Clay Cliffs and the Drive Through Lindis Pass


184 Days on the Road

Driving, driving, driving… Hell, we have a lot of driving to do today. By doing 365 days in New Zealand doing 365 activities, it really isn’t necessary for us to have to do a 3-hour drive. But, Robin kind of screwed up the itinerary, so we have found ourselves travelling further only to backtrack on ourselves later. Well, we can forgive him for only making one mistake on the planning after 184 days. Plus, luckily for us we are, in fact, in New Zealand, which happens to be a stunning place to drive! Today, it includes driving through the mountainous and majestic Lindis Pass, which starts close to the small town of Omarama.

Before we leave Omarama though, we want to check out one of the nearby attractions and possibly the most impressive rock formation on the Vanished World Trail – a trail full of fossils and natural wonders that we started a couple of days ago. It might mean a little bit more driving, but it’s something we simply cannot miss!

The Clay Cliffs

A series of gates to open and close, open and close, and a gravel road brings us to the exposed Clay Cliffs. The sight of the sun beaming behind these huge pinnacles weathered into the rock just takes our breath away. Despite seeing so many photos of this crazy rock formation created by ancient river deposits, nothing compares to when you see it with your own eyes.

A short track takes us closer to the pinnacles. Not only do these cliffs have spiny/pinnacle shapes, but we can see the distinct layers of gravel and silt that have been deposited by glaciers 1-2 million years ago! The rock layers have been tilted over the years, which makes them look like they’re wrapping themselves around the pinnacles.

Walking on Mars

The track leads to path that looks like it has been formed by rainfall, creating an opening in the Clay Cliffs. We follow it through the narrow opening until we are inside. It feels like we have just stepped on Mars. Dry white dust covers the ground and we are completely surrounded by towering pinnacles. This is incredible. It’s one of those places that is so grand you don’t know where to begin taking photos, then we remember we have a 360-degree camera – nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

It’s at this moment that we realise no matter how long the drive is we have ahead of us, no matter how early we wanted to hit the road, it was well worth making the extra trip to come to the Clay Cliffs!

Braided rivers and lupins

Once we have taken enough photos, wallowed in enough views (which is never enough!), and had our time pretending we are on Mars, we return down the walking track to only be surprised by new perspectives of the Clay Cliffs. The cliffs closer to the car park look blue for some reason! Plus, at this raised elevation, we get an incredible view of the braided river at the bottom of the valley. As summer is well on its way, the blue, purple and sometimes yellow colours of the lupin flowers line the river. These flowers actually being a pest in New Zealand, but, dayyym, they do look pretty!

Panoramic beauty!

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Back to Central Otago

After one last look at the marvelous Clay Cliffs, and the sun apparently, we are now hitting the road for the longest drive of this trip: Omarama to Ranfurly. We are leaving Waitaki country and heading into the high heartland of Central Otago. Here we go!

Just as we start to climb into the higher altitudes of Lindis Pass, light rain starts the drizzle and the clouds hang low. Nevertheless, what we see along the Lindis Pass is another display of New Zealand’s natural beauty that blows our minds.

The beauty of Lindis Pass

Sandy-coloured tussock-covered mountains stand either side of the tiny road that winds straight through the valley floor. The mountains are so large that they create a dwarfing effect making you think, “Sure, I could climb to the top of that mountain, easy!”

There’s not much opportunity to stop to take photos other than at the Summit Lookout with a large parking area just off the road. We get our token tourist photos, and continue on the road towards Cromwell. We’ll be returning to Cromwell in a few days, but the drive along Cromwell Gorge with the bright blue waters of the Clutha River is, again, a beautiful sight. (God, New Zealand, you so bore us with your landscape porn, you really do!) Rugged rocky cliffs line one side of the Clutha River while we drive on the road on the other side. This road leads way off the beaten track into the Maniototo district.

Where the hell are we going?!

By passing a handful of small towns and just fields and fields of sheep farms, it’s fair to say that not many tourists head into this high country district of Central Otago other than if they are taking a more adventurous way to Dunedin. But it’s our job to find out the hidden gems in this part of the country over the next couple of days!

Welcome to Ranfurly

After around three hours of driving since we left Omarama, we finally make it to Ranfurly – a town with two Four Square convenience stores… (Why?!), a pub, a takeaway, a petrol station, and a holiday park, which we are making use of tonight! It’s crazy how driving a lot makes you tired despite sitting down the whole time. Whatever the reason, it just goes to show that New Zealand is best enjoyed slowly. Clocking up the kilometres is not the way to do it.

We are happy to just pass out at the Ranfurly Holiday Park. Join us tomorrow where we attempt to find a fun activity of the day in the middle of freakin’ nowhere!

Like stepping into another world

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See you tomorrow!