A Visit to the Mackenzie Country

A look at Tekapo and Mount Cook

		We last visited the Mackenzie basin in 2002. 

		When we first visited in 1964, we travelled hundreds of miles
	 of unsealed roads through countryside that had hardly changed for decades. 
	The cars were ancient british models trailing clouds of dust and scattering
	gravel in all directions. Broken windscreens were common. We were lucky!
	The buildings were wooden clad with corrugated iron roofs, all apparently
	designed by the same architect. In the towns many still had their half-acre
	sections, and men were to be seen carrying their specially designed bags,
	each holding three half-gallon flasks of beer. The women were in their "proper 
	place" making meat pies and pavlovas.

		It was the time of the half-acre, half-gallon, pavlova paradise!

		Things have changed. The roads are clean, wide and smooth.
	The buildings have sprouted monstrosities of all shapes and sizes. The tourist
	industry has imported all known methods of extracting money from visitors,
	and there are practically no favours for the locals.
We were lucky to rent an old bach, right on the lake front. We could have had a modern motel at twice the price with a lovely view of the next motel! This is what we got: -

There are two "must-see" tourist spots. One is The Church of the Good Shepherd, right on the foreshore. A working church with a large number of weddings to perform. Lots of couples wish to be married there and lots of tourists (especially Japanese) are hard to convince that the ceremonies are for real and not special tourist pageants! The other is a statue of a collie sheepdog, commorating all the dogs that helped open up the area for farming.

Mackenzie, after whom the district is named, was a sheep-strealer by trade, and it was he who first drove his stolen sheep into the Mackenzie Basin where few Europeans had ventured and where sheep prospered. He ended his days in Nelson jail, accompanied by his dog. People like to think that the statue is of his dog.

When you see the church in context, you can see why it is so popular.

Years ago I dabbled an oil painting of the church interior. The real view out of the picture-window over the alter is straight out over the lake to the mountains. I cheated a little bit!

A canal takes the water from Lake Tekapo through into the Maczenzie Basin proper.
And from the basin proper you see Mount Cook in all its glory.

Whenever we have visited the area in the past,
Mount Cook looked like this!

We even spent one very wet and cold night in a tent right up at the head of the lake, next to the hotel which the serious climbers use. A very bedraggled van-load of wet camping gear and Smiths returned to dry out in the sunshine at this end of the lake, but Mount Cook continued to look the same!

This time, as we crept nearer, this is what we saw: -

The Basin itself consists of a large area of grassland and tussock which is criss-crossed by canals which link up most of the lakes to feed the Benmore power station, NZ's biggest supplier of electricity (I think!).
That's another story.

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