With the temperature hovering in the mid-20s, the Navigator and I decided to head up-country for a night under the stars. Six months ago, we had camped on the shores of Lake Ohau in the Ruataniwha Conservation Park in company with a reasonably senior DOC field worker. Naturally, the issue of ‘Freedom Camping’ came into our fireside chat and he said as long as they were tidy, used a trowel to bury poo and didn’t set fire to the place, New Zealanders should be able to freely enjoy places like this forever.

So, it was back to that spot we headed last Friday, later than expected.

The Ruataniwha Conservation Park

Between decision and departure, the weather changed from hot and clear to dark and raining. A call to the Omarama Hot Tubs indicated it was windy, but still sunny up the valley, so off we went. But our arrival, around 6.45pm, coincided with the arrival of rain, so we headed off to Ohau Lodge to see if we could obtain any sustenance there.

The place was chocka – bursting at the seams, cars to the horizon and the dining room to capacity. A waitress said they had a wedding the next day, but she’d check with the chef to see if he could squeeze us in.

We retired to the (almost) empty bar where the waitress reappeared; yes, we could be fed – but given the size of the crowd, choice was limited. We had to take a full three-course meal – Indian-spiced tomato soup, a choice of eye-fillet or confit of duck, and dessert of pannacotta. We chose the fillet of beef and shared the $48 meal sitting at the high table in the bar.

Turn off the main highway and head towards the alps, Lake Ohau awaits

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