Waitaki Valley

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May 11th 2010
Published: May 14th 2010
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To be poetic, an exquisite jewel of a place, the lower part of the Waitaki Valley is wide and green with mainly sheep and fields, all very well tended, surrounded by hills. Then slowly we moved up the valley, past several dams and the valley became narrower, the hills became mountains and the lakes from the dams took the place of the fields and sheep.

Its the colours that made it such a magnificent sight. The blues of the rivers and dams covered the whole spectrum from aquamarine through to sapphire. The deep emerald green of the fields. The trees have turned the most wonderful shades of red through to gold, and where the sun shines through them they look like liquid gold against the deep blue of the sky. There are berries on many of the trees adding bright dots of ruby wherever you look.

It appeared to be a day of geological interest - not only did we see more rock formations like the Elephant Rocks from yesterday, but evidence of ‘earthquake geological formation’. There were cliffs of honeycombed limestone alive with sparrows, swifts, pigeons and others who have made the small caves their homes. There was even some ancient Maori Art at one place we stopped, but I was really disappointed - most of the interesting blocks had been removed (ie hacked off of the cliff face) and are dotted around various NZ museums. All we got to see were the ones that weren’t good enough for removing and small cartoons of what had been taken. All I can say is that we’re glad we didn’t drive miles to see them and we didn’t have to pay entrance fee!!

We finally arrived at the top of the Valley and visited Omarama Clay Cliffs - said to the NZ’s best kept secret! We arrived at a standard looking sheep station, and drove for several kilometres across the private land’s gravel road. Just as I was beginning to think it was a bit of a joke, we turned a corner and there in front of us were the most spectacularly shaped cliffs. One batch high on the hill top reminded me of the Parthenon in Athens.

A brief stop in Twizel, and then we headed north to inspect our camping site for the night, which had been recommended to us by Alan and Jos in Hokitiki - and boy, it really is spectacular. From where I’m sitting at the bottom of Lake Pukaki (by the dam), I can see to the top of the Lake, surrounded on both sides by mountains - and sitting right at the top resplendent in their snowy glory are Mts Cook and Tasman. What a truly stunning sight.

We were keen to get our fill of the dramatic mountain and glacier scenery, so drove up to Mt Cook Village to get as close to the end of the road as possible. No matter how hard we try, there is no way that our photos can do justice to the beauty of the mountains - it is difficult to show the scale and height - but let me tell you that Mt Cook is 3754m and Mt Tasman 3498 ... or as John described them ‘quite big’. We also got to have a fairly close look at both the Tasman and Hooker Glaciers, so not a bad trip all in all!

So for the past hour I’ve been sitting on our camping site watching the sun sink slowly and the sky and snow-capped mountains turn shades of red, with the beauty reflected in an almost still lake. John has been up and down taking photos to his heart’s content - I can see him in the distance looking like a tiny dot. Its getting chillier now, so I don’t think he’ll be gone much longer!

Still, it gives me time to ponder over why he can suck a sweet in half the time it takes me!!

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