As much as I had looked forward to travelling through the region, I wasn’t expecting it to be as stunning as it was. This slice of New Zealand known as the Mackenzie Basin is simply majestic.
The Mackenzie region varies from dusty, parched hillsides to jagged, snow-topped mountains and turquoise glacial lakes. During November and December an added bonus are the beautiful lupins, which create patchworks of colour across the countryside. Even night-time is special with crystal, clear night skies.
Burkes Pass is the gateway to the Mackenzie country. At the beginning of Burkes Pass is a small settlement known as Three Creeks. It’s a tiny, historic township with unique craft stores selling retro collectