What a wild night it was last night! We stopped for the night at the Rakaia Gorge camping grounds because we thought it was too windy to drive... but we hadn't experienced anything yet! When incredibly strong northwesterly gusts started rocking the bus from side to side, David decided we needed to move to a more sheltered spot just as the rain started. After a wild night that didn't let up until around sunrise, we woke late to blue skies and snow dusting most of the Southern Alps.
The Rakaia Gorge Camp is set high above the Rakaia River, a fast flowing cloudy turquoise river that can swell by five metres during flood - the last time David was in the area, it almost reached the bottom of the bridge. It's one of the largest braided rivers in New Zealand and we braved the winds to walk across the bridges that provide passage over two of the braids - a small one-way bridge and a larger dual lane bridge that leads up to Mount Hutt lodge. We almost blew off. Unfortunately the lodge bar was closed on a Tuesday night, although I managed to spend $10 on the idea of a glass of wine - the note I had stuffed into the shallow pocket of my hoodie had disappeared by the time we returned to the bus, dislodged by the strong gusts to dance in the flax that runs along the perimeter of the camping ground. So we drank ginger beer and watched the sand storm on the opposite side of the river bed, furiously swirling and twirling the sand up to 40 metres in the air.
The Rakaia Gorge Camp is picturesque, affordable and dog friendly - although dogs must be on leads at all times.