Oreti Plateau Camp – Simple and Stunning

“A Mish a Day” #173 Oreti Plateau Camp. Eyre Mountains Conservation Area. 22.9.2018. We really seem to be spoiled for choice here in New Zealand’s mighty mountainous South Island. And if you’re prepared to travel it doesn’t matter which part you’re in, a mish is always nearby. Being in the south (New Zealand’s hiking mecca) makes the decision of where to go very difficult. Owning a home in Te Anau sometimes makes making the final choice a daunting task…

The area has spectacular wild camping options in the north, south, east and west. To make things easier I had my decision made for me by the small weather window temporarily hanging out over the Eyre Mountains. The impressive peaks are only a short drive east of my house in Te Anau, and because they lie to the east the weather is usually less rainy than in the west (Fiordland). I had been to the area before, and on that trip had camped in the Ashton Burn Valley, amongst the tussock-covered flats on the true left of the classic Southland river. However with rain in the forecast I didn’t want to risk getting trapped by rising waters, so I planned on not crossing the Ashton Burn on this mission. A quick scan of the map, and I could see an awesome looking spot near the forest’s edge at the base of Smooth Peak(1623m). I slowly zoomed my way along the dusty Mavora Lakes Road into the upper reaches of the Oreti River, now on the road to Mt Nicholas Station and Walter Peak Station. Wet boots are unavoidable in this area, as the track makes its way over the boggy terrain on an old high country farm 4wd track. The stream crossings are all easy, as the boot-filling water was flowing very slowly, and each crossing is only a few meters in width. A couple of easy kilometres later I got up onto the Oreti Plateau, and thankfully away from the muddy sloppiness of the lower areas. I had unlimited campsites to choose from, as the area is very flat and is just begging to have a tent pitched on it. I picked a spot near the forest, out of the wind, and made it my home for the night. With camp set up, I kicked back with dinner and a brew and enjoyed the peaceful evening-time mountain atmosphere. The local birds’ evening sing-a-long faded in noise, along with the light of the sun disappearing behind Bald Hill(1394m) to my southeast. This signaled it was time to retreat to my sleeping bag and call it a day.

Oreti Plateau Camp

An early-ish start was greeted with the tent flapping in strengthening nor’west winds, and the colours of a very moody pre-storm sky. I had fully planned to get up and go, and with a muesli bar in one hand I quickly packed up my tent in ever increasing wind. I powered my way through the first of the side streams as the clouds released their first drops of rain. Now it was time to quickly learn to live with, and enjoy, the simple pleasure of hiking in the rain back to the car park. Always pleasant when you know you are hiking towards the end of your adventure and not the start!

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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