Back Tracking


Waitaki Dam, Waitaki Valley

What are the chances of going off to buy a car suitable for all weathers all terrains and straight away finding one in your favourite colour and with the added bonus of your name, plus birth date, as the number plate?

Waitaki Valley

Works for us. Perfect for an off the main highway experience, wending our way to `Otautahi Christchurch on the back roads. After turning off State Highway One at Alma, our blue car’s wheels never touched that highway again. Bliss.

Autumn poplars
Robert, rosehips & clay cliffs

Clay Cliffs, near Omarama, location for the Disney movie, Moolan, has become a very popular site – the gravel road in was humming with cars and (despite what the photo depicts) the walking track up to the cliffs, was teeming with ‘every man and his dog’ – plus a woman in gumboots.

It felt like we were all a bunch of kiwis out exploring on the last long weekend before the country opens up for tourists again and sites like this one become even more crowded.

An honesty box system at the gate asks for $5. We did by chance happen to have $5 in cash – more by good luck than good management.

We took a leisurely drive through the Waitaki basin and MacKenzie country, stopping to take photos, make a sandwich, grab a takeaway coffee, look at clay cliffs and impressive rivers and mountains.

We were all impressed all over again by Waitaha Canterbury’s swift rivers powering through ravines, before fanning out into the wide, braided rivers this part of the country is famous for. Everywhere we turned, we were struck by the beauty of the whenua and the wide light of the sky.

Lake Pukaki and Aoraki

The motel where we spent the night shall remain nameless. Designed for utility within an inch of its life, it definitely had some shortcomings. Where do we wash the dishes? In that little yellow bowl found only by chance under the handbasin? You’ve got to be kidding me.

Sure, the unit was cute with its white walls and red-poppy cushions. And it was comfortable, modern and clean. As long as two-minute noodles heated in the microwave is all you’re having for dinner, then it works fine. And ditto if you’re ok using the shower’s nozzle to fill the electric jug.



After catching up with whanau / family in `Otautahi Christchurch, we were still keen to keep off State Highway One and follow our tracks back through MacKenzie Country and the Waitaki basin. At Lake Pukaki there it was – Aoraki Mount Cook Aotearoa’s highest mountain at sunset, the last rays of the sun catching the peak.

On to Omarama – place of light – where as we approached, said light was fast fading into dusk. This time our choice of overnight accommodation proved more to our taste. We stayed at the Top Ten camping ground in a self-contained, de luxe cabin. Couldn’t fault it. Five stars. Recommend.

In the morning, still keeping off Highway One, we travelled back through the Waitaki valley, past the dams, on to Oamaru to catch up with whanau.

A bouquet our mokopuna picked for us

Mid-afternoon we headed back inland, turning off at Maheno and heading towards Danseys Pass.

Our car’s handling of the corrugated and sloping conditions, did not disappoint. Neither did the scenery.

We dropped down from the pass into the town of Naseby. One of my favourite places in the world. However, we needed to get home before midnight, so had to bid Naseby a regretful, ‘Sorry we can’t stay, but we’ll be back. And that’s a promise.’

A quick detour to Capburn Bridge, near Hyde, in the Maniototo. This bridge holds memories for me of a family camping trip, back in the 1960’s. Comforting to find the white bridge still there.

Memories crowded in of the nine of us standing on this bridge, me facing forward taking the photo with the box brownie camera.

This was a like a quick glimpse into the past through the rear view mirror.

But it was time now to get back on the road again and head for home.


Writer from Dunedin, New Zealand.

One thought on “Back Tracking

  1. Beautiful landscapes to delight the eye. I’m still chuckling over your comment; “In that little yellow bowl found only by chance under the handbasin? You’ve got to be kidding me.”

    Liked by 1 person

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