Omarama: Weekend Camping Trip
Updated: Mar 18, 2019
When life presents you with three days off in a row, you grab it by the horns and ride all the way across the country to enjoy some much needed time in nature. I hadn't been camping at all this summer and with a promising weather forecast, we packed a picnic basket, filled our chiller with beer and pitched a tent in the Canterbury region on the South Island of New Zealand.
We researched a freedom camping spot in Omarama that we stayed at for the duration of our trip, then drove to the East coast to the victorian precinct of Oamaru for a day - hitting a couple of bucket list spots on the way! The town of Omarama is known as the 'place of light' and after witnessing one of its sunsets, I can completely understand why.
The idea of this trip was to spend as little dollar as possible (we're currently saving for a more exotic holiday to Fiji!) so we freedom camped and cooked, meaning that petrol and ingredients were our only real expenditures besides the hot tubs.
Saturday: Omarama hot tubs, camping at Ahuriri Bridge campsite
Sunday: Lake Benmore, Lake Aviemore, Duntroon elephant rocks, Oamaru
Monday: Clay cliffs, Bendigo
OMARAMA HOT TUBS
I have being dying to test these babies out since I got here a year ago! $49pp for an hour and a half in a sweltering pool beneath the night sky was as romantic as it gets; fusing nature with nurture, we relaxed as the sun went down over the mountains and presented a star adorned indigo sky.
Upon arriving the staff took us to the private pool that we had booked and we got changed into our swimmers, grabbed a beer each and hopped in to the wooden tub where we were able to relax at a temperature of our choice in the no-chemical, all-natural water. BLISSSSSS.
FREEDOM CAMPING AT AHURIRI BRIDGE
The campground was located on the side of the highway and had a couple of 'long drop' style toilets and plenty of space to park a vehicle and pitch a tent. Encircled by the mountains it was the perfect patch to stargaze and watch the moon rise over our heads. We left our tent here whilst we road tripped to Oamaru on the Sunday and returned to it that night for a quiet evening of playing cards and watching a movie.
On Sunday night I literally ran down the road to try and capture the insanely vivid sunset - so bright the clouds looked like they'd caught fire!
Because I am a genius, before we set off on our road trip I precooked two meals for us to have for dinner that night and breakfast the next morning so that no time was wasted prepping and cooking - only heating up! For the evening I made us pesto and veggie pasta (and filled a tub large enough to feed a family of four) and then the next morning we had my famous vegan bacon hash which I decided to include here as I got a couple of messages asking how to make it after I posted to my Instagram story!
red curry paste
vegetable stock cube
Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 15-20 mins
1. Boil the carrots and broccoli in a pan until they soften whilst frying the onion and garlic in a pan with some oil. Toast the hash browns from frozen and once defrosted break them up into bits and whack them in the pan along with the pieces of vegan bacon.
2. Add in all your veggies including the now softened carrots and broccoli and let it all cook together as you stir occasionally.
3. Add in any flavourings such as salt and pepper, balsamic vinegar, herbs and spices... then use two dollops of curry paste to add an oriental tang. I also crushed a vegetable stock cube with a little bit of hot water to even the flavour out. VOILA! Easy, filling and super yummy (no animals were harmed in the making of this meal).
THE ROAD TO OAMARU
The drive itself should take roughly an hour and a 25 minutes from Omarama to Oamaru, but of course there were a couple of photo opportunities along the way that filled our morning! We stopped first beside Lake Benmore and had a little stroll along the pier - if we had more time and I didn't have a broken toe, a hike along the waters edge would have been perfect in the sunshine.
We carried on driving past Lake Aviemore, spied the dam, and continued until we accidentally stumbled upon the Takiroa Maori Rock Drawings. Now, this all sounds a lot more exciting than the reality of it. I was expecting carvings and clearly painted depictions of an age gone by, but bordered by mesh fences, were the little remains of original 'paintings', most of which had been already chipped out of the rock and been housed in a museum somewhere. So there wasn't much left to look at. Nevertheless it was a nice little stop to pass the time and it raised some questions about why humans would destroy something so unique in order to showcase it in an exhibition area completely off-site and unrelated. Anyone know? feel free to message me with info.
