We're getting better at finding great spots to park up. With the help of the NZMCA Directory and the CamperMate iPhone app, we can pinpoint a location and assess whether it meets our basic requirements: it's free or there's only a nominal charge; there's a body of water in the vicinity; dogs are allowed and there are (ideally) toilets. However, neither directory gives us any idea about the "magic" factor. For that, we have to inspect the site in person. A couple of times, we have pulled in and driven straight out - usually because there's been no shelter, the site is too close to the road or access for a nine metre bus is too tricky. Luckily there has always been a much better option only a little way down the road... like Taylor's Lake on the Inland Scenic Route just south of Rakaia Gorge, Lake Wardell (pictured below) and Ahuriri River just north of Omarama.
We spent two nights at Lake Wardell, which scored highly on the "magic" factor - enough room to move (so we could feel relatively secluded), a gorgeous lake that was home to a very friendly duck population, snow-capped mountains in the distance, picnic tables, fire pits and a plentiful supply of pine cones and firewood, good shade/shelter, a very clean long drop loo, a huge expansive sky without any light pollution that let us glimpse our entire universe...
... and, us you can see in the foreground in the photo above, we had great mobile reception so I could work. Meanwhile, David could enjoy fishing for salmon at the head of the canal, only 1.5km away. The only real downside of the Lake Wardell site is that we could hear the highway traffic noise all day and into the early evening. Fortunately, by the time we were ready for bed, it was blissfully quiet.
p.s. What do you think of our new awning?