Saturday, 27 June 2015

Let it Snow

You’ll remember my blog interruption to report a magical overnight event while we were parked at Ohau B canal. Snow fell soundlessly during the middle of the night, the first snow of winter and a forerunner to the latest big dump.

I say soundlessly but I’m sure I could hear the soft patter of snow being blown against the side of the van later in the evening. It was bitter cold and very windy when I looked out but I couldn’t see a thing and certainly not anything white. With snow forecast & the wind hitting the van side-on we decided to pull the slide-out in so the awning over the top didn’t billow and bow and then fill up with snow when that arrived. You can see here, that the snow came from the back quarter coating the corner of the van and ute.

I got up, just as the sun rose, to a beautiful snow covered landscape outside. I headed out to capture the scene before too many people were up and about and disturbing the snow. A few vehicles had already crossed the bridge but the pedestrian strip was clean and smooth. And slippery. I crunched by way across the bridge and back again.

Once the sun rose above hill behind, the scene changed again, bright white and azure blue everywhere. That’s the other Ultima 5th-wheeler in the photo below.

Later in the morning we took a drive down the canal road towards Lake Benmore. The snow had already started to melt and I was keen to see how the much was on the surrounding mountains and farmland.

We came back past this farm just 45 minutes later, the snow was fast melting in the early afternoon sun.

Ohau C canal with Lake Benmore just coming into view on the right. The mountains in the background are on Black Forest Station, where we had lunch on our epic road trip to Haldon.

There’s a campground at the very end of the canal, next to where it enters Lake Benmore, nearly as large but not as spooky at the one over the otherside of the lake at the Haldon Boat Harbour. This large pond is in the centre of the campground.

Standing on the ridge behind the campground looking out over the boat ramp on the right, the pond on the left, the canal outlet centre middle and across the lake to Haldon campground in those trees in the centre.

And a close up; you can see that the ‘road from hell’ isn’t actually too far away as the crow flies but a very long way by road. That’s the Grampian Mountains behind with Hakataramea Pass in there somewhere.

There is another campground further down the lake edge but we decided we didn’t want to follow a wet and muddy gravel road to check it out, so after having a look around this deserted campground and deciding it would be quite a nice place to stay in the summer, we headed back up the canal road criss-crossing below and above the two power stations on our way. This is Ohau C Power station, you can see two guys fishing in front of their vans and a guy in a orange safety vest near the base.

We drove along the bottom being dwarfed by the penstocks which are humongous….

…and then back over the top, stopping to have a look over the edge where we could see over the power station to the canal outlet into Lake Benmore behind. I hate the sound of rushing water but I had to walk over a grille covered platform to get to the edge, far below my feet in the darkness was the scary sound of rumbling and turbulent water. Talk about walk on water, I skipped across the wide grille as fast as I could without looking down.

Safely back over the grille and onto the other side looking over the concrete edge to the penstock entrance, the view up the canal is stunning. I just can’t get enough of that beautiful azure blue.

Spot the difference? Different fishermen & vehicles. This is Ohau B Power Station further on up the canal and the exact twin of Ohau C having the same generating capacity and similar equipment. They were the last two of the eight Waitaki Hydro Scheme power stations to be completed, in 1985.

One last stop just a few steps from our canal campsite. This is the historic Iron Bridge over the old Ohau River completed in 1890. Crossing rivers was often dangerous for early travellers and drowning became known as ‘the New Zealand death’. Before this bridge was built, the Ohau river was crossed using a wire rope and cage. At first authorities were reluctant to replace the cage with a bridge as they were worried it would help the spread of rabbits.

The river now forms Lake Ruataniwha and the water is diverted into the canal….

…leaving just a large deep pool under the old bridge and for the short distance along the old river bed.

It’s beauty is overshadowed by the Lake Ruataniwha spillway concrete monstrosity which is just behind the old bridge (the main highway crosses over the top of the spillway)

Any excess water from the lake is released over the spillway and down this ‘new’ river bed which runs alongside the pool. It must join the old bed further down.

After the latest big dump of snow in the area, I suspect that the spillway might be put to use as soon as the big melt gets underway.

Stop Press......does this look familar? Look same, same but different? That's because it is! A deserted NZMCA Park at Ohau B canal. In case you're wondering, I'm on my own little road trip- I'm not a storm chaser, I'm a snow chaser! I've left David keeping the home fires burning and I've travelled all the way back to Tekapo for a couple of days to see what I can see. So far it's been snow, snow and more snow!

More to come soon...


  1. Nice. Snow is so hard to photograph especially from half frozen fingers and or gloves...wish I was their..apart from the cold, heavy frosts this end of the island tho I think no chance of a Hoar.

    1. No hoar frosts Jimu but a winter wonderland all the same. And it didn't feel that cold either- must have been the excitement! :)


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