South Island meanderings…December 2017 (Part 3) Twizel-Lake Poaka-Clay Cliffs-Omarama

08 Dec – Left Mt Cook and headed back towards Twizel where we replenished our fresh water and did some grocery shopping.  Then drove back to Lake Poaka which is along the Pukaki Canal Road a few kilometres north of the town.  Wanted to check out the DOC Camping Reserve there and stop for a few days if suitable.  Arrived and found a nice area along the shore of Lake Poaka which is a man-made lake fed by two streams.  The water was quite clear but a lot of weed in the lake.  We found a nice spot and stayed there three days.  It’s not such a well-known site so there were only about ½dozen other vehicles staying each night.

The lake level was quite high judging by the deepish and fast flowing ford across one of the streams – it’s a short-cut to another camping area on the other side.  Seems no-one has used it in a while as slime was growing on the concrete slats.

We went for a walk around the long way, across a wide culvert where the water exits the lake and runs through a tunnel that passes under the road and the Pukaki Canal then continues on through farmland on the other side.

From the culvert we got an overview of the widest part of the lake before we continued walking around it.

Lake Poaka from the culvert

We went as far as we could before we ended up at a farm gate and the crystal clear, swiftly flowing Twizel River that feeds into the lake. So that ended any thoughts that we might be able to walk right around the lake.

Following the river bank on the way back we came across this stick structure which would have taken a lot of work to create but we couldn’t work out any purpose for it.

There weren’t many views of the lake on this side but it was an interesting walk overall.

From our camp spot one evening we tried walking the other way around the lake but didn’t get far as the track ended at another fence and a wetland that flowed into the lake.

Swampy southern end of lake

Every day the lake looked different in the changing weather conditions.

Unusual night sky over the canal bank
Last look at the Lake before we left

11 Dec – with rain forecast in a couple of days we moved on towards Omarama and went to look at the Clay Cliffs along the way.  The cliffs are located on private property but for a $5 fee per vehicle you can drive along a rough farm road to a carpark area.  We paid up and thankfully found an area big enough for us to park and turn around in when we got there.

It was a short walk to the main cliff viewing areas.

The walking path headed uphill through a narrow crack in the cliffs.

I feel small down here!

We emerged in an open area with tall cliff ‘spears’ all around us…like an outdoor ‘cathedral’.

Back Cliffs

The pathway continued further uphill getting steeper and steeper so I found a spot to sit and enjoy the spectacle while Neville pressed on as far as he could… through an even narrower cleft where he could see another row of cliffs behind.  He decided not to try going further up – the ground over the whole area was pretty treacherous as it was covered in small loose stones to lose your footing on.  I even found it quite difficult just going back down from the lower level.

Back through the gap

Nevillle took this photo from his higher viewpoint looking through the first cleft we walked through (looks like it’s been cut through with a saw).  Views of the Ahuriri River and the valley beyond, where the main highway from Twizel passes through.

Omarama River Valley






On our way back to the carpark we headed up through the scrub areas to get closer views of other formations which were quite different than the main area.

And our last photo which I thought looked pretty impressive – spot the ‘tree’ growing up the middle.

Sadly the sun wasn’t shining on the day of our visit so the colours of the cliffs weren’t as spectacular as the tourist brochures picture them but we were glad we went for a look – they were certainly ‘different’ and impressive.

Afterwards we drove on to Omarama and stopped at the free camping area beside the Ahuriri River.  This was the third time we have used this campsite in our travels.  The predicted rain arrived though it didn’t last as long as expected.  But we decided to stay and sit it out until the weather had cleared.

Omarama is one of the best places to go ‘gliding’ due to the thermal air currents in the area.  Tow planes were taking gliders up throughout the day and we couldn’t believe it when the skies clouded over one day and we got a thunderstorm…the planes were still going by dropping off gliders.  Must have been experienced pilots in those conditions.

We went for a nice loop walk up the river one day – more lupins growing on the shingle banks and tourist buses were even stopping for their passengers to have a photo stop.  We also saw a few anglers fly-fishing along the opposite riverbank trying their luck to catch the elusive fish.

Fast flowing Ahuriri River

Ahuriri Bridge

The camp also has the Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail running through it and a steady stream of cyclists were peddling past each day.  Some of them stayed overnight in tents, setting off again very early in the morning.  The trail starts at Mt Cook and ends in Oamaru – a long way but a lot of the riders weren’t carrying much gear so they were obviously just doing a short section locally.

14 Jan – time to move on.  Passed through Omarama again and headed southward along SH8 towards Otematata.   

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