Monday, 22 June 2015

Fish, Frost & Fine Weather- Twizel

Now, back to catching up on the backlog of blogs, although these particular ones from Twizel seem a bit out of place now that the whole area is covered in knee deep snow from the big snow dump that passed through there last week. Oh how I would have loved to have been parked up here when that went through.

We left Tekapo after five days and while we did a fair bit of exploring there’s still a few road trips we've left until next time.

Our first stop for the day was at the Irishman Creek Station post box on the side of SH8, probably the most photographed post box in all of the South Island. What a great colour choice; the blue and white replicating the big blue sky and snow covered Southern Alps.

It’s funny how things pan out; I hadn’t heard of Irishman Creek until seeing the post box and then the next day, while listening to a programme on the radio, I heard about the historic Irishman Creek Old Car(pre 1932) Rally which is into it’s 61st year, originally held over the dirt tracks of the high country station, now held over the dirt tracks of numerous high country stations in the area. And then a contact mentioned to me that Irishman Creek was once owned by Bill Hamilton (its still in the family) and this was where the famous Hamilton jet was born.

We stopped for lunch at the Mt Cook viewing rest area again, this time with ‘Out There’ on the back and on a bright and sunny day. The last time we were here was after our epic journey up the Pukaki River road- Mt Cook on both visits was hardly visible. Here it’s peeping out just above the ute deck. The sun is too low at this time of the year to get any decent shots. We’re leaving the 55km side road down to Mt Cook for another time, we want to stay down there for a few days and do some of the walks but it’s just too cold to enjoy them at the moment and the camp ground gets very little winter sun.

Our next camping spot is on the side of the Ohau B Canal just south of Twizel where it was a big surprise to find another Ultima fifth-wheeler parked there. That’s us at the back and Helena & Stuart’s van near the gate. Another Ultima couple we now have had the pleasure of meeting on the road.

This small but desirable section of canal has only recently been made available exclusively to NZMCA members courtesy of Meridan Energy.

And the reason it’s desirable? Is the salmon farm just across the canal. There are three large salmon farms located along the Ohau Canal and they are popular places to fish as the wild trout and salmon feed on the excess food that escapes from the farmed salmon nets.

This farm is located beside the main highway, it has a cafe with salmon treats and sells fresh salmon to the many tourists that call in. Visitors can also feed a pen of salmon which are in a net built into the outside deck.

I climbed up the small hill behind the camping area to get a birds eye view over the farm. This is looking south towards Lindis Pass with the Wairepo Arm behind the farm. Perfect habitat for the Australasian Grebe and maybe that close up photo I’m still waiting for.

How are these for solar panels- they belong to the salmon farm- but I’m sure they would look great on top of our van. We’d never need the generator if we had these big boys on board!

From the top of the hill, this is looking down the canal, on it’s way to Lake Benmore. There are three sections to the canal; Ohau A, Ohau B(where we are) and Ohau C, a power station separates each section.

Another shot looking across to the salmon farm with ‘Out There’ parked below. Isn’t it amazing how still the water is? We had perfect weather most days, once the cool morning mist lifted and with not a breath of wind.

Across the bridge were more pens, fairly new structures by the look too.

And just past the new pens, at the inlet to Ohau B is Lake Ruataniwha with a passing fizz boat disturbing the calm water. At the top of the lake is another power station and above that is Ohau A Canal which flows out of Lake Ohau. That’s Ben Ohau on the far left, a mountain that towers above Lake Ohau and the dam at the Ohau A inlet.

A peaceful evening on the canal- instead of the canal boats of the UK and France we have canal caravans.

And two ‘golden hour’ photos as the sun sets-

These are the kind of pets you want when you’re on the road; ones that don’t need feeding, walking or toileting. They won’t annoy the neighbours and you can visit National Parks and stay in DOC camps without worry. Perfect! Clayton pets- ‘the pets you have when you’re not having pets’. I’m not sure how they’d go sitting on your lap though.

