Crossing the Danseys Pass between the Waitaki Valley in North Otago and the Maniatoto Basin in Central Otago has been on our list of things to do again since we last made the crossing in the early 1980s. That time we crossed from west to east. It was memorable for several reasons, one being the nature of the road, and the other being the accommodation we used (more about that later).
Our east-west journey over Danseys Pass in February began at the small village of Duntroon in the Waitaki Valley. For the first 12 km the road was sealed, but from that point onwards it turned to gravel for the rest of the journey over the Kakanui Mountains all the way to Naseby some 30 km further on.
At about 6 km into the journey, on a side road, are the Elephant Rocks.
Over 24 million years ago this whole area was under the sea. Whales and other marine life sunk into the soft sand which then rose to the surface during the last few million years. The result is an area of fossils and dramatic limestone outcrops which have been weathered into unusual shapes. This area is favored by climbers and is taken as a side-visit by people touring in the area.
On the day we journeyed over the Danseys Pass road it was raining. In order to get the above image I had to crouch behind a small umbrella to prevent the driving rain from soaking my camera. The rain persisted until we reached the summit and began our descent.
Danseys Pass Road narrows to almost a single lane not long after leaving the seal. For a while it follows the valley before rising on a twisting road through steep tussock covered hills.
Close to the summit at 935 metres the rain became heavier …
… and so too did our encounters with free-roaming sheep that often blocked our way.
The summit is reached at the 23 km mark and the road then descends steeply through Upper Kyeburn to the Maniatoto Basin.
Not far from Upper Kyeburn and the Danseys Pass Coaching Inn, still surrounded by steep hills is a lavender farm and gift shop. It was a surprising find in the middle of a high country sheep farming area, well off the normal tourist route.
Our destination for the day was the old coaching inn at Upper Kyburn. We had last stayed at the Danseys Pass Coaching Inn some 30 years ago. On that occasion it was also cold and raining. At that time one could fairly describe the inn as eclectic and in need of some TLC (tender loving care). One of the more unusual features then was that the road took a sharpish turn right at the corner of the inn. If one had a bedroom on that corner (as two of our sons did), it was rather disconcerting at night as felt as if cars approaching from up the hill would crash into the room before passing the front of the hotel to continue down the hill. Fortunately that feature has now been corrected.
Danseys Pass Inn has had a major makeover since we last stayed and it now operates as a boutique get-away hotel and a place to hold small conferences and functions. One of the nice things is that it has all been done in keeping with old character of the place and it makes for a pleasant overnight experience. A feature of the large lounge is a big open fireplace. This was very welcome as it was cold and wet outside, with the temperature dropping to 4 degrees C overnight (in the middle of summer!). The lawn you see in the foreground is where the road used to be.
Danseys Pass – the settlement – is located approximately halfway between the pass and Duntroon on the eastern side. Confusingly, however, the historic Danseys Pass Coaching Inn is located on the western side, at the locality known as Upper Kyeburn.
The next day we traveled on to Naseby, and then Wanaka.