Tour of South Island – Days 14 and 15

Sunday 20thFebruary

Waitaki dam

We packed up early and drove away from Dunedin vowing not to book a campsite through an ‘i’site again.  We drove North towards Oamaru where we stopped briefly for a coffee.  We turned off SH1 onto the 83 which runs alongside the Waitaki river.  There are a series of power stations and dams on the river that are fed by the three lakes Tekapo, Pukaki and Ohau.  The Waitaki dam was named after the river itself and was also the first dam in New Zealand to be built without diverting the natural river flow. 

Waitaki power station

The stations powerhouse was completed in 1934 just after the dam was built.  Made of reinforced concrete it was 109 metres long.  Over the years it’s gradually been extended, as more power was demanded of it.  It now has a total of seven generators with a capacity of 105MW. We stopped to take a look.  The water was a beautiful milky blue colour.  We continued up the road passing the Aviemore and Benmore dams each one rising up like steps. 

Benmore dam

We drove over the Benmore dam and parked high above the lake for lunch with a view.  We drove past Twizel where the control centre for the power stations is operated. We continued past the glacier-fed Lake Pukaki and drove towards Mount Cook.  Unfortunately it was cloudy and Mount Cook was hiding shyly behind the clouds. We drove as far as it’s possible to go and arrived at the DOC campsite at 900M above sea level.  We drove to what looked like a remote corner of the campsite and there in front of us was Pete and Margie’s campervan, they couldn’t get away from us that easily.  While I caught up with the news Bill put the tent up – well he’s so good at it now! 

Can you see me in the middle of the bridge

As the forecast was better for today rather than tomorrow we walked to the base of the Hooker glacier.  This involved crossing 2 high suspension bridges and traversing the glacial moraine of the Hooker valley.  It was a superb walk with only a gentle incline.  There were beautiful mountain flowers growing next to the path.  It took 2 hours to reach the lake where we were rewarded by the sight of icebergs floating in the silty water.  Alas the cloud base had dropped even further preventing us from seeing the snow capped mountain peaks of Mount Cook and the Tasman.  It was a spartan but striking outlook that can’t be captured in a photo you’ll all have to come and see for yourselves.

Icebergs on the lake at the base of Hooker glacier


We walked back to the camp and cooked out in the open air which although chilly was refreshing. 

Feeding the ducks

The local teal ducks were interested in what we were doing, they were so tame they fed right out of Bill’s hand. We had a peaceful nights sleep although the wind got up and it was blowing strongly by the morning.  Peter and Margie went off to find some different walks but we went to the Cooks village i site where they had a very informative display of the mountains and a museum of mountaineering artefacts.  We drove down to Twizel.  Originally built in 1968 as the base for the upper Waitaki power development Twizel was to be bulldozed once construction was completed but its inhabitants successfully campaigned to retain the town. We enjoyed a tasty lunch in the sunshine but the rain clouds were building again.

View up the Tasman glacier

We drove back up the lake to the car park at the base of the Tasman valley but the rain had started and we had no means of drying clothes in a tent so decided against walking to the Tasman glacier.  We went back to the campsite and took our gas stove and the means to make supper into the hut where we were joined by Peter and Margie and we had a great time catching up but the main topic of conversation was the BWR yacht Quest that had been captured by pirates in the Arabian sea.

Posted on February 20, 2011, in Port posts. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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