19 May 2019

A Little Lake, A Loch & More Autumn Reflections.

We left Lake Tekapo early morning, and headed to the dump station, which could possibly be known as the most scenic one in N.Z? With no-one around, I took my time, already these dumping chores were not as complicated as I'd once imagined them to be.
Heading west, Lake Pukaki is the next lake, which was only a half hour drive away. I drove up the east side of Lake Pukaki, along Hayman Road and pulled over for a mini-break.
And like Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki is also glacier fed, it too is a milky blue colour, created from glacial flour. Lake Pukaki is the biggest of the three lakes that roughly lie parallel to each other. The braided Tasman River feeds into Lake Pukaki at the northern end, and is sourced from the Hooker and Tasman Glacier, which are situated near Aoraki/Mount Cook.

And just like that, the dogs were off ... I'm guessing maybe 'rabbits' might have been on their minds!

Our next port of call was Lake Wardell, only a further 10 minutes down the road, I wanted to see how big the lake/pond would be in autumn. If you'd like to see what it was like when we visited in early summer, click here.

Bernie and I had called into Lake Wardell when we were living on the road. I remember, before Bernie had stopped the car, Oakly leapt out the window! He'd spotted a rabbit! He jumped, rolled and ran ... fortunately speed isn't one of Oakly's strong points, so the rabbit got away and thankfully we got our dog back.

However, this visit, I was better prepared - with the windows up, I drove in, found a park and then we set off to explore.

Lake Wardell is a popular place to freedom camp, its situated amongst trees beside a sheltered pond and is handy to Twizel (if you need supplies, plus there's a public dump station in Twizel).

I'm not sure why it's called a lake? Some years, over summer, it's been known to completely dry up, but in other seasons, when the lake is full, it's simply gorgeous. On calm days, the reflections are amazing. 

Selfie time!
Lake Wardell is beside the man-made hydro canal that runs from Lake Pukaki. The canal provides many kilometres of fishing opportunities, which are easy to access as a road runs beside the canal banks. There have been many large salmon and trout caught in the canals. 

We left Lake Wardell and continued on to Loch Cameron. Again I'd visited this stunning little Loch in summer a couple of years ago, it was greener then, and had gorgeous reflections (click here to see those pics), I was interested to see what it would be like in autumn.

If like me, you think you've seen a place at it's best, but it's not in autumn ... I recommend to go back and see it during the golden season. I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

When I visited Loch Cameron last, I left the dogs with Bernie as I was unsure whether they'd be allowed there. Back then, there had been two signs on the gate to the Loch, one saying 'dogs restricted' and another sign saying 'control your dogs and pick up after them'. On this visit, I decided to follow the advice of the second sign. I'd control my dogs and (as I always do) I'd pick up after them.

Above the Loch, a sealed road runs alongside the canal. The canal starts from Lake Pukaki and continues on to the Ohau A power station, before flowing into Lake Ruataniwha.

Heading back to the bus, we walked along the western side of the Loch. I remember thinking how well-behaved the dogs had been, they'd stuck to the path and they were still surprisingly clean. The minute I had that thought, they both decided to disappear among some reeds. They soon re-appeared covered in muck! *Sigh*... we had almost made it back to the bus in a clean state! So we stopped - and each dog had an involuntary dip/wash in Loch Cameron. It didn't take long and they were clean-ish. 

Why is it, that my dogs don't mind being in wet, muddy stuff? They love rolling in crap and smelling gross...but when I gently and lovingly, encourage them to stand in shallow, water to wash them down, they act as though I'm torturing them? It's got me stumped!? 
So back to the bus we went, two clean dogs (slightly peeved with me) and one happy human!

18 May 2019

Lake Tekapo - Reflections & Rabbits.

Lake Tekapo never, ever disappoints. In all seasons it's spectacular. I thought when we stayed a few years ago, when lupins were blooming (click here to see that blog and photos), that I would've seen Lake Tekapo at it's best. And without a doubt it was breath-taking, but, here I was in autumn. And it was equally as stunning. The warm golden colours and reflections literally made me stop in my tracks.
It was everything I had dreamt it would be.

The NZMCA park on the eastern side of Lake Tekapo was a great place to spend the night. I arrived late afternoon and wondered whether I'd find a spot. The park, which is situated amongst pine trees, must be one of the nicest parks around. There were a few spaces I could've parked, but on closer inspection, they weren't level and the ground looked damp. I wasn't keen on getting stuck! Imagine having to ring the AA again, to ask for help. I'm sure there are better ways to become a valued customer! 

