A three-month road trip around NZ (part 3)

By: Carron Stevenson

A three-month road trip around NZ (part 3) A three-month road trip around NZ (part 3)
A three-month road trip around NZ (part 3) A three-month road trip around NZ (part 3)
A three-month road trip around NZ (part 3) A three-month road trip around NZ (part 3)
A three-month road trip around NZ (part 3) A three-month road trip around NZ (part 3)
A three-month road trip around NZ (part 3) A three-month road trip around NZ (part 3)

Carron Stevenson continues her travels, this time taking the 4WD road to Walter Peak Station and enjoying the Around The Mountain cycle trail.

The only word I could summon as we drove into the Mavora Lakes was ‘"wow". At South Lake, a couple of fly fishermen were up to their waist in the water. It was just beautiful, and we were tempted to stay a while, but several people had recommended we camp at the North Lake, six kilometres further on. When we came over the hill, we experienced another wow moment looking up the lake.

The Mavora Lakes DOC camp was well set up. There are nine areas and each has a number of camping spots, some large, some more intimate. Provided are DOC toilets, water taps, picnic tables, metal fire boxes. You are only allowed to burn wood that can be picked up off the ground, no chainsaws. There were even small BBQs and a paddock for turning out horses.

We were delighted that we could stay here with our dog, Benji. He often prevents us from enjoying DOC sites. Here, a DOC ranger is in residence over summer. This helps things run smoothly ensuring campers pay and no rubbish is left behind.

The area is famously scenic – some footage for The Lord of the Rings was shot here. Additionally, there are three suspension bridges. It takes about two and a half hours to walk between each bridge mostly through native bush. And from the Mavora Lakes there are also walking tracks to the Greenstone Valley or to the Divide Corner on the Milford Road, with an overnight stay at Boundary Hut.

But for us it was an early start the following morning as we were driving our 4WD Suzuki in to Walter Peak Station. Surprisingly, we didn’t need to use 4WD as the road was in such good condition. From the Mavora Lakes turn off, almost immediately we were in a huge valley that went on for miles. Out of that valley the road dropped down to the next big valley and the mountains got bigger, out of that valley and down in to the next one and the mountains grew bigger and so on, until we saw Lake Wakatipu with views of the snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps behind.

The trees that former owner Hugh MacKenzie planted behind the Walter Peak Homestead many years ago are now being logged, so the area can be replanted in native bush. We met a couple of the logging trucks on the road, and had to reverse for one to pass on a narrow section of the road.

The farmyard tour includes red deer, not native to New Zealand, they were brought here in the mid-1800s for hunting. Unfortunately they grew rapidly in number and did a lot of damage to the native bush, to the extent that they had to be culled in the 1960s. The cull spawned the farming of deer for antler velvet and cervina (venison) meat.


Around the Mountains Bike Trail

Due to be completed in 2016, we learned that all of the legs of the Around the Mountains bike trail are built with the exception of the stage from Mossburn to Mavora Lakes.

The section from the Mavora Lakes to Walter Peak Station is up and running, along the gravel road. On our trip in there, we passed several cyclists. From Walter Peak, the cycle trail concludes with a trip on the Earnslaw back to Queenstown.

The cycle trail begins with a shuttle to Kingston (if you don’t have transport). There are also bike hire companies if you don’t have your own bike.

Kingston is the home of the Kingston Flyer (steam train) which used to run a half-hour journey from Kingston to Fairlight Station. Unfortunately the train isn’t running anymore.

We stayed the night at a freedom camp, five kilometres north of Kingston. It is for self-contained vehicles, as there are no toilets available, but there are plenty of rubbish bins. There is a beautiful view up Lake Wakatipu from here.

The bike trail runs along what used to be the Kingston to Lumsden branch line and has been well constructed. A lot of resources have gone into the trail and most of the newly constructed bridges are suspension bridges. They are very impressive. It is a reasonably flat trail along the floor of the valley, making it an easy ride. After riding 15 kilometres from Lumsden to Five Rivers for lunch, we quickly discovered that this trail should be ridden from Kingston to Lumsden as the altitude is higher at Kingston. It was indeed a much easier return ride.

The Five Rivers Cafe does not look like a cafe on the outside, more like a shearing shed or barn, it fits in well with its surroundings. Even if you aren’t biking the trail, we highly recommend stopping. The food and coffee were delicious – the lemon custard square, in particular. Also in the cafe are beautiful paintings of the district by local artists, along with jewellery, books and knick-knacks to browse.

Fairlight station is overgrown and no longer operative. Garston, about six kilometress along the trail is open with a thriving gallery and honey shop (they do tastings of all the varieties) and the freshly painted pub over the road does homestyle meals. There is also a resource recovery centre here so that you can get rid of your recycling.

The trail runs beside the highway so it is easy to access the cafés for a coffee or tea along the way. The views are farmland to the mountains.

The trail then runs from Lumsden to Mossburn, mainly following the highway. Watch for power poles in the centre of the track! Take the shuttle again, to the Mavora Lakes as there are 56kms to be completed when some red tape has been sorted out.

We are looking forward to riding the rest of the trail when it’s completed.

Check out the full article in issue #131 of Motorhomes Caravans & Destinations magazine (on sale now!). Subscribe here.

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