Saturday 1 July 2017

Fog at Benmore


Our next stop after leaving the amazing Ahuriri Valley was back to a familiar camp site, Ohau C Campground on the shores of Lake Benmore, near Twizel in the MacKenzie Country. You'll remember we stayed there in early December last year and had a great time. 

David was keen to stop for a few days, get the boat out and catch some trout- lake fishing from his Takacat has become his first love when it comes to fishing. He hadn't had much of a chance to put the boat up over summer so he was looking forward to a few days fishing. And seeing trout swimming past the van in the shallows, it looked like he was going to be in luck!  

We were the only ones there the first night, without the facilities of summer it costs just $10 a night per van. The camp was now back to it's natural self, all the semi-permanent caravans and various added extras brought in by the regulars over summer had been cleared out. It was just us and nature.

This photo was taken back in May 2015 just after a light snowfall, so far there's been no snow this year (although as I type, snow is falling heavily in the MacKenzie Country).

As the sun set on our first night, the mist swirled and rose over the lake and the willows turned a beautiful gold colour...

...the sky changed to a dusky pink as the full moon rose above us. Picture perfect!

That was until we awoke in the morning to a heavy frost, a total white-out and a freezing cold temperature.

David had put the boat up the previous afternoon so it was ready to go. 'Oh well', we thought, 'not to worry, the fog will likely lift by the afternoon'. David headed out onto the lake and was swallowed up in the mist within seconds. We'd discussed that he'd stick to the edges or head down the canal to the power station so he'd be able to find his way home. 

Afternoon came and went, the fog swirled and hinted at lifting only to then descend even thicker than before. I did manage to spy the sun though. Just as it was setting.

Maybe tomorrow we'd see the sun...

Tomorrow arrived looking very much the same. It didn't come without it's drama either. I opened the door, camera in one hand, door handle in the other and stepped outside, promptly ending up in a heap on the mat; black ice on the steps- bump, bump, bump- as I hit each one on the way down. Luckily there was a soft mat over the mud at the bottom. Although I still did some damage- a badly bruised hip and an elbow and a head that hit something sharp on the way down. David thought a herd of elephants was passing through! 

It was funny (in a peculiar way, not a haha way...well actually it was probably both) but as I went to put my foot down, I saw the beautiful shiny black step in front of me and it registered that it was a ice covering but I just couldn't send the message to my foot quick enough.

David went fishing again, it was real pea souper. He got a little too far out into the lake at one point and completely lost the shore line and all sense of direction. Luckily he had a navigation app on his phone that directed him back into sight. 

I'd had enough of the fog by mid afternoon so after checking on a couple of live cams near Twizel and seeing that there were a few blue patches appearing, I headed out to the main road 12kms away. The NZMCA Ohau B camp site was thick in fog too, although it looked to be lifting a little.

I carried on down past Lake Ruataniwha and along the back road until I reached the Ohau A and Pukaki Canal and clear air! Well nearly clear air; the blue mist along the mountain base is smoke from a burnoff somewhere. On well, it has to be better than fog. 

I crossed over Pukaki Canal, stopping on the bridge to take a photo down the middle of the canal (this shot has been brightened a bit, I like it's dreamy appearance). I headed down the gravel road back towards the main highway. I wanted to check the Black Stilt ponds, I wasn't expecting to find any, just checking to make sure though. Not a bird in sight. All the ponds were frozen. 

From my vantage point up on the canal road I could see a thick blanket of grey fog laying across the MacKenzie basin from Tekapo right down to Lake Benmore and up towards Twizel. I headed back along the highway towards Twizel (bottom left) and straight back into the cold clammy dense fog. It's so depressing when you've just left brilliant blue skies and sunshine behind.

It was quite spooky driving down the canal road; the fog was so thick and I could only just see my edge of the canal. I don't know why, but that weird sensation of thinking you're going to drive over the edge kept coming over me. I slowed right down and took my time. Several parked cars and ghostly white figures loomed out of gloom; fisher people as mad as David! You have got to be keen.

I stopped beside the power station to take a photo of the penstocks to add to my penstock 'collection'- sun, snow and now I have fog.

I drove to the end of the top road above the boat ramp and camp to take a photo of the van parked on the edge of the lake across the water; a comparison shot. You can just see the white from top of the van in the centre of this shot if you look real hard! (click photo to enlarge)

And this is what you should be seeing, minus the leaves of course! We're parked in the same spot only horizontal to the lake this time. (And that is Aoraki/Mt Cook in the background, top left)

I heard some people talking below me; and spotted a boat heading back to the ramp. That's a bit scary because you just can't see a thing on the lake, I hope David was sticking to the edge of the lake although I doubt anyone was travelling very fast through the fog.

When I got back home, David was back from fishing too and busy dismantling the boat. He'd had enough of the fog, the icy cold, the dampness, and no fish since the first day. He was packing up so we could get out of there first thing in the morning; 60 hours of fog was just too much and testing his resolve.

That night the temperature dropped sharply again, the outside gauge said -3c at 9pm and when I checked outside, ice was forming along the van, over the ute and on the steps (mental note to watch those in the morning). Then at 11pm, without rhyme nor reason, a 'heatwave' passed through and the temperature rose just as sharply. The gauge now read 11c, a 14c gain in little over a couple of hours. It was really weird. 

Murphy's Law decided he'd had enough of the fog too and we woke to a beautifully calm and clear day with no boat to go fishing! David toyed with the idea of putting it back up again but it takes him about 3 hours to assemble the Takacat and all the paraphernalia that goes with it and he just decided he'd had enough. It doesn't help that he's so meticulous with everything and it was all neatly packed away in the many hatches and compartments he stores them in. 

We hitched up and headed out. From the sublime of the Ahuriri Valley to the ridiculous fog at Benmore, we'd been brought back to earth with a thump.


  1. Beautiful, beautiful photos. I love the fog, it makes everything so mysterious.
    I hope you have recovered !

    1. I like fog in small doses, 60 hours is a bit too much to bear :) And yes after a couple of hours of sun, all was right in the world again!

  2. Hello, I log on to your blog regularly. Your humoristic style is witty,
    keep up the good work!

    1. Many thanks, I'm glad you enjoy reading my blog.


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