18. A Long Walk from Tekapo to Pukaki (Done Slowly)

I walked from Tekapo village to Lake Pukaki over a period of three days. It’s all flat so I guess it’s possible to wrap it up in a day even though it’s over 40kms – but it’s just too hot for that kind of exertion!

I took my last glimpse of Lake Tekapo heading towards Lake Pukaki, and thought about Lake Alexandrina and Lake McGregor which lie immediately west of Lake Tekapo. We didn’t visit either of these this time, but in past trips we’ve walked around both – by far the scariest was Alexandrina as there were deep marsh pools at one end and we had to jump from grassy clump to grassy clump to get through, without slipping in. Anyway, the point is, we’ve been here before and I’m sure we’ll be back again!
There was a major new subdivision being built on the hill above Tekapo – this place is obviously expanding at a fair rate of knots. The existing housing looks all very attractive and quite upmarket so a new subdivision will only keep adding to that. It was interesting to watch a huge bulldozer at work while I skirted around.
There’s not a lot of shelter on this walk so it was a real treat to walk through a short stretch of slightly cool pine forest. I was already taking great sips of water from my two water bottles.
The track led right past this spill weir on Lake George Scott, immediately upstream from Tekapo A Power Station. This water can be diverted either into the Tekapo Canal or the Tekapo River.
And here is Tekapo A Power Station. I am walking the length of the Tekapo Canal, and when I reach the other end, I will be at Lake Pukaki and Tekapo B Power Station.
Genesis Energy has owned these since 2011, and uses both, fed from Lake Tekapo, to generate 187 megawatts of electricity that gets fed into the national grid.
From Lake Pukaki, a chain of six more power stations lie along the Waitaki River as it flows from Lake Pukaki down to the Pacific Ocean just north of Oamaru.
I could see people fishing downstream from here; one man said they weren’t having much luck but they were going to persevere and try for a salmon or trout. Good luck!!

Patterson’s Ponds! A series of pools, they look enticing for their green lushness in an otherwise barren landscape. There are areas of reeds, and the water looks cool and inviting.
There must be some interesting little animals living around them, too. I think this must be a remnant of a previous channel of the Tekapo River (which you can see winding across the flats behind the Ponds), and the ground was dense enough that this water was able to continue sustaining itself.
I saw an area where self-contained campers can park up, so this is a place to return to!
Lunch with a spectacular, golden view.
Oh my golly – I think that big snow covered peak is Aoraki/Mt Cook! That’s exciting.
The road goes on…and back! Looking back towards Tekapo…
Patches of irrigated greenery are stark against the dryness of the rest of the land. This patch is caused by another spill weir from the Tekapo Canal – the concrete ridges you can see are for slowing the water down as it’s released.
Bridges cross the Tekapo Canal at regular intervals.
More smatterings of ponds/irrigated crops. Lake Pukaki is not that far away now – in front of the ridge line that lies in the distance.
Loved the sign! The wind actually did knock me around a bit along here – I even shortened my walking poles and held them against my body to stop them being caught and lifted away. But it still wasn’t blowing hard enough to drop to the lower road.
I met a few groups of cyclists along this stretch – all seemed to be older people out enjoying their bikes. Some had e-bikes, but not all. One woman said she wasn’t enjoying biking in the wind much – it made me realise I had the luck that day being a walker as I was quite enjoying myself.
Crossing under some pylons…
I’ve reached the salmon farm!
A shag out sunning itself. There was a lot of birdlife along the length of the salmon farm including shags, ducks and gulls.
A gull taking off.
And there were people! Some were there to catch fish, and some were workers as I could see them feeding the salmon from buckets.
There’s the depth gauge – the stick that is poking up out of the water. I found myself checking each one just out of interest! Also, the big tubes were always a bit interesting to come across as they are intake columns that send water out, perhaps to farmland for irrigation.
This made me look twice! I walked past it not quite believing what I was seeing, then walked back to look again! A perfect eve apple from Nelson just lying there, in very dead grass! It had a slight bruise on one side so I figured it must have fallen from one of the cyclists lunch bags. I also figured I was never going to come across the owner in a million years, so I gave it a good wipe on my t-shirt and ate it all up! It was delicious!
The canal broadened into a lake before spilling down through penstocks (pipes) to Lake Pukaki. The grass – same stuff the apple was lying on – is more dead than any I’ve seen yet.
The last slope down to Lake Pukaki. I could see pine trees so dry they were orange.
Made it! Tekapo B Power Station. Leading down the hill next to it are the penstocks that carry the water from the Tekapo Canal through the power station and into Lake Pukaki.
A beautiful sunset to enjoy through the long evening…
…and a walk and play on the beach. Does Kevin realise he’s standing above a cave-in??

This night was the supermoon, or wolfmoon, and we really didn’t get much sleep trying to see it at different times through the night. At first I was a little disappointed as it wasn’t as large as I was expecting – it pretty much looked like a normal full moon, but of course in another way I wasn’t disappointed at all – a normal full moon is far from disappointing!
The next morning I finished my bit of walking to the end of Lake Pukaki which didn’t take long at all in the less-than-hot warmth of the early morning. The track led through pine trees on the side of the road, and once or twice I had to walk along the road edge when the trees ran out.
A glimpse of Lake Pukaki through the pine trees.
The end of Lake Pukaki is in sight!
Looking back towards Tekapo B Power Station (out of sight).
Tourists! All of us together trying desperately to catch a glimpse of Aoraki/Mt Cook – but no luck, it’s well hidden in the clouds today!
Another evening walk – Kevin is pulling out wilding pines whenever he sees them. Pines are not native to the McKenzie Basin so it’s encouraged to pull out ones that aren’t part of planned windbreaks.
This is the Pukaki Canal and Lake Pukaki is just over the bank to the left.
Kevin timed our walk to coincide with the release of water from Lake Pukaki which is done at times of higher public use of electricity – right now it’s around dinner time! It’s very awesome to watch the water pounding out from beneath the hill and down the canal.
I climbed steps up the hill that are set directly over the chute that the water goes through – it was a bit unsettling but worth seeing it from the top.

I crossed the road to look at Lake Pukaki, then crossed back and climbed down the steps again to where Kevin was still mesmerised by the water crashing into the canal.
Walking back down the canal – a bird is balanced on top of this water depth measurement gauge.
Excitement! Several people travelling in the two campervans call and whoop and run to the boy fishing on the shore. He’s caught a salmon!
No such luck for others fishing along the canal…one woman told us someone caught one about an hour before this, and a man showed us a photo of an enormous trout that had casually swum by – he got the photo, but not the fish!!

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