In the centre of the South Island of New Zealand is the Mackenzie Country. It is an intermontane basin of turquoise lakes, snow-capped mountains and tussock grasslands. Historically a sheep farming area, it is now a popular tourist destination, offering fishing, hunting, boating, snow skiing and hiking, as well as magnificent scenery for the motorist. It has been used as a backdrop for motion pictures, including Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film trilogy, and The Hobbit movies.
One of the most photographed churches in New Zealand is the Church of the Good Shepherd, on the shores of Lake Tekapo, with a backdrop of mountains in the Two Thumbs Range. It was built in 1935 as a place of worship for pioneering families in the Mackenzie Basin, and is constructed from lakeside stone. It is still used for worship by various denominations, and is a popular wedding venue.
The Mackenzie Country is bordered by some spectacular mountain scenery, including New Zealand’s highest mountain Aoraki Mt Cook, at 3754 metres, which can be seen from the highway. The turquoise lake colour is due to fine rock flour, ground by glacial movement and suspended in the water.
Lake Ohau is the smallest of three major lakes in the Mackenzie Country. The Ben Ohau Range is on the right. Lake Ohau (together with Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo) flows into a chain of hydro-electric power stations on the Waitaki River.
Just a 15 minute drive above Lake Ohau is Lake Ohau Ski Field. Its season lasts from July until early October. With its ridge at 1925 metres, and a vertical drop of 400 metres, it is a small but picturesque field.
From the Ohau Lodge it is possible to see some beautiful early morning sunrises. Aoraki Mt Cook is centre, with a flat top.
Also within the Mackenzie Country is Roundhill, a family orientated ski field near Lake Tekapo.
One of the many hikes in the Mackenzie Country is in the Ruataniwha Conservation Area up to the Baikie Hut. It leads up the Twizel Valley, through tussock grasslands.
Wilding pines from wind-blown seed are marching down the Twizel Valley.
After 9km the track comes to the hut, nestled by the Twizel River. At an altitude of 690 metres, it was used by musterers when it was built in 1948, but is now a four-bunk tramping hut. Matagouri bush surrounds the hut and obscures the river below. Unwanted wilding pines are in the distance, and beyond are rugged mountains belonging to the Ben Ohau Range, covered in cloud.
The Mackenzie Country is well known for its colourful display of roadside lupins in early Summer. The lupins, mountains, valleys and lakes make for a photographer’s paradise.