Miles away from civilisation, hidden amongst snow-capped mountains, is a lonely old lodge on the edge of a deep blue lake – where screams travel only as far as the wind blows them.
Tended by skeleton staff in the winter, the inn harbours an apparition. Guests often report sights of the ghostly former caretaker who maintains the premises after dark; with a penchant for a night at the bar and a glass of fine wine.
Press your ear to the front door – you might think you hear a whisper – ‘redrum’. But this is not the scene of Stephen King’s novel The Shining – it’s the Ōhau Lodge, perched on the western edge of the magnificent Lake Ōhau.
The original owners of the lodge, the Mount Cook Company, bought accommodation huts from the Ministry of Works after they were surplus to requirement. Their original use was housing workers, employed on the Pūkaki hydroelectric dam in the early 50s.
And although hearing ‘redrum’ is an exaggeration, the rest is true of the Ōhau Lodge. It’s 45km to the nearest township – Twizel – where husband and wife Mike and Louise Neilson have been at the helm since the late 1980s.
Mike, originally from Oamaru, has fond memories of staying at the lodge, and learning the slopes of the ski field as a child – a tradition he picked up again later with his own kids.
“When we had a young family, we came skiing and stayed at the lodge – we could see that the business was obviously struggling.
“We stayed here whenever we came (to Lake Ōhau) and loved it – so a group of us decided to buy in."
Upper Waitaki water zone committee chairman, Simon Cameron, said visitors enjoying the lake’s recreational values should be aware of the potential impact they could leave on the area if they’re not mindful.
“There is a real potential for E.coli contamination, that is a concern for us over the summer. It’s mostly Kiwis having holidays out there so we’re trying to get people into that mindset of looking after themselves and taking rubbish-free picnics to and from the lakes.”
“We’re trying to be proactive about this rather than reactive after the fact. It’s a long summer and hopefully when February or March rolls around (the lakes are) still in great condition,” he said.
It seems an easy fix, he said, but not everyone does it – and that can leave a lasting impact on the environment.
“It’s really simple, take things along to the lake that won’t create rubbish – things like non-plastic food wrapping.”
“All of the community thinks the lakes are pretty special, we’ve grown up knowing they’re swimmable and fishable and looking after those areas knowing we have to look after them. Everyone, locals, holidaymakers all have to band together to look after them,” he said.