Friday, May 17, 2013

Clay Cliffs

On the road from Queenstown to Christchurch (and near Omarama), there's a prominent geological feature that's very enticing but that always seems like too much of a detour.  This time, however, I refuse to drive past and decide to check this off my mental list of must-dos.  I'm talking about the Clay Cliffs:

Clay Cliffs pano (click for stupid big)

They are a pretty good detour, but I guess that keeps the riff-raff out.  Also, they're on private property, but the public is allowed to access them for a small fee (totally worth the $ and trouble).

As I get closer to them, I see that there are some demoiselles in there, and while that's true, they aren't super well-isolated like the ones in France.  From a distance, the cliffs look pretty imposing, but they kind of mush together upon approach.  However, there are little paths and crevices among them, and entering them opens up a whole new realm.  Like, holy cow:

Barely shoulder width (this is looking up at a veritable sliver of daylight)

Looking up again

The serpentine channels go every which way, but thankfully they all go slightly uphill, which means that getting out shouldn't be a problem.  "Go downhill until you're in the open."

Wall detail

In short, the natural maze/cathedral is stunning in its intricacy.  I'm not sure I'd want to be in there while it's raining, though...

Signs of life

Back on the outside, it's still super awesome.  There's a great view of the braided Ahuriri River as it runs towards its outlet at Lake Benmore.

Ahuriri towards Omarama

Turning back around to look at the cliffs reveals tons of intricate details, textures, and shades.

Dark sky

Light sky

No sky

Here's another panorama of a smaller zone as a parting shot:

Clay Cliffs pano (click for larger)

I easily could spend a full day crawling around exploring (and waiting for good light), but there's ground to cover and other goals to tend to, so I just feel like I've gotten my first trip there out of the way!


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