Exploring That Other Lake in the Nelson Lakes National Park

Mountains, forest and massive lakes! Here we are in the Nelson Lakes National Park based in the Alpine Lodge just moments away from the famous Lake Rotoiti. We got our token backpacker photo jumping on the Lake Rotoiti Jetty yesterday, but today we are going further afield to explore “that other lake”.

Lake Rotoroa is the largest lake in the national park but a much quieter one. We guess the reason is that the road down to Lake Rotoroa takes about 20 minutes from the State Highway, whereas Lake Rotoiti is just off the highway. Whatever it is, it is fair to say that Lake Rotoroa is a little more off the beaten track.

FOllowing the Buller River

In the campervan setting off from St Anaud, we are cruising along the rapid-filled Buller River. Appropriately, the farms lining the Buller River have a substantial amount of bulls…

A familiar sight

40 minutes later, we arrive at a huge lake. The views are just amazing with snowcapped mountains in the background and forest-clad mountains on each side of the lake. (If that sounds familiar, its because it looks exactly the same as Lake Rotoiti)!

And guess what? This lake has a jetty too! Only this jetty has a picnic table at the end of it. Does that make it better or worse than the Lake Rotoiti Jetty? We’re not sure, but we take some token tourist photos, just to be safe.

Picnic table wars and lunch with a bushman

The picnic table then gets occupied by a small group of American bros backpacking New Zealand. They are jumping off the jetty into the freezing water. Far out!

We opt for another lakeside picnic table in the sun. Next to us is the remains of an old canoe made by a bushman who lived an isolated life out here in the Nelson Lakes. By some sort of weird coincidence, we are then joined by a classic New Zealand bushman, Jeff, and his WWOOFer from Canada, Sonia. We have a chat to these guys while eating our incredible lunch of Robin’s specialty, Budget bread sandwiches.

Although we plan to do a bit of a hike along the lake, Jeff has invited us over for coffee once we have finished. He lives at the entrance to the national park. We’ll definitely take him up on his offer. (Plus, he has a puppy that we are dying to play with)!

Remains of a bushman's canoe Remains of a bushman's canoe
Picture-perfect picnic spot Picture-perfect picnic spot
Hiking in the forests surrounding Lake Rotoroa Hiking in the forests surrounding Lake Rotoroa
A balancing wood pigeon A balancing wood pigeon

A walk with nature

The Nelson Lakes National Park is mostly known for its multi-day hikes. You can really have an adventure out here, but we just don’t have the time right now. (One day we will be back to hike to the Blue Lake, the world’s clearest lake). Today, we are taking a quick walk around the lakeside forest, simply called The Nature Walk.

Already, we have spotted a black robin hopping about our picnic table and really got to know the sandflies well… (This is a bit of a sore subject for Robin – literally, as his finger is swelling more and more to what we think is a bad reaction to a sandfly bite). Nevertheless, we’re bound to be completely hit in the face by nature as we take this walk along Lake Rotoroa.

Tall-ass forest!

We walk like tiny insects under the towering beech–podocarp forest. These are some of the tallest forest we have walked through so far on this trip! We love how every forest seems so different in New Zealand.

The shallow roots wind their way over the track and the tall trees themselves are quite sparse compared to other dense forests we’ve hiked through. This lets through a lot of sunlight to cast dramatic shadows across our path.

On the forest floor, hundreds and hundreds of ferns keep the ground cosy.

You know that forest we were talking about? Here it is in 360 degrees!

Spotting the kereru

In the trees, we first hear the heavy and clumsy kereru (wood pigeon) before spotting it balance its fat body on a thin branch. Of course, tuis and bellbirds and singing their merry little hearts out but they are too high in the trees to spot.

OUr private lakeside beach

Every now and then, there is an opening to the lakeside where we have our own private area to admire the view. Someone has left a broken raft made from logs tied together with vines, or maybe it is one of those teepees you put over a fire?

The track finally merges with a 4×4 track back to where we started. Now we are taking up Jeff’s offer to have coffee at his place.

Robin finds himself a teepee Robin finds himself a teepee
Sitting amongst the tall trees Sitting amongst the tall trees
The drive back to the mountains The drive back to the mountains

Coffee and puppy!

We are greeted by Jeff, Sonia and cutest spaniel puppy! Laura just melts at this point, not able to make any conversation other than in baby voices to the puppy. We have lost her, people! We have lost her.

Meanwhile, Robin shows Jeff his manky swollen finger and asks if he knows and old bushman’s trick to cure it.

Time to see a doctor

“You need to see a doctor, stubborn French!” Jeff advises. He’s right. This finger has been hurting Robin for too long.

Well, it’s 3pm, the nearest doctors is in Murchison, about 30 minutes away. We just have time to visit the medical centre before it closes!

Fingers crossed for Robin (and other complimentary puns)

We say bye and thank you to Jeff, Sonia and Hishy the puppy and get on the road to Murchison. We’re taking this very same road tomorrow when we leave the Nelson Lakes, so we won’t bore you with the details of the drive today…

A nurse sees to Robin’s finger (then another nurse for a second opinion), and they both are not completely sure what it is. They think might be an infection, so have given Robin some antibiotics and some steroid cream for the finger. Fingers crossed it is going to work! (Oh wait, Robin can’t cross his fingers. Boom)! On the plus side, at least Robin has travel insurance.

At least the New Zealand landscape is always there to cheer you up

It’s now time for the long drive back to St Anaud and the Alpine Lodge. However, the views on the way back to St Anaud are pretty incredible. This way back to the town is much prettier than the way we arrived yesterday, where we get awesome views of a whole snowy mountain range! With the straight roads ahead of us, it creates the illusion the road goes straight into the mountains.

Anticipation for the West Coast!

Tonight, we chill in the Alpine Lodge. Then tomorrow, we’re making our way to wild West Coast of the South Island for Day 99 of our trip! On the way we’re stopping at some hot pools to break up the journey, but we are super excited to finally get to this rugged region of New Zealand. See you then!

Laura and Robin

Just us and Lake Rotoroa!
Just us and Lake Rotoroa! Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

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See you tomorrow!

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  1. How is your finger now?
    By the way is it easy and cheap to find a doctor or is it better to go to an hospital ?

    Comment avatar marylene
    04/09/2016 at 1:45 am
    1. It is much less swollen now thanks for asking. I am still taking antibiotic 7 days later and it is still soar but in a few days it will be like new. We chose to go to a medical center for ease as we were really off the beaten track and it was late in the day. Both hospital and doctors are easy to find in NZ and reasonably affordable.

      Comment avatar Robin
      05/09/2016 at 7:22 am
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