Tuesday, 22 December 2015

South Island Lupin Trip – Part 3

In late November we travelled to the South Island, in search of the flowering lupins. We were delighted to find that we had come at exactly the right time, for the lupins were magnificent and they were everywhere!

We were away for 12 days, and took more than a thousand photos between us, so I have had to write up this trip in several parts (No, you won't have to plough through all thousand!). This is where you can find Part 1 and Part 2.

Day 6 – Pukaki Canal and Glen Lyon Road

Tuesday 1 December. On our Pure Trails tour last summer we biked along the Pukaki Canal on our way to the Ohau Lodge. Today, our plan was to bike down the Glen Lyon Road (along the Pukaki Canal), and then continue on this road, up the right hand side of Lake Ohau, along the base of Ben Ohau, the big hill/mountain that dominates the lake. To return, we would go back to Twizel on the road on the other side of the canal.

We biked out of town along the Glen Lyon Road (photo by John)

It was a fine crisp morning, and the lack of wind provided lovely reflections on the Pukaki Canal. The road is quite flat and straight – and some might say boring – but we were entertained with lupin spotting. It was interesting that there were lots of lupins growing along this side of the canal, but not on the opposite side. Maybe it depends on the prevailing wind dispersing seeds.

Nice reflections on the Pukaki Canal (photo by John)

Lots of lupins on this side of the canal, but not many on the other side (photo by John)

We overtook a couple in yellow jackets – they commented on our being motorised – and later caught up with a chap biking alone. He was taking photos of the lupins, as were we. Then the other couple caught up with us, and we all stood and chatted. They were all biking the whole of the A2O, with their bags being transported by one of the shuttle companies. They were going as far as the Ohau Lodge today.

These were the only other cyclists we met (photo by John)

Some distance down the road, the Pukaki Canal takes a kink towards the right, and becomes the Ohau Canal. Towards the left another canal leads to Lake Ruataniwha. These canals are part of the Waitaki Power Scheme.

At the end of the Ohau Canal, we arrived at the outlet control structure, where water from Lake Ohau exits into the canal.

Water gushes from Lake Ohau through the outlet control structure (photo by John)

Here, we veered to the right and continued on what was still the Glen Lyon Road. It was a gravel road along the base of Ben Ohau. The road was in pretty good condition, relatively recently graded, we think. There were juddery corrugations where the grader tracks had been, but it was OK to bike in the middle.

Near the start of the gravel road

What a beautiful ride! The views across Lake Ohau were spectacular. The road went up and down along the edge. Occasionally we saw glimpses of lupins by the lake shore. The briar roses were out and there were quite a few by the side of the road. The bulk of Ben Ohau towered above us. There was a sign at the beginning of the road about the danger of avalanches, and to not stop between signs. Also signs warning of possible rockfalls – not surprising as it is so steep on the right hand side of the road.

Ben Ohau, on the right, is very steep

The lines of the abandoned sheep drafting yards repeat those of the road to the Ohau skifields opposite (photo by John)

Looking towards the top of the lake (photo by John)

We came to a one-way bridge and John discovered that there was a smooth-ish way right down to the lake shore from here.

Heading towards the Greta Stream

The bridge was over the Greta Stream, and it was the loveliest spot you could imagine. A burbling stream, lupins everywhere, willows on the edge of the stream, lots of smooth grey rocks and boulders. Just gorgeous.

More lupins (photo by John)

The Greta Stream (photo by John)

It was the loveliest spot ...

We contemplated stopping here to eat our picnic lunch but it was still a bit early and the sandflies and midges were moving in on us, so we pushed on.

Soon we came to a cattle stop, and the land opened out a bit. There must be some farming around there, as we saw cow splatters on the road, but no cattle anywhere near. There was a cottage, and some disused-looking stockyards. A few kilometres on there was another cattle stop, so I guess that must be the end of the farm.

There were some very disused-looking stockyards near this cottage (photo by John)

Meanwhile we were getting views on the mountains – the ones one can see from the Ohau Lodge, across on the other side of the lake. We kept thinking that with the next bend in the road we’d see them all, including Mt Cook, but we didn’t get that far.

We knew Mt Cook was lurking around to the right, but we didn’t get to see it this time (photo by John)

We were conscious of the fact that we still had to do the return trip, and so far we had 28 km on the clock, so we went up one last hill and round one last bend, then decided to turn around and go back.

These are the remains of retaining walls constructed in the 1930s by workers during the depression

There is more of the rock retaining wall on the right (photo by John)

We rode about an hour in, and an hour back out on the gravel road. It was 12:20 when we were back at the Ohau Canal control structure and that’s where we ate our lunch.

We went back to Twizel by the road on the opposite side of the Ohau Canal, and at the junction with the Pukaki Canal we turned right to go over the Ohau A Hydro Station Dam.

Ohau A Hydro Station (photo by John)

We ended up on the shore of Lake Ruataniwha, from where we pedalled back into town. We had done 55.6 km. Not a bad effort.

