#tbt A word to the weather wise
Extremes of weather affect us all and sudden changes can be fatal – but many Kiwis take a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude into their outdoor adventures. Member David Francis, who has extensive outdoor experience, writes about a recent trip in rugged Central Otago that reminded him just how quickly things can change.
( #tbt is the ubiquitous- to some- hashtag that means 'throwback'. From time to time, we will publish online some of the most memorable articles from The Motor Caravanner- this is from issue 321 June/July 2016 )
WORDS & PHOTO BY DAVID FRANCIS #57628
Having travelled up to Poolburn Reservoir from Alexandra on a reasonable-looking day, but with hints of impending cloud cover on the horizon – I reflected on the fact that we had gone down quite a steep gully at the actual dam and then up a similar scramble back to the flatness at the other side. When we reached a gate across The Old Dunstan Road and decided to venture no further, we decided to stay the night and enjoy the rock-strewn wilderness that Peter Jackson had selected for the set of The Plains of Rohan.
My priority at this stage was to be back over the steep gully so we had no natural impediment to our return out of the wild when we wanted to leave. Well, the cloud cover came over quite low over our heads – we were at 800 metres – during the afternoon and the 28o day started to fade. All of a sudden we noticed a wall of cloud advancing at a tremendous rate at ground level and suddenly the daylight faded, just as if someone had pulled blackout curtains.
This was about 5pm. Then the wind tore at us from the north-west before performing a complete 360o swing over the next quarter of an hour. From what we could see through the cloud to the surface of the lake about 30 metres away, it was boiling, whipped up by the huge wind, driving pelting rain with it. The noise in our camper was horrendous, we were wobbling like mad, and the water was pouring in streaming rivers off our roof. Then we had almost continuous lightning for two hours with the usual accompaniment of the roar of thunder, and then hail that looked more like blocks of ice than hail as we know it.
By about 7pm we had observed our digital exterior thermometer winding itself down at an alarming rate from 28o to 14o. Heaven knows what the wind chill would have been. I reflected upon the warnings issued to walkers, trampers, hikers, mountain bikers, etc – this sort of sudden ‘weather bomb’ can kill you very quickly. In talking about our thrilling experience crossing the Thompsons Gorge Road (Tarras to Omakau) a couple of days earlier with the secondhand store owner in Omakau he said he always advises anyone travelling off the beaten track in ‘Central’ to have a four-day reserve of food with them.
My own past extensive outdoor experience, coupled with all the teaching I have done as a Scout Leader makes me very cautious about what I carry with me and where I stop, hence my decision over where not to spend the night. Waking up the following morning, to a blue sky and a slight north-westerly one almost had to wonder if the night before had been a dream.
Mountain biking back to the gate we had stopped at yesterday revealed a steep section of the track by the dam to be in a condition from water scouring that would have made traversing it in our 2WD camper rather interesting to say the least. Indeed as we returned to Alexandra that morning, the road we travelled back on was a very different road to the one we went up on. Whilst the surface had largely dried, and there was no dust thrown up, there was lots of fresh loose gravel, water scours, and areas of silt just waiting to bog a wheel.