Maori Ōamaru – Ō: place of;
marama: moon, light, or moonlight.
~ Omarama on the edge
of the International Dark Sky reserve
where the Milky Way is seen in high definition
The sense of sadness on leaving Queenstown quickly faded as we headed out on Highway 6 for the 170km drive to Omarama
Initially we passed through through Frankton to Gibbston’s ‘valley of vines’ with vineyards perched precariously between schist mountains and the rocky Kawarau River gorge.
This rugged riverbed was the site of the Otago Gold Rush of the 1860s, and several migrant miners’ cottages (notably Chinese) remain above the banks of the river. Now it is popular for white water rafting.
One of the high spots along this Highway is the renowned Roaring Meg falls, an artificial waterfall created by the adjacent power station.
Note the dead pine trees – a deliberate eradication by The Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group (WCG), of Contorta Pine and Douglas Fir, aggressive colonisers of native grasslands at these higher altitudes around Roaring meg. The spread of these species began from historic amenity plantings, plantations and shelter belts.
And setting aside such environmental problems, one can only stop and stare in wonder at the naturally turquoise blue waters of the Kawarau River (which featured in The Fellowship of the Ring film as the site of the mighty Argonath, or Pillars of the Kings.)
Onward to the junction of Highway 6 and 8 at Cromwell – which coincidentally was first called ‘The Junction’ (until some miners renamed it in 1863 after our 17th-century English revolutionary and regicider Oliver Cromwell.)
We did not stop here but journeyed on parallel with the lengthy Clutha river (Mata_Au) and its enclosure as the man-made lake Dunstan. At Tarras, the valley opens up into farmland with fruit growing and wineries.
The Country Store offered up a welcome break and then it was follow the long black cloud on to the Lindis Pass, a 63K winding road that rises to 971m and drops down into the wide flat glacial valleys of snow tussoc grass and the Ahuriri river, bordered by ridges of moraines (debris left by retreating glacier). [click to enlarge images]
The Clay Cliffs – tall pinnacles separated by narrow ravines, made up of layers of gravel and silt, originally formed by the flow from ancient glaciers over a million years ago.
It’s easy to see why this area is popular for light aircraft and gliders but for me it had all the draw of a Big Country cast in a glorious blue and gold tones, which my camera was eager to capture
And so onward to our resting place for the night besides the Omarama air field where the only other guest was a pilot who flew in late and was out with the dawn and where I got my first glimpse of the Southern Cross in a night sky filled with the Milky Way.
This is the part of New Zealand I left my heart in – truly a land of light, as the Maoris called it.
Next time: Two lovely lakes, a view of Mt Cook and the road to Christchurch.