10. A Trip to Lake Coleridge

We drove further up the Rakaia Gorge so that we could see Lake Coleridge. We drove on the south side of the river – you can drive a long way up the north side as well. Such decisions we have to make – both sides? or just one? We have decided just one, as even though we’ve got a whole year to travel NZ we are ALREADY RUNNING OUT OF TIME. Unbelievable. I think we need ten years!!
We stopped at Lake Coleridge village to see the first of many power stations we will see over coming weeks – the lakes of Canterbury and Otago are huge contributors of hydro power in NZ. The size and quantity of the feeder pipes in the photo above were impressive!
These relics from the early days of hydro power include a pelton wheel, a runner from one of the turbines and a pole carrier. There were great boards here explaining a lot about how Lake Coleridge was the first powerhouse in NZ, opening in 1914. It has a system of feeder and spill canals that regulate the depth of the Lake, and it uses water from the Ryton, Harper and Acheron Rivers. It can even divert water to the Rangitata River diversion race, via the Rakaia River, to help irrigate Canterbury Plains farmland in hot summer weather. Trustpower, currently the fifth biggest provider of power in NZ, has owned the Lake Coleridge power station since 1999.
This helicopter near the Lake Coleridge village was just coming in to land – exciting to see!
Our first glimpse of Lake Coleridge which is over the hill from the village and power station.
Beauiful! The hill centre right? That’s called Peak Hill, and I’m going to walk up it tomorrow morning early, before the heat of the day hits.
Concrete barriers on the Lake protecting the water intake for the powerstation.
We drove as far down the road as we could towards the Wilberforce River that flows from the Southern Alps to join the Rakaia River. We were stopped today by a herd of cows being driven along the road. This is apparently prime angus beef that sells for big bucks on the international market.
So, here was a snag – we couldn’t drive any further along the road with these cattle being driven. so we decided to return home to our caravan where it was parked up at the local NZMCA popstop, and to finish the drive tomorrow … after my walk up Peak Hill. I will cover Peak Hill in another blog, but have decided to put the rest of the road trip photos in here, just for continuity. You probably can’t even tell that the rest are from the next day – the weather was just as hot and sunny and blue both days!
Here we are looking at the Rakaia River disappearing off around the far hills to the left, the Mathias River coming to join it from a valley to the left, and the Wilberforce coming to join it from the valley that’s centre right. The Harper River is coming in from the valley on the right, and flows into the Wilberforce just before it joins the Rakaia River. One by one these rivers all join together to make the Rakaia into one mighty river!
Farm sheds very close to the end of the road.
I’m pretty sure that’s Mt Algidus on the left, Mt Oakden on the right, and The Spurs in the centre, from where we’re standing in a braid of the Wilberforce River.
Walking across the Wilberforce River braid heading for Mt Algidus – we both had a go…and we both turned around and came back! It was flowing way faster than it looks, but it was shallow and we could see the bottom the whole way, so we crossed it easily.
On the drive back home we noticed this 4×4 stuck and deserted in the Rakaia River – that sure was a bad day for someone! No doubt they’ll be back to tow it out sometime soon…
A family of quail running into the grass in front of us.

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