Sunday, 11 December 2016

Out & About at Lake Benmore


Well nearly. We left Ohau C campground on the shores of Lake Benmore a week ago! We're back with the family in Winton where we needed to help them with an urgent job....but wait, I'm getting ahead of myself.

We had a lovely time at the lake and could have easily stayed another week if there hadn't been pressing matters to see to down south.

Sunrise at Lake Benmore
The fishing was fantastic, after being given a lovely Rainbow trout by a passing camp resident the day we arrived, David's first fish was this lovely Brown which he was under strict instructions to bring home, I had a couple of new recipes I wanted to try out.

After that he took photos of his 'catch & release' fish; these two Rainbows...

...and another Brown, all good sized fish. He hooked a few more too but you'll notice that the elusive salmon is still missing from the haul. 

The lake salmon are quite small though- they don't get a top-up feed from the salmon farms along the canal, and we didn't return to the canals to fish once the Takacat was inflated, David enjoys lake fishing a lot more than the canals. We also met another Takacat owner who lives in his 5th-wheeler at the camp.

Talking Takacat tactics
David wasn't the only one catching trout, the resident grebe was also getting his fair share.

David took a break from fishing one morning so we took the dinghy over to the far side of Lake Benmore to explore. We left our new neighbours discussing their early morning catches.

Like me, I'm sure regular visitors to the MacKenzie Country (and quite probably residents too) never tire of, or fail to be impressed with the view of Aoraki/Mt Cook from all locations around the area. Here, from the middle of the lake, is the tallest mountain in NZ not quite living up to her Maori name- cloud piercer.

Across the far side of the lake we cruised into Boat Harbour checking for waterfowl along the sides and under the willows. The Haldon Campground is also tucked in here amongst the trees, it's accessed from north of Tekapo via a 60km mostly gravel road. You'll remember my 'Road to Somewhere' blog post from June last year, followed by the 'Road to Nowhere' post? This is the campground we visited before driving that torturous Pukaki River road home. It looked a lot more inviting this time, even though there was still no one camping there.

Not only did we find several pairs of courting grebes as we entered the harbour but we also spotted a nori eating Australian Coot and a shy NZ Scaup family heading for cover as fast as they could paddle.

Afterwards we headed back across the lake to the Ohau River outlet which has several shallow channels surrounded by gravel islands entering the lake. David had made it up one of the channels the day before and he thought we could have had lunch on one of the islands. With the extra weight in the boat (I blamed it on the picnic bag), it wasn't long before we were scraping our bum along the gravel. Well actually the prop hit the stones before us, so we backed out and stopped at one of the entrances where there just happened to be some lupins!  That's the Ohau C Power Station in the background.

It must be lunch time, the neighbours have returned after their mid-morning fish.

It looked like the rain was heading our way one afternoon but luckily it skirted right around the edge of the lake and headed off up into the mountains.

While David was fishing I did my mini tiki-tours looking for lupins; one north to Lake Tekapo and one south to Omarama. I had one more road that I wanted to explore before we left the lake. The gravel road that carried on past the camp for another 8kms up the side of the lake.

I had been putting it off, hoping we might have had a little rain (that's ironic, now I'm hoping for rain!) which would have dampened down the very dusty road. But no, every day the clouds of dust billowing into the air as vehicles passed along the top of ridge above the camp, got thicker & thicker.

In the end I decided I'd drive it very slowly so as not to give David too much work in cleaning the ute *wink, wink*. Well that didn't work because every bugger coming towards me was driving like a bat out of hell! Someone with a sense of humour has added a 'rest home residents' sign to the cattle stop sign at the entrance to Totara Peak Station. 

The road runs along a plateau above the lake dipping around the edge of a number of beautiful little coves along the way. 

There are two camping areas along this road, the privately owned Totara Station's 'Benmore Views Family Camp' which has a number of areas for self contained vans along the top overlooking the lake (above) or down in the dips around the coves and then a more traditional camp on one of the small points jutting out into the lake, which included a boat ramp.

The campground itself was well looked after and is obviously very popular, with quite a number of campers already set up and in residence.

The second campground, Falstone Creek Campground is at the end of the road and is run by Waitaki District Council.

With the two camps being visited by campers and boaties, I can now see why there has been so many ribbons of dust snaking down the road past our camp.

Falstone Camp is set mostly under a plantation of pine trees and there are pine cones for Africa scattered over the forest floor. I'm not so sure I'd like to stay here, for a start we wouldn't get TV reception and then we'd be ducking pinecones every time the wind blew. It was also very dry and dusty although it would be shady during the heat of the summer.

I should have visited Falstone on one of our previous visits to the area, to take photos. This was where the set was built for the failed movie 'Kingdom Come'. The large movie set sat in the middle of the camp unused and taking up valuable space for the last 8 years. It was only removed last August.

Back in 2014 we saw another movie set for 'Kingdom Come' near the Elephant Rocks in Duntroon. This set too, was waiting for demolition.

I was excited to find a grebe family in the little cove beside the campground. They were initially a little too far out for me to get clear views of them and I'm sure most people looking at the ducks swimming around the little bay would have missed them.

I managed to spot them when I saw one of the adults disappear under the water leaving three striped bumblebee sized specks huddled together on the surface. I crossed the creek that entered the bay and fought my way through the undergrowth to the lake edge, sat down out of sight and waited.

They didn't move that much closer but I managed to get a few clear shots of them at the outer limits of my lens. One of the chicks was much smaller than it's siblings and I thought it mustn't be getting fed but it moved in quick each time a parent returned with food. 

The smaller chick was also quick to climb on Mum's back when it tired although she was just as quick to dislodge him by standing up on her legs and doing a shake. The chick would slip off the bottom and back into the water where he'd give it another go- his very own water slide! He managed  to stay on board a few times while Mum waited for Dad to return.

I could have sat watching them for a few hours but after they disappeared around a corner, it was time for me to head home too.

We had a very fruitful and relaxing time and Lake Benmore and we will be back. We still have that salmon to catch! 

We packed up and headed off towards Winton, stopping at our favourite 'passing through' camp at Lowburn near Cromwell for a night on the way. Yet another friendly duck family came to say hello

I fell in love with this pale cutie who I wanted to catch and cuddle. He wasn't having any of that.

And the reason we changed our travel plans to include Winton? We have a flash new personal POP (park over property), the family have bought a new house and we've come to help them shift houses. 

The drive is very long and the sides covered with beautiful roses but after a couple of slight maneuvering adjustments, David managed to back 'Out There' all the way down there...

...and now we have this new awesome hard stand to park on. I think I need a periscope to see what happening 'Out There' though...


  1. Wonderful photos as usual, and your sunrise at Lake Benmore is spectacular!!!

    1. Thanks for your kind words Jenny and yes the sunrise shot was a good one, although I thought they were duds when I saw them on the camera screen. I'm too lazy to get the tripod out and they're handheld which is no mean feat when it's so dark. Sometimes it's the ones you least expect that make the impression. You and Robin have a wonderful Christmas full of fun and surprises, And many thanks, once again for including my link on your blog. Cheers, best wishes and take care, Shellie

  2. Awesome photos, Shellie.
    Makes us itchy to get on the road again.

    1. Thanks, pleased you appreciate the photos. It sounds like it won't be long before you are on the road again. Safe travels!

  3. Like you said Shellie residents don't get sick of Mt Cook. When I lived in Twizel I had a great view of the mountain, (most days), out my kitchen window. I missed the mountains when I left.

    1. Hi Louise, yes, can't wait to return late this year and catch sight of her once more.


Thanks for taking the time to comment, it's much appreciated.