Sunday, 7 June 2015

Into the MacKenzie Country-Tekapo

We left Christchurch with a couple of places in mind for overnight stops on the way to our next destination, Tekapo. But once we were on the road, we decided to drive all the way; stopping in Geraldine for lunch, Fairlie for church photos and last but not least, Burkes Pass for more photos of a church.

But not just any church, St Patricks is the oldest union church in New Zealand still on it’s original site. In 1992 a local artist leased and restored the old church and it became a gallery & craft shop. The Burkes Pass community purchased the church in 2001 and it’s now back to being used for church services & meetings.

Once through Burkes Pass we drop down into the high tussockland plain of the MacKenzie Basin also known as ‘Big Sky Country’. A land of dry & dusty plains surrounded by snow capped mountains and huge blue skies.

Our next stop is at the relatively new NZMCA Park at Tekapo, and what a lovely park it is, albeit a little lumpy. The ground is quite spongy, probably due to all the pine needles and the removal of a number of trees. There are very few level areas to park on but we managed to find a spot at the bottom of the site and use a double height of leveler blocks to even up the van.

The park is situated on the eastern shore of Lake Tekapo in amongst a mature pine forest with great views through the trees to the lake and across to the township of Tekapo in one direction and Mt John in another. The NZMCA Park is part of the Lake Tekapo Regional Park and there is quite a bit of recreational development happening in the forest and along the lake front with picnic areas, walkways, bike tracks and even a handy dog park next door.

The view from our van was ever-changing from beautiful sunrises turning the sky above the mountains a stunning shade of pink, to approaching snow storms over the Southern Alps, to the golden glow of sunset. The days were brilliantly sunny but icy cold outside after heavy frosts most mornings. We stayed very snug and warm in our van with the diesel heater running, leaving it on low overnight. And now that we have our winter quilt and extra blankets, which we collected in Christchurch, it’s toasty warm in bed too.

After a short walk through the trees to the lake edge this is the view of Tekapo and Mt John (to the right). After a long hot summer and a dry autumn, the lake is extremely low. I guess it’ll be spring before the winter snow melt fills it up again. Unfortunately the very familiar ‘Tekapo Blue’, the intense, milky, turquoise hue of the lake was hard to shoot- it’s there but the sun is low in the sky and taking a photo looking up the lake is looking straight into the sun.

Of course a stay in Tekapo wouldn’t be complete without the obligatory photo of the Church of the Good Shepherd in it’s very picturesque setting overlooking the lake.

And a photo of the church wouldn’t be complete without an equally popular shot of the nearby Sheepdog Memorial.

But I did have to visit three times before I managed to get some ‘clean’ shots…

...the area was overrun with tourists- morning, noon, and night!

I walked back to the park along the waterfront one afternoon, pausing at the sale yards to shoot the juxtaposition of old and new.

The path taking me along the edge of the lake passed these shallow ponds; feeding grounds for dozens of Canada Geese, a few Black Swans and ducks. Two Thumb Range is behind the pine forest which is where the NZMCA park is located.

As I was creeping up on the geese- (fat lot of good that did- there were also dozens of rabbits in the grass that shot out of there at full speed, alerting the birds to my presence)- I came across the very last of the flowering lupins. These flower spikes are way out of season and it’s a wonder they hadn’t been knocked flat by the frosts.

Lupins Last Stand
One of the reasons we WILL be back through the MacKenzie Country is because of these lupins; we’ve missed them the last two seasons. I want to capture the mass flowering of thousands of lupins that grow along the edges of the roads, around the lakes and through the tussockland. And even though they are not natural and there are many people who despise them, I’m keen to shoot their wonderful colours, which contrast with and compliment the colours of the Basin.

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