192 Days on the Road
A Kiwi guy has a hobby. He likes to make delicious artisan cheese. He sets up his own cheese factory. He invites travellers, backpackers… anyone to come and taste his cheese. He makes backpackers happy.
“Where is this guy, so we can go try some cheese?!” we hear you ask. Well, it’s just another reason to stop in the town of Twizel.
Despite Twizel being on the main tourist route of Christchurch to Queenstown, so many travellers drive right past it or don’t know a reason to hop off the bus. As well as Lord of the Rings scenery that we discovered thoroughly yesterday, there is a hidden gem just outside of the small town known as the Ben Ohau Road Cheese.
That moment when you realise you’re well off the beaten track
After a morning of travel writing nonsense and cowering out of the rain in the comfort of the High Country Lodge & Backpackers, the sun finally bursts through the clouds. We take the opportunity to hit the road and follow the “Cheese” signs. (The best kind of signs, stereotypically French Robin likes to think). It only takes us 10 minutes out of Twizel getting a little closer to those sensational mountain views and fields carpeted in straw-coloured tussock until we reach the steep graveled driveway of Ben Ohau Road Cheese. Although our 30-year-old 3.3 tonne piece-of-crap campervan makes it down the short steep gradient, we’re not too sure if we’ll make it back up…
We realise we have been in New Zealand too long when we shrug our shoulders and say: “She’ll be right.”
Finding The Cheese Room
We follow the cute hand-painted sign on the floor to “The Cheese Room”. As we’re walking along the path through small pine trees and various vegetable patches, we begin to wonder if this place actually has any “rooms”. Pine cones as big as your head, strawberries and lavender line the pathway up to a decking area and, indeed, a room! The room is actually in a shipping container – something that Kiwis are utilising more and more. Some Kiwis have turned them into homes, Christchurch has a shopping mall made up of them, and apparently they make good cheese factories!
Cheesemaking in a shipping container
The cheesemaker himself, Matt, greets us and although he is not working on cheese at the moment, he shows us The Cheese Room through the windows of the shipping container. It’s an efficient little setup complete with a vat and other cheesemaking components. All of which is powered through solar panels! It’s cheesemaking the sustainable way!
It’s not just the cheese, but Matt’s wife, Tracy, makes the crackers, jellies, chutney, and dressings to accompany the cheese. Most of which we are about to try!
Banter at ThE cheese-tasting table
There’s nothing quite like good food to bring people together. We join an English couple who had finished their cheeseboard long ago, but are happy to sit awhile and chat, soak up the sun, and the mountain views. Matt brings out three cheeses accompanied by complimenting condiments. However, Matt isn’t one of these pretentious cheesemakers who gets offended if we don’t match our cheese with the correct condiment. He encourages us to try it however the hell we like!
Robin, being stereotypically French (did we already mention that?) could eat cheese by itself all day, so doesn’t hesitate to take him up on the offer. Laura, being stereotypically English, doesn’t want to be too adventurous with her cheese to condiment match-ups.
First up is Aorangi Tangy, an addictive soft sour curd accompanied by spiced pear jelly. Then we give the soft and crumbly Waitaki Welsh a try along with rhubarb chutney.
Good cheese, Good views, good people
Two other travellers arrive, one from Auckland and one from South Africa, just in time for some Ohaulloumi coming straight off the barbecue! As the name suggests, it’s a soft halloumi cheese. With that barbecue smoke flavour, it tastes like summer!
It’s a beautiful afternoon just chilling and eating cheese with people from all over the world. You don’t know who you could meet while chilling and tasting cheese at The Cheese Room.
Rallying up the hill
All dairy-ed out, we say “see ya” to Matt, who assures us we’ll get up the steep gravel road with some momentum and second gear. Robin looks like he could be racing the go-karts at Highlands all over again, the way he puts his foot down and holds tightly onto the steering wheel until his fists go white. Thankfully, we make it and so we will not be the first to get stuck on this road!
A classic kiwi traffic jam
We set off to drive back into Twizel, only to hit traffic… New Zealand style! We pull up to let a flock of sheep herded by sheepdogs pass. Ah, we’ve all shown our country’s stereotypes today, and New Zealand is ending with a grand finale of sheep!
We’ve found that relaxed days on our 365 days doing 365 activities are often short-lived and tomorrow is no exception. Join us as we go ice-climbing in the shadows of New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki Mt Cook. See you then!
Make way for the sheep parade!
Have you read yesterday’s post? How about these articles?
- 6 Essential Pitstops for Your South Canterbury Road Trip
- 10 Underrated Spots in Canterbury
- Canterbury – Guide for Backpackers
Until tomorrow’s post, check us out on the HerePin app to meet other travellers in your area. We also post travel tips for New Zealand on Facebook, as well as our adventure on Instagram. Join the Facebook Group to find people to travel with, ask us questions and buy/sell.
See you tomorrow!