Eventually, I found a spot that looked firm and reasonably level. 

My furry companions as always were eager to get out and explore. And the beauty of this wee bus is, once I'd turned the engine off, we were good to go. So, with leads on, we set off to the lake. 
Once out of the NZMCA park, the leads came off, and the dogs raced around, while I took photos and we all explored.

Before long, it was obvious we were in 'rabbit country'. Many, short, fluffy-white tails flashed into view as rabbits zig-zagged about as they sped for cover. The dogs were delighted!  Me?  Not so much! I love rabbits, but the dogs love them so much more! 
Both dogs have terrier in them. Oakly is Bichon/Foxie and Boo is Bichon/Jack Russell. And they're obsessed with hunting! I wish, I could let them go and know after a couple of hours of chasing & hunting they'd come back. But they don't. Once in rabbit terrain, their hearing suddenly turns off, their speed increases and I'm left wishing I had of had them on leads.

Miraculously they did come back. And much to their disgust, their leads were put on. 

It was a good time to take photos. The lake was calm and I happily clicked away. I was in my happy place - the dogs, not so much...hahaha

There are many reasons I like recording my bus adventures by blogging, and one is, when I research an area, I always find something of interest. 
And here are a couple of things I discovered about Lake Tekapo...
Maori were first to discover the Mackenzie Basin as they travelled the area, hunting moa, birds and eels. 
Later in 1855, a sheep thief, James Mackenzie, travelled inland with a large number of stolen sheep to avoid being discovered. And that's how the Mackenzie Country got it's name. 

The first sheep farm in the Mackenzie area was built by John and Barbara Hay on the shores of Lake Tekapo. When the lake is low, remains of the old Tekapo homestead can be seen on the eastern shores.

Lake Tekapo is the second largest of the three lakes in the area, which roughly run parallel to each other. From east to west, there's Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki and Lake Ohau. Lake Tekapo is 27 kms long and has an average depth of 69 metres (its maximum depth is 120m).

The rocks in the foreground show how low the lake level was at the time we visited, usually these lie underwater.

The development of Lake Tekapo's township began after the hydropower stations were built in the 1930s. Water from Lake Tekapo is diverted through a 1.4km long tunnel, which runs under a hill to the west of the town. It then travels along a 26km long canal to Tekapo B Power Station, which is on the shores of Lake Pukaki.

Lake Tekapo is fed from the northern end of the lake by the Godley River, whose source is the Southern Alps. This is why the water is a dazzling shade of blue, the melted glacial water contains finely ground rock flour which is light, and stays suspended in the water. The sunlight reflected off the rock flour, creates a spectacular turquoise colour.

I didn't go into the township to take photos, although photographing 'The Church of the Good Shepherd' is always tempting. But, for this trip, I kept to the lake and soaked up the views and reflections. 

Perhaps this caravan found the best spot to park ... amongst the pine trees, overlooking the lake, with an end of the day sunset.

After lots of photos, I took the dogs to an area that the NZMCA has fenced, just for dogs. There they could run around unleashed. Great for me not having to worry about losing them, however they weren't fooled, they knew that the real adventures lay outside the enclosure!

16 May 2019

Where's Lake Opuha Gone?

I love Google Maps, but sometimes they lead me astray. And on this particular day, 'Google Maps' did exactly that.
As I was about to leave Mt Somers, I typed 'Lake Opuha' into my phone, and away we went. Bernie and I had stayed there 18 months ago, so I had a rough idea of how to get there. Nevertheless I was surprised when Google directed me to turn right. If my memory was right, I was sure I had further to go. However, who was I to question Google. Perhaps a new road had been made?
Turns out Google Maps likes to find the shortest route, and that's why I happened to find myself driving up a narrow, semi-steep, gravel road. 
However, there were a couple of reasons I decided to continue on. One, the view was spectacular, two, part of me was intrigued to see where we'd end up and three, it wasn't the easiest road to turn around on.

And, that's how I ended up at the Lake Ophua dam. Which in fairness, was interesting, plus I could have taken the opportunity to take some photos, but I was kind of disappointed that I'd wasted time, ending up in the wrong place. So, without even hoping out of the bus, I turned around and headed the way I thought Lake Opuha was.
And funnily enough, it was exactly where we'd left it last time we'd visited (haha). Only, it had shrunk in size...alot!

I parked the bus and my forever enthusiastic walking-buddies and I wandered across what used to be beneath water.

