Saturday, 10 August 2019

Along the Canals- Mackenzie Country


Another hiccup has put me behind again- my computer crashed, well not quite crashed, it was hanging on by a thread and we felt it better to replace it and transfer all my files before it did decide to spit the dummy. And with a new laptop- a fabulous HP Omen- & no, I'm not a gamer- I needed heavy duty & a 17' screen- came a new inverter for the van to power it. Which in turn created a few issues of it's own. 

I'm now back up and running thanks to my wonderful computer savvy husband and I'm thrilled with my laptop. The high definition screen is superb, my photos are now crystal clear and even I am amazed at some of the photos! And the speed that I'm able to process photos is fantastic, no making a coffee now while I wait for a bulk lot to download. So anyway here's the next blog, we're still in Twizel.

Now that I had the hoar frost out of the way (until I find another one), I was able to focus a little more on some of the stunning sunrises, sunsets and winter landscapes of the Mackenzie Basin. This blog takes us along some of the canals, the next one will be around the lakes.

Sunset over High Country Salmon Farm, taken from the NZMCA Ohau B Canal camp.

Obviously there's a reason for all the man-made canals that criss-cross the Mackenzie Basin; they feed the hydro power stations which in turn provide much of New Zealand with electricity. And with power stations come the pylons, hundreds of them. So there's no choice but to make them a feature when taking photos around the Basin.

These next few photos were taken from the top of  the hill which I traipsed up and (slid) down in the freezing cold for several mornings in a row while we were parked at Ohau B. 

High Country Salmon Farm and Wairepo Arm, a large pond that is fed from the canal-

Always look behind you when taking sunrise photos, sometimes the colours are just as spectacular...

... and if you have 360 degree views there's a constantly changing colour and light show going on around you.

The sun rises over Lake Ruataniwha, with Ben Ohau (far left) and the Ben Ohau Range behind.

Twizel township sparkles as it wakes to another spectacular high country day. 

And you'll recall I mentioned attempting to do some car tail-light trail photos using the vehicles heading to the escaped salmon canal when my camera battery ran out. Here's another attempt a day or so later. There weren't enough vehicles in the end to give a good trail of red and you can see my shutter speed wasn't long enough because the lights come to an abrupt halt halfway down the canal! 

And here's three last photos from a very intense sunrise, I know it's going to be a good one when I look out in the early morning gloom and see that the clouds are thick and streaky overhead just before the sun pokes it's head over the horizon. 

There's those pylons again, this time looking like space rockets on a launch pad.

The colours start to leach out of the sky by the time I get back to the van but there's still some awesome colour over the top of the two buses parked behind us, and whose occupants are happily snoozing away tucked up in their warm beds, totally oblivious to nature's spectacle happening overhead. 

As the sun rises, the mist lifts from over the canal to reveal early bird fishermen on the other side of the canal. Camping is not allowed along the canals but a lot of people arrive at their favourite spots well before sunrise.

The sun rises over Ohau B Power Station and the early fishermen who passed by me while I was on top of the hill.

And once again from my vantage point above the power station I can clearly see Aoraki/Mt Cook across the Basin.

The curve of the canal below the power station is hot property, it's where most of the early fishermen head to, chasing those elusive escaped salmon.

On this morning I walked along the north side of the canal to the salmon farm, there were a few people fishing along this side too but only the hardy, as you have to walk to your spot and leave your creature comforts in your vehicle back at the gate. Non- salmon farm vehicles aren't allowed.

It's interesting watching the activity at the salmon farms, although usually they are only feeding the fish; throwing out scoops and scoops of pellets over the top of the large nets that contain the fish. But on this day they were netting the salmon and putting them into bins.

I thought they were harvesting them but it looked like they were weighting & measuring them and then putting them into another bin and then back into the main net again. I'm still not sure what they were doing; maybe milking them of roe? But look at the size of those fish, the poor fishermen nearby looked on in envy at the size of them.

Meanwhile over on the other side of the canal, fishermen were still catching the escaped salmon and discreetly as possible preparing them for their chilly-bins. Though nothing is discreet when you have me on the other side of the water! 

A lot of people park their motorhomes and caravans along the canals while they fish, it provides a place to keep warm, have a cuppa or lunch and for partners to relax in while the other half is fishing. 

David's heart wasn't into canal fishing on this visit and he hadn't been feeling too well- although he did fish from our canal and at Lake Ruataniwha a couple of times, though had no luck. I wanted him to at least give the escaped salmon a go, so he humoured me for all of an hour but still had no luck.

Although he did enjoy chatting to a few of the others about their catches or lack of.

I was looking forward to tucking into some salmon of our own but I did had a backup plan... some frames from the salmon farm shop! I've only ever bought salmon sashimi and fillets from the shop but they are expensive. Thanks to a tip from Colleen, a fellow motorhomer who we  caught up with in Fairlie you can buy five salmon frames for $10 (they actually gave me six frames).

I took the heads & tails off (you could make a lovely broth from them, I didn't bother this time) then halved each frame as they are huge! Then I simmered them in two batches for about 4-5 minutes each (if that), drained and cooled them and then pulled the flesh off which in fact just fell off the bones. I had enough for salmon potato cakes for dinner that night & a fish pie the next with still enough salmon to fill two medium sized freezer bags. A perfect solution if you don't catch any fish (although a little time consuming to prepare).

A canal that I don't mention often is the Pukaki Canal which runs along the bottom of Ben Ohau Range; it is in fact the one that is most visible to the many visitors passing through MacKenzie Country. The canal exits Lake Pukaki near the lookout to Aoraki/Mt Cook and passes under the highway further down the road. 

From there it flows along the bottom of the range, with a canal road on both sides; one sealed and one gravel. Lake Poaka and a basic DOC camp are off the gravel road; a long, steep rocky descent off the canal wall at one end and a shorter version at the other end. 

Towards the end, another canal which exits Lake Ohau  joins Pukaki Canal and they both flow into Ohau A Power Station which is above Lake Ruataniwha.

There's a large river terrace alongside the power station which overlooks the water flow from Ohau A and also the smaller Ohau River which has a bypass at the Lake Ohau dam wall. 

Both flow into Lake Ruataniwha and on past our camp down to Lake Benmore.

 At the eastern end of Lake Ruataniwha and a short walk from our camp is the Ohau River spillway (look at that colour, that's MacKenzie Country colour right there!)

And the historic Old Iron Bridge which looks a little drab surrounded by a monotone of dry grasses and bare trees.

Unlike the time I shot it surrounded by snow back in June 2015.

The pond did have some unusual reflections but I was too lazy to walk down to see them. 

Back at camp, it seems that this is the story of our life at the moment; on our own at many of the NZMCA camp sites. Just as we like it....most of the time.


  1. Some amazing colours and scenery there. I find a laptop alot more convenient, I can carry it around when I travel.

    1. Thanks Amy, I'm onto my third laptop after 7 years on the road, mine have a very hard life and are at the ready 24/7. I couldn't live without one, they are so much better for me to process my photos & write my blog and this latest one is fantastic for my photo editing (I didn't know I took such great photos! ;) )


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