Tuesday 02 August 2016 – Lake Ohau, New Zealand
They say that when you’re overseas you learn more about your own country than the country you’re visiting. That’s true in some ways, for me – in New Zealand you don’t have to worry about the safety of a pack on your back, or (in my case) a bag on your hip; in New Zealand you are treated to a lot of personal space (I remember getting particularly overwhelmed by the crowds in an H&M in Hong Kong, and even just walking down the street in London). I know these things about my country, but I don’t know it that well from a tourist’s point of view (even after working in inbound travel for a while).
In the last couple of months, I’ve done a little exploring in my own country and have been inspired to do more.
Lake Ohau – McKenzie Country
I’ve driven through the McKenzie Country plenty of times en-route to Queenstown (from Christchurch) but most of my knowledge of it comes from Craig’s dad, who is very passionate about the area.
Last month, Craig and I drove four hours to meet our friends, Liv and Brodie (who live in Timaru) at Lake Ohau Lodge, with the hope of doing a spot of skiing.
Lake Ohau Lodge sits at the base of the mountain, where the skiing happens, and at the edge of Lake Ohau (a glacial lake). The Lodge comes about as close to how I’ve always imagined a traditional alpine lodge to be as possible – it is dated (the main lodge built in the fifties and possibly not refurbished too many times since) in a very charming way. The rooms are basic, but very clean and tidy, with central heating keeping you nice and toasty during the very fresh winter months. Your room rate generally includes breakfast (continental and cooked) and dinner – homely meals that are just to die for. The dining is somewhat communal – on our first night we were seated with another couple who had come from Sydney and worked in Customs – they had some brilliant stories, that I won’t go into. In the centre of the room is a great big fire, that people seem to be drawn to, and in other rooms there is also a bar (complete with dart board and pool table), table tennis, and a TV/books/card games.
After our dinner on the first night, we went for a couple of drinks and played some darts (which I was terrible at) before a rowdy Contiki Toga Party made their way in – we escaped this and made our way out to the outdoor hot tubs which, miraculously, were empty. Absolute heaven on a freezing cold night!
On the day that we were supposed to go skiing, the forecast for snow was looking pretty sad, so we decided to have our breakfast, take a leisurely walk around the area and then make our way up the mountain to check out the situation. It only took us around 15 minutes to get to the ski field, and we didn’t need snow chains (not a good sign). Some poor guy had hit his oil sump on a rock on the way up – he made it to the top, but he certainly wasn’t coming back down!
After checking at the situation at the ski field, three of us decided it wasn’t worth the cost of a half day pass, and parked up at the sweet little hut with hot chocolate, while Brodie did a couple of runs on his snowboard. I’d definitely like to come back here, as it does look like it has some fun trails.