Riverton to Te Anau Road Trip

Lake Manapouri

In the morning I awake early and take a brisk walk up the main street to admire Riverton’s wealth of heritage buildings. When I return, Bob’s nursing a strong cup of coffee but he perks up when he sees me. “We got back at 3 am... 45 kilos...shot in the heart.” he gabbles excitedly as we load our gear into the boot. He’s still raving about the hunt as we drive past Colac Bay.

“It was unbelievable, he gutted the deer then wore it like a backpack to cart it out!” he says.

“Oh well they’re hardy these southern men,” I reply, pointing out Cosy Nook, a tiny fishing village with a handful of cribs (holiday homes). Bob waves to some fishermen on a boat heading out into a high sea from the sheltered, rocky bay. We continue on to McCracken’s Rest with its picture-postcard views of Te Wae Wae Bay and Solander Island, then we leave the coast and drive inland through Tuatapere to Clifden. Here we stop to admire its historic suspension bridge and then drive on, under the watchful gaze of the Takitimu Mountain Range, to Lake Manapouri, which is surrounded by the snowcapped Hunter Mountains, Turret Range, and Cathedral and Jackson Peaks.

Bob clicks off a few rounds with his camera and then we continue on to Te Anau for a late lunch of gourmet venison pies from ‘Miles Better Pies’, eaten seated upon a picnic table on the lakeshore. “There’s the Kepler Mountains,” I point out as Bob greedily wolfs down a second pie, “and that’s Mt Luxmoore, the highest point on the Kepler Track.”

“Looks pretty tough,” says Bob, chewing thoughtfully and carefully avoiding eye contact, clearly having decided that his aim of experiencing a Great Walk in NZ may not become a reality. “Don’t worry,” I say, gathering our gear together, “let’s get some more information.”

We drive to the Dept. of Conservation office where we watch a video about the track and pick up a brochure. Both recommend a good level of fitness and Bob looks decidedly uncomfortable.

Sensing the need for a change of scenery I suggest we check into our farmstay at Mt Prospect early. “You’re going to love it,” I tell Bob, trying to distract him as we head out to the isolated station.

When we pull up outside Prospect Lodge we’re greeted by our friendly hosts, Joan and Ross Cockburn, who usher us inside, show us to our rooms, then invite us to join them for afternoon tea. After freshening up I return to the lounge where Bob is regaling Ross with all the highlights of our circumnavigation of New Zealand. Ruby the cat sits on his lap.

After tea we pile into a four wheel drive for a tour of the family farm. “They’re shearing this week,” says Ross, “so there could be a few cast about.” I smile because I know Bob will have no idea what he means and as Ross begins to tell us more about his family’s nine thousand-acre merino sheep and cattle farm, he suddenly interrupts.

“Look,” he cries, pointing at a sheep pedalling its hooves in the air, “it’s having a seizure!”

“Good spotting,” says Ross. “But it’s okay, it happens just before they’re shorn as they’re a bit top heavy.”

We jump out and wander over to the helpless sheep, which quickly rights itself after an almighty shove from Ross and Bob.

“Right,” says Ross, nodding at Mt Prospect after it’s sorted, “let’s head on up the hill.” We drive up a steep track to the summit where we’re offered a stunning 360-degree view of the surrounding countryside, snowcapped mountains, the full spread of Lake Te Anau and Lake Manapouri in the distance.

“Wow,” says Bob his arms outstretched, “it’s like being in a plane.” We stand for a time admiring the lakes and mountain ranges in the setting sun, then Ross names each mountain, ending with Mt Luxmoore. “More magic views from across there,” he says.