The tyre tracks in the foreground were under water when we were there last.

Where the dogs are standing (in the photo above), and the green area in the photo below, was submerged in water before summer. Quite amazing how much water had been used for irrigation during the dry periods, which goes to show how necessary this dam is.

Time for a swim - not for me though!

With or without water, Lake Opuha is simply stunning. 

Lake Opuha is a 700 hectare man-made lake, built to be used as an irrigation reservoir. In addition to irrigation Lake Opuha has a small hydro electric plant on the dam's outlet which provides electricity.

It's easy to see why this sheltered lake only 12kms from Fairlie, is a popular all year around. In the cooler months, freedom campers love the isolation, the photo opportunities and fishing. During summer it's popular for boating, kayaking, water skiing, picnicking and again fishing. You can camp here for two nights (except between 23rd of Dec to 2nd of Jan). There are three freedom camping areas around Lake Opuha, but this spot is the best!(directions at the end of this post).

Back at the bus, we relaxed in the sun, had some lunch and soaked up the surroundings. Until Boo started to bark, which surprised me, as I thought we had the place to ourselves?
However, it was a welcome sight, to see a lady exercising her miniature ponies, and one rather large dog.

If you'd like to read about our stay at Lake Opuha when we visited it in 2017 and see the difference in water levels, click here ... Lake Ophua 

Directions to get to lake Ophua from Geraldine
  • Drive towards Fairlie from Geraldine
  • Just before the town, take the sign posted road to the right 'Mount Michael Road'
  • 'Mount Michael Road' merges into 'Trentham Road'
  • Go about 10kms and you'll come to Monument Corner, there's a war memorial in the centre of the intersection.
  • Turn right and cross over the bridge
  • Drive past the first picnic area on the right... the next road on the right is the best place to freedom camp. ENJOY.

15 May 2019

Mount Somers & The Coolest Hedge

What a difference a thick, snuggly duvet makes! Plus two hotties and two dogs. I was as snug as a bug in a rug. After that roasty-toasty sleep, we were up early and ready to hit the road. But first, a brief stop at Rolleston to fuel up and grab a few things from the supermarket, and then we were off.
Mount Somers here we come!

Driving across the Canterbury Plains was stunning. Clearly we were in another district, with long straight roads, lush green paddocks and snow capped mountains in the background. We'd left behind the wild east coast beaches, hilly farmland and busy Christchurch traffic.
Much sooner than I expected, we arrived at Mt Somers. It was roughly about an hours drive from Rolleston.

Mt Somers is a small town in Canterbury, nestled beneath the Southern Alps. I'd visited this cute little village a couple of years ago as I went to explore The Ashburton Lakes. My original plan was to spend the night at Mt Somer's domain. But, no-one else was there and as the day was still young, I changed to Plan B. 
Actually, there was never a Plan B, so I made one up. 
Plan B = have a look around the township and then continue on south. 
So I parking the bus outside the domain, and we (the dogs and I) went off to explore.

Mt Somers is one of those towns that appears to be a sleepy village. But it's so much more. It's the gateway to Lake Clearwater, Lake Heron,The Maori Lakes, Erewhon Station, plus several other high country lakes. 
And then there's its history. Did you know, the development of the area, first started with large sheep stations, and was then mined for coal, clay, sand and limestone? Now the region's economy is mostly agricultural.
It's also famous in the experimental and underground music communities. Mt Somers is home to Peter King, who hand cuts records (one at a time) onto polycarbonate plastics. You'll have to google 'experimental and underground' music to find out what that's all about.

Mt Somer's Museum in the domain

The muster's hut in the domain
The streets were very quiet, and if I remember correctly I think I only saw two others cars while I was there! If the internet information is correct it's population is just over 2300. 

The historic Mt Somer's General Store can be seen on the main road and beside it is the Library.
The historic Mt Somers General Store
Mt Somers Library
My favourite Mt Somer's attraction was the 100 year old Macrocarpa Hedge that's been transformed into a striking piece of living art. 

Oh, and something else... it's the small things, right?
I was intrigued at how spongy, springy and soft the grass around the village was! It was like walking on a lush, green, bouncy carpet.

Eventually we looped back to the bus. Although,there are many interesting places in the area to visit, I was focussed on carrying on with my journey to North Otago before the autumn leaves got blown away. 
Our next stop would be 'Lake Opuha'. Bernie and I had spent a couple of nights there a few years ago (in late spring) and the reflections on the lake were gorgeous. I wondered what it might look like in autumn?