Holidaying Little Owl Gully Style: Part One
We like to think of Little Owl Gully as the pivot for travels of from one to five days; the car journey each way taking no more than four hours. It’s surprising how refreshed we feel when we get back to Little Owl Gully..
I visualize it like those maps of the world with a pin from your place connected by cotton thread to each and every one of the places in the world that you are connected to in some way.
I’ve seen them in YHAs and other accommodation providers, in takeaway food shops, and other places that I can’t recall off-hand. Colourful cotton thread stretched straight and taut between pins with equally colourful pin heads.
Our map would have to be on a very large scale: lines a few millimetres long are not going to capture even our imagination, let alone voyagers of all ages, who, pre-Covid, got used to viewing anywhere on the globe as a possible destination.
Our most recent five day trip saw us return to a Little Owl Gully in good heart. Any longer, and we’d have needed to get someone in to milk a goat, move the cows, check on stock water, water the tunnel and greenhouse, and depending on how dry it had got, water the vegetable garden.
The hens have a sheltered hen house site, a large run, a self-filling water trough that lasts them a month, and a vermin-proof layers mash feeder that provides them with enough food for three weeks. But we don’t like to keep them ‘cooped up’ for too long.
‘Cooped up Coopers’ – that was us by the end of January. The feeling coincided with a forecasted stretch of warm, settled weather for the Canterbury High Country and the Omarama region. Our camping and tramping trip to the Ahuriri Conservation Park was all on.
We had been determined to wait for a block of good weather. Our late October camp in the Hakatere Conservation Park turned out to be quite a chilly one – cold days and near freezing nights. After that, we decided to plan camping holidays around balmy times.
Up the Hakatere we holidayed at the aptly named Lake Camp. Our free accommodation (no tent site fee and three flash new toilets), a one and a half hour drive from Little Owl Gully.
We chose a sheltered, elevated site overlooking the lake. We took our time and found a prime spot. No one else was camping – tells you something!
Nonetheless, the welcome break, the exploration of an area we’d never been to before, and the opportunity to try out some new camping gear made it all worthwhile.
Half-day walks round the lakes yielded unexpected delights. From the shores of Lake Camp I watched through the binoculars as a cormorant came up with a big trout in its bill. The bird’s long, thin neck became bulgingly fat for a few fleeting seconds as it swallowed the fish whole.
That was the first time I’d seen a bird do that. Marvelous! Whoops, that’s a John Campbell. (He’s one of New Zealand’s most exuberant tv and radio personalities, and he loves “marvelous!”)
Then there was the climb up Mount Sunday – a sheer-sided hill with imposing rock formations. It’s had a big following ever since it was used as Edoras, the capital city of Rohan, in Lord of the Rings movie scenes. From its summit you look across to the upper reaches of the extensively braided and mountain-flanked Rangitata river. We were gobsmacked by the sheer scale of the braiding at the headwaters.
And the first try out of our brand spanking new camping mattress. Here’s some of the guff on the amazing Megamat Duo 10 LW+ :
- Double mattress: 197 x 132 x 10 cm
- Weight of mat: 4.63 kg
- Self inflating with a mini-pump as an inflation aid
- Flat valve technology: separate inflation valve, and big deflation valve – non-protruding. Adjust to individual body contours through precise air release
- Insulation: to – 48 Centigrade (R value 9.5) and horizontally cored light foam for weight reduction
- Supersoft tricot top fabric: with hydrolysis resistant airblock film, and robust slip resistant floor fabric
- Smart pack sack: height-adjustable roll top bag with carry strap, which can also be used as a shoulder bag – mattress deflated, rolled up and in the sack: 70 x30 cm
- Warranty: 5 years on materials and workmanship
Disclaimer! The company hasn’t been in touch offering to pay me for promoting their product. She’s a beauty though. Worth looking into by all you camping enthusiasts looking for home away from home comfort in a light, compact, very portable double mattress.
The mat was purchased through Amazon and delivered a week later in the nick of pre-Covid times: no anxious wait of months through all the pandemic unpredictables.
At $450 (NZD), the verdict – after a cosy, comfortable first night’s sleep: we’d got a bargain. The more so when a couple about to go up Mt Sunday told us they’d abandoned the idea of staying at Mt Potts Station Lodge on learning that they charged $700 a night.
A sign seemed to suggest that they had exclusive rights to conduct guided tours as well. It’s on their land I guess. What’s that saying? “Possession is nine-tenths of the law.” Talk about cashing in on Lord of the Rings fame!
I’d argue that, camping nearby in the great outdoors, we’d given ourselves a much better chance of authentically re-imagining the outdoor scenes, and getting a sense of what it must have been like to film them.
Pipits with young kept scurrying across our path as we walked across the river flats to get to Mt Sunday. A youngster would get left behind now and then – with panicky bursts of acceleration and comical darting in and out of low scrub, they always seemed to catch up again.
Doubt if you’d see, let alone pause for that as part of a tour group.
Talking about birds, at our Ahuriri campsite, a couple of rock wrens would hop up the trunk of a mountain beech just a few strides away from where we’d be sitting. I’d never seen them so close before.
Will leave the marvelous marvels of the Ahuriri till next post. Interesting – may have been balmy times at the tail end of January but we were again the only ones camping!
That’s all on modern-day homesteading at Little Owl Gully for this week. Read all about our camp and tramp in the Ahuriri Conservation Park in next Monday’s Holidaying Little Owl Gully Style: Part Two.
Thanks for your company. Bye for now from Graham – writing from home: Little Owl Gully.