Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Waitaki

The Waitaki is a place of scenic contrast. Journey along the Waitaki Valley and the landscape changes from green pasture to the dryness of Central Otago.



Snow-capped peaks and beautiful lakes contrast with the bare brown hills that rise up from the valley floor.

Driving towards the mountains, stop and see the Earthquakes, an impressive formation of limestone cliffs. Nearby you’ll find Maori rock drawings made from red ochre, charcoal and animal fat.

Further along the highway, you come to Kurow, a farming town with many historically important limestone buildings. If you like fishing or hunting, this is a good place to stop. Kurow's also a great place for a spin in a jet boat.

The Waitaki River surges through the landscape, punctuated by three hydro-electric dams - Waitaki, Aviemore and Benmore. The Waitaki Dam was built with picks and shovels in the 1930s and Benmore is one of the largest earth dams in the southern hemisphere, and the only dam open for viewing.

There are many pleasant walks in the Otematata area - most will take around an hour. Longer hikes include the Benmore Peninsula and Deep Stream Tracks.

Omarama marks the western end of the Waitaki Valley. If you're into gliding, this is the place for it. The nor'wester blows steady and warm off the Southern Alps to form the famous Northwest Arch, a thermal that can take an intrepid glider pilot to 10,000 metres.