop there at the NZMCA Club Park.

As we drove through the town we noticed a Farmers Market just packing up in the local park, so found a carpark and went to have a quick look.  We ended up buying some locally grown ‘black’ cherries and a 2 kilo bag of apricots for only $6…a bargain for sure.  The stall owners told us they were the last pickings for their season.  The apricots were really large, juicy and tasty – the best we have bought for many a year!  We gorged on them over the next 10 days or so and there wasn’t a bad one among them.  They put supermarket bought ones to shame for sure!

In the end we spent a couple of days ‘blobbing out’ at Waimate before we moved on to Oamaru, where the truck was booked in at VTNZ for its COF renewal.

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