Monday, 11 January 2016

Tiny Lake McGregor- MacKenzie Country

Now back to catching up- before our visit to Mavora Lakes, you'll remember we'd been parked up in the NZMCA Tekapo Park for about a week, exploring locally, taking lupin shots and waiting for the wind to die down.

The last few days we waited patiently for the wind to die down before making the move just a few kilometres away to Lake McGregor. We could, of course, have moved in the wind but it’s no fun packing up in gale force winds with sand swirling about blasting everything in sight. We had the luxury of being in no hurry, unlike many of the others that arrived and left the park daily. We sat it out cursing every blast that passed through until finally we decided we’d definitely move after the weekend; our grey and black tanks were starting to bulge at the seams and we were getting sick of the sight of sand and pine needles. When Saturday dawned clear and calm it didn’t take us long to decide to break camp and get out to Lake McGregor before the afternoon winds kicked in.

We’d already chosen our site beside the stream that joins Lake McGregor and Lake Alexandrina, when we stopped at the lake on our road trip up Godley Peaks Road the other day.

The site has to be one of the best we’ve had on our travels, babbling brook and lovely lupins just outside the the door. And the night sky was just amazing; like a giant hand has thrown millions of twinkling diamonds across the sky; a huge swathe of sparkles forming the Milky Way. The atmosphere is cold and clear and it feels like you can reach up and touch the stars. Unfortunately it was just too cold to stand outside for any amount of time so I have yet to capture a decent night shot of the Milky Way.

There was hardly a soul in sight while we were parked beside the stream, just a few passing fishermen and the odd duck or two, including a mother and three ducklings who had already sorted out their food source much to their wary mother’s consternation; they'd visit campers at both ends of the stream.

This very shy pair of New Zealand Shoveler/Kuruwhengi ducks also frequented the stream, feeding along the length of it each day and resting in the shadows when taking a break.

We’d often startle each other as I walked along the edge, the ducks taking off as soon as they heard me approaching although I did manage to sneak up on them just the once (above)

Shuttered up caravans lined both sides of the stream closer to Lake Alexandrina…

…waiting their owners to return over summer.

Waking early one morning- actually I wake early every morning, it’s just whether I manage to get back to sleep or not- I decided to go for a walk, catch the sunrise and golden hour and maybe find the grebes. It's 5am and the moon’s still high in the sky, the rising sun had already touched the tops of the mountains behind us.

I walked to Lake McGregor first, passing the nightly line up of hire sleeper vans and motorhomes in the camping area; this is where the non-self contained vehicles and those that want to use the basic amenties, park. Most arrive early evening and are gone by mid morning, off on the next leg of their extensive itinerary, trying to cram a tour of the South Island into as little as 7 days or perhaps a tour of New Zealand into 10 days. Lake McGregor is a popular camp site due to the fees being a lot less ($5pp) than the commercial campground at Lake Tekapo. There are very few freedom camping sites available in the area.

With the sun already up and no birds showing on Lake McGregor I walked back along the stream to Lake Alexandrina where just off the shore I spotted the lone grebe we saw the other day. More to the point, he spotted me and must have sent a message to his partner to stay put on the nest. After 10 minutes or so of quietly sitting behind a bush, me keeping a wary eye on him and him watching me intently, I gave up waiting to see if his partner joined him or he gave away the nest location and wandered up the path a little…

…to take a panoramic shot of the beautiful golden colours on the tussock covered hills and barren mountains at the head of Lake Alexandrina.

Across the lake, the moon was heading for the horizon while the warm glow from the rising sun turned the seed heads of the grasses a rustic red.

And wouldn’t you know it, when I got back to the grebe, his partner had joined him and they were going about their elaborate greeting ritual- bowing and bobbing to each other, touching beaks and grunting, swimming fast one way and then the other like miniature synchronized swimmers before paddling off across the lake. Foiled again! I love the way they form a heart when they touch bills- bird love!

A patch of back-lit lupins sparkle in the morning sun.

It’s not only the caravans that await their summer visitors, there are numerous small dinghies resting on the lake edge or in the boat sheds that are dotted along the lake, most obscured by the undergrowth and overhang of the willows and bush. I follow a fisherman back along the path who has been out in his small dinghy for an early morning fish.

And find a couple of tourists taking a quick look at the lake before they return to their van and head off to their next destination.

The wind is finally giving us a bit of a break and I manage to shoot some lupins without them being bend over nearly double.

The colours are just as beautiful here at the lake as they are back at Lake Tekapo, there are many different pastel colours although it is amazing how the colours change with the light.

It’s also amazing how many people seek them out, a tourist family- three generations of adults and children, piled out of their car, which they’d parked just behind our van. They then spent at least an hour photographing the flowers and themselves sitting and lying in the middle of them. Individual selfies, then group selfies, followed by a total family selfie. The grandmother even being encouraged(forced) to lie down in amongst the flowers so her photo could be taken too. I won’t tell you I was hoping for a water rat to run out of the undergrowth when the daughter later sprawled out amongst a new patch of (upright) flowers. Naughty I know, but really how many lupin flower photos do you need! :)

It took all my resolve not to pop my head out the van and ask them not to flatten the flowers while they were stomping about doing their self portraits. They are a pest plant after all, and there are thousands of flowers around, but still, it never fails to amaze me how people have total disregard for others that might follow behind them- as long as they get the shot. No idea of personal space either.

Anyway enough of that. I took a deep breath and thanked my lucky stars for such a beautiful setting and the fact that I was still enjoying the lupins long after they were back on the road.


  1. Especially love the magical colours of moon meeting sun and the heart shape grebe picture!


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