Monday, April 19, 2010
The Road to Ohau
Much has been written about the grandeur and the power of New Zealand's South Island landscapes, about the jagged peaks of the Southern Alps, the parched, dry expanses of the MacKenzie Basin, the big skies and the power of Central Otago and beyond.
I was born in the North Island but I've been living in the South Island for the last twenty years. I've seen almost every part of it but I still never tire of all those majestic qualities that have made the South Island famous. Recently, I discovered a small wedge of the south I had never visited before - the very pretty, glacier-fed Lake Ohau, located south-west of Twizel. You turn off the main highway just south of Twizel and travel inland for around 17km and then suddenly, as you rise over the brow of a hill, there's Lake Ohau, spread out like a turquoise jewel in the middle of that rust-brown landscape.
Probably more famous for its small ski field in the hills behind than for any sort of 'town,' Ohau is a ridiculously quiet spot - a new development that sits on a rise above Lake Ohau and, just across the road, the much smaller, darker, Lake Middleton. The fir and pine-edged settlement is made up of a growing number of holiday homes. I'm sure there are permanent residents there as well but in my two days there, I never saw another living soul. If it hadn't been for the roads and the telephone wires, I could easily have imagined I was the last person left in the world. Lake Ohau itself (60sqkm), is popular with trout fisherman I believe, but like all of the south's glacier lakes, it's freezing cold and not nearly as tempting to swim in as you might think.