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Mars on Earth

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December 2022 Issue

Clay Cliffs, Ōmarama.

Why go to Mars when you can have your own otherworldly experience right here? The Clay Cliffs will make you feel underdressed in anything other than a spacesuit. 

These unusual formations are an easily bypassed adventure when driving through the Mackenzie Basin, although being just a simple detour off the main road. From Ōmarama heading towards Twizel, turn left onto Quailburn Road and follow the signs. A $5 donation per vehicle is requested as the cliffs are on private land. 

The gravels, sand and silt forming the cliffs were laid down around 20 million years ago then uplifted and tilted by the nearby Ostler Fault. They have now been eroded to what can be seen today.

An easy, well-formed track goes beneath several of the pinnacles then through a narrow gap into a basin where you are surrounded by towering peaks. The basin is filled with uneven and loose rocks, so good footwear is advised. 

Exploration is limited only by yourself. There are endless narrows to sneak through and it’s easy to be entertained for an hour or two. A game of hide and seek is a great opportunity for parents to get some peace and quiet on a long road trip.

Henburn Road, Ōmarama

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