These two cute ‘pets’ belong to Paul & Tina from ‘The Max’, that’s their rig below with the ‘dressing room’ on the back. Paul and Tina participate in the quirky sci-fi fantasy Steampunk genre that is inspired by the Victorian era, and after fishing the canals, they’re off to the Steampunk Festival in Oamaru (steampunk capital of NZ) where, amongst other activities, they’ll walk the streets in their steampunk costumes with their ‘pets’ in tow. The ‘dressing room’ houses some very cool clothes that Tina has made and put together, while Paul turns his hand to making these quirky pets. You never know who you’ll meet on the road but there sure are some interesting people.

Life on the road involves a passing parade of vans and people, there’s always something of interest out the window. Along with the mundane chores of a life lived in an small space, there's washing to dry before the weak warmth of the sun disappears, a bag of rubbish to hang off a mirror so the local ‘pets’ can’t reach it. David & I have had many discussions around the logic of the human race- like why, when you have the whole canal bank to park on, do some squeeze themselves into tight gaps between other vans?

At this time of the year the lovely fine days come hand-in-hand with heavy overnight frosts….

and early morning mist over the low lying river plains and canal.

We emptied our water pipes out each evening before retiring and turned the water pump off (which we do each night anyway) so the pipes wouldn’t freeze. Which was just as well as there were a couple of burst pipes & fittings in other vans. Each morning the fridge overflow froze in big drips to the side of the van.

The puddles stayed frozen for most of the day. This was a bit of a novelty for me, Tauranga didn't get too many frosts and very few on the edge of the harbour so I haven’t come across frozen puddles since my childhood- walking to the school bus stop in rural Napier- so of course I had to do what we always raced to do as kids. Stomp on the ice to break it.

We did have one very heavy frost, not long before the snow came (not the latest big fall), it was pea soup outside for most of the morning and the temperature dropped to -8c on our outside gauge. Our diesel heater worked very well, keeping the chill out of the van overnight and us as warm as toast inside although it would have been great to have had the 2nd one back and installed to give us that extra quick boost (we were still waiting for it’s return).

It wasn’t only the cows on Gypsy Day passing by, a small flock of sheep were moved from the paddock across the canal from us, the sound of mass bleating and barking dogs alerted me to the fact that they were just about to round the corner. They weren't in a hurry to move along either when the farmer stopped to talk to a fisherman.

Night falls over the canal as the sky turns a beautiful soft pink.

The frost lay on the south facing canal bank all day, every day slowly building up into tiny little icicle patterns.

Still to come-
Fishing, Birds & Snow at Ohau


  1. Big memories pinged for me in this post. We had friends who worked on the Benmore dam project, they lived in Otematata, we visited allot with some fishing trips, we froze and caught zero fish, more than once!
    My father worked two 8 hour shifts in Engineering for a year with different companies, one of them at CF Hamilton in Chch. Gotta get down's magic country!

    1. Glad you could reminisce Jimu, you'll have had your fill after the next few blog posts. When you do come, just make sure it's in the summer, it's not much fun when everything is wet, cold and/or frozen. And you're right it is magic country, I'n ready to go back there!

    2. Summertime and the livin is are jumpin and the cotton is high.....
      You lead I follow...differently! good luck with the hoar frosts...if any one can capture a southern auroraborealis, you can!
      Nga mihi nui

  2. Lovely pics as always. I am interested in what modifications David needed to do to enable you to drain your water pipes in anticipation of the water freezing?


    1. Thanks Jenny, no modifications, we just bleed the pipes(turn taps on) after turning off the water pump. That gets rid of the excess- so far so good...*touch wood*. Although last night a noise drove me crazy, I thought we were back in Tauranga listening to the noise that comes from the Port as they worked loading the ships overnight. We think it's the water that's laying on the roof which is slowly freezing as the temperature drops in the wee small hours- there's cracking and low rumbles, similar I think to the noise in the mountains when the snow and ice are moving. I went outside twice in the freezing cold to find out what it was and heard nothing until I got back into bed! Typical. :)

  3. Thanks for the updates Shellie, great stuff.
    If you were in Twizel yesterday you would have had more than your pipes frozen -20deg C , bloody cold , i have been at Lake Clearwater and it was -15 deg C that was pretty amazing . Stay warm

    1. Haha, good point! Glad you are enjoying the blogs Francis. Yes it's hard to imagine that just 3 weeks ago there was very little snow and -8c was the lowest we got too. I can't imagine -20c but I'd like to experience it just for the sake of it. Lake Clearwater should have become Lake Coldwater over winter!


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