Fire damage at Ohau

We wanted to cycle to Ohau, an alpine lake resort village, from Lake Ohau Weir. However, this Alps 2 Ocean route was closed due to fire that ravaged this little village. Instead, we drove from Twizel to Ohau.

The drive off the main highway is quite striking. The dry land is vegetated with shrubs and golden tussock grasses. The basin is relatively flat flanked by mountains. Power lines stretched from horizon to horizon, east to west. Farm fences bordered the road.

After a short drive on a lonely road, Lake Ohau appeared as a pale blue line obscured by low rain clouds. In the foreground however, evidence of burnt grasses and charred pine trees. It was in August (less than two months ago) when wildfire broke out in this dryland. It went out of control fanned by strong winds and dry weather. Strangely, the spread seem sporadic as amongst the burnt trees and shrubs, fresh green ones were left untouched. This unexpected phenomenon continued all along the road towards the lake.

Trees skeletons line the shores of the lake closer to the village. A temporary entry ban on non-residents was placed to help recovery and assistance when we arrived here around 6pm. This is an isolated place but endowed with a magical lake and snow-covered Ohau Range. This is a winter resort – the play field for skiers. Like many tourist depended places in New Zealand, Covid 19 travel restrictions compounded by the fire, this is a major set back.

On our exit, we stopped at Lake Middleton to witness the destruction. Across the placid lake, rows of completely burnt pine stood like sentinels and the land scared black with scattered ashes. It is depressing to see the devastation. The title – From scenic idyll to scene of destruction – read the Otago Times. The village is mostly destroyed, fortunately no fatalities occurred. Despite the grim landscape today aided by perpetual dark rain clouds – Ohau Village is utterly scenic and spectacular.

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