Anyway, after a disappointing stop we carried on to Duntroon where we pulled up and explored the intriguing elephant rocks that littered the fields on the right of Island Cliff. These huge formations have been created by mother nature out of limestone and in their odd aesthetic, look a little like dumpy abstract elephants.
On the road trip I did back in September (read about it here!) we passed through Oamaru and stayed for sunset to watch the blue penguins march out on to the pier, but we hadn't seen much of the town. As the Victorian precinct of New Zealand, I was intrigued to check out the architecture and themed streets of the largest town in the Waitaki District. Also well known for its obsession with Steampunk, this bizarre little place had me weak at the knees for its architecture and theatrical heritage.
We took a stroll down the white washed, bunting clad main street where quirky book shops and cafes were nestled beneath hand painted signs and olde-style banners. We side stepped into a store that had a wooden sign outside that said 'Adventure books' and I am so glad we did! Inside was a real life sailing boat all painted and decorated with old school netting and rope and covered in books. In all shades of blue, the books formed an ocean visage across the shelves and I took great delight in spying some of the otherworldly titles that were expensive and rare collectibles.
We spoke with the lovely owner of the store, an American man named Bill, who informed us that he'd moved to Oamaru from the US and had collected all the books that littered his shelves over the years himself. He showed us one-off prints and excitedly told us about a book auction he was planning to go to next week where one book is bidding for $25,000!
We carried on hunting round the cobbled streets where we occasionally spotted people stepping out of buildings in full Victorian style dress - it was as if we'd stepped back in time. We enjoyed some live music at the brewery near the harbour and wandered through the Steampunk inspired children's playground which was very bizarre - I wish I was small enough to have fit in the swings!
Click right to see more of Oamaru...
Oamaru is a land of horse drawn carriages, heritage markets, penny farthings and playing dress up - perhaps going on a Saturday would be better advised to really make the most out of this unique spot as many of the shops and galleries were understandably closed.
We drove from Oamaru back to our campsite in Omarama and set off the next day to go and explore the Clay Cliffs which were literally a five minute drive down the road. It's advised to pay a $5 entry fee into the honesty box before a gate which takes you onto a rocky gravel pathway - as it is private land. You arrive at a carpark and then have to walk a couple of minutes up to the grandeur that is these odd natural rock formations.
Made up of layers of gravel and silt, the cliffs have been formed from the free flow of glaciers over millions of years. We found a sneaky path just to the right of the main track which looked to be slightly overgrown with bramble. Avoiding the thorns we made it through the other side unscathed and in the coolest spot! Nobody else was here taking photographs so we carried on clambering through the rocky, narrow pathways until we physically couldn't go any further.
The incline isn't difficult but I had a broken toe and was wearing sandals so, the sweat was on. We made it back on to the regular path and went to see the majestic site the same way all the tourists had!
Click right to see my gallery of the Clay Cliffs!
Located about an hour away from the Clay Cliffs near Cromwell - midway to Queenstown - is the old mining town of Bendigo. The goldfields are a historic site that allows travelers to wander in and out of the ruins - some more intact that others - and gaze out at the breathtaking views on top of the hillside. Incredible fortunes were once made here, and today it seems to be a good spot for hikers to go exploring. Or, if you're like us, sit in the remains of an old stone house playing Shithead and guzzling a Speights in the remains of the sunshine.
It was a nice little pit stop to break up the day, but I definitely think we'll be back to do a proper walk when my foot is better! I love doing hikes around historical areas; fusing nature with history is the perfect way to learn something and whilst being active!
Click right to see more photos from Bendigo...
All in all a great long weekend that cost roughly $100 each for petrol, the hot tubs and food. JJ and I also play a lot of cards, as you probably gathered, in particular the game 'shithead' - no idea why it is called that but we've been making it a bit more interesting recently. We've started playing for treats; first to three and whoever loses has to buy lunch, or make breakfast the next morning, or organise and pay for a cinema trip etc! So far I've bought dinner twice and owe a movie screening... JJ had to cook breakfast, pay for lunch and buy us two rounds in a row at a bar. Always looking for ways to entertain ;)
What are your favourite non-electrical games to play? We need suggestions before I end up bankrupt!
Until our next roadie... x