The point where the Ohau canal flows into Lake Ruataniwha.
The Ohau A Hydro Station is off to the right of the picture (photo by John)

Day 7 – Lake Ohau

Wednesday 2 December. The plan for today was to ride the Lake Ohau track – part of the A2O – and to bike to the Lake Ohau Lodge for lunch, and then bike back.

At first, John suggested we could ride from our accommodation, but I saw in the Kennetts’ book (Classic NZ Cycle Trails) that the distance from Twizel to Ohau Lodge is 39 km. A there-and-back trip would bring it up to nearly 80 km. No, not an option.

I rang the Lodge before leaving to make sure that it would be possible to have lunch there as a non-resident. Yes, it was OK, and it was available between 12 and 3pm.

We drove along the side of the Ohau Canal that we returned on yesterday, and parked by the dam. We started biking at just on 10 am.

We parked near the dam. In the background is the Glen Lyon Road,
along the base of Ben Ohau, where we biked the previous day (photo by John)

The first part of the track, from the dam to the weir, was horrible. Big lumpy gravel and lots of embedded rocks in the path. Very bumpy to ride on. It is part of the A2O Lake Ohau track, so I don't understand why they don’t improve that. The rest of the track is very good, with small gravel.

The Ohau Weir (photo by John)

At the beginning there were a lot of woolly mullein lining the track, a bit taller than the ones we have seen in other places, and with the flowers nearly ready to come out. One or two were already flowering. They actually looked quite dramatic, and much more attractive and lush than in the late summer, when the spikes are mostly spent.

Woolly mullein (Verbascum Thapsus) line the track 

By the end of summer, the stalk of this woolly mullein flower will be over a metre tall

It was dead calm in the morning, and the reflections were fabulous. Of course we stopped at several places to take photos.

A perfect reflection of Ben Ohau

More gorgeous reflections (photo by John)

The amount of driftwood bears testimony to the fierce storms that can rise on the lake

There were lupins here too, by the edge of the lake. The briar roses were out in full force, looking so pretty. The occasional vipers bugloss (Echium vulgare) was flowering, but I think they will come out a bit later.

A lake, mountains and lupins – is there a more gorgeous combination? (photo by John)

Cloud reflections (photo by John)

Briar roses

Apart from one apparent school class of boys plus teacher going in the opposite direction, we met no other cyclists on the track. When we got to the end of the track, I went down to the beach to take more photos of lupins, and when I came back John was talking to a lone woman cyclist. She told us she worked at Larnach Castle, and had been working nine days in a row, then with four days off, she decided to go biking.

Last summer I photographed one solitary left-over lupin in this very spot. Now look at them all!

While we were biking on the road to get to the Lodge, the wind came up – quite a headwind. It was so strong that it was whipping the lake into waves, which we could hear as they slapped onto the shore. We cranked up the bikes to level 4 assist, both because of the wind, and because we wanted to get to lunch! Coming up the Ohau Lodge drive at level 4 was much nicer than doing it unassisted – I found that to be the last straw, when we came here with Pure Trails last summer.

The view from the Ohau Lodge. Mt Cook, in the gap between the two snowy ridges,
is hidden by the clouds (photo by John)

We got to the lodge a little before midday, but the lovely Rachel said we could have lunch right away if we wished. So we shared one of their beautiful platters. I had a tall glass of Coke with ice (it’s years since I last had Coke!), and lots of glasses of water, as we were very hot and thirsty. We finished with coffee and ginger crunch for John and carrot cake for me (the best I’ve ever had!).

We should have had this photo taken when the platter was still full …
(photo by Rachel, with John’s camera)

We took a few photos from the deck, but the wind was making the view a bit murky. It was whipping up the dust in the valleys at the top of the lake.

The increasing wind is whipping up the dust at the top of the lake (photo by John)

The way back was easy riding, as we had a tailwind now. I stopped on a small bridge to take a photo of a pretty stream, while John focused on the amazing textures of the hills.

A pretty stream on its way to the lake

Amazing textures on the hills (photo by John)

While John biked up into the Ohau Alpine Village (which is pretty much dead at this time of the year), I stopped to take photos of some red flowers in the trees by the roadside. I wondered what they were – they were not part of the tree. Eventually I figured out that this was the famous NZ mistletoe (Peraxilla tetrapetala) – a parasitic plant with gorgeous bright red flowers. There is an interesting article about this plant here.

At first, I couldn’t figure out whether this red glow was part of the tree …

… then I figured out it was a separate growth

Finally I realised that this was the native red mistletoe that I had read about. Isn’t it stunning?

By now the wind was whipping the lake into waves – quite a dramatic sight, and quite noisy too.

Surf's up! Waves on a lake that had been like a mirror earlier in the day (photo by John)

The track back along the lake was lovely again, of course, except for getting back to the car from the weir. John decided we should take the road over the top of the hill. But it was as bad as, if not worse than, the track around the bottom.

Nearly there … (photo by John)

John loads the bikes back into the car.

The car was boiling hot of course, and we were tired, so we didn't stop anywhere, but went straight “home”. We biked 40 km. It had been a great day.

A final pretty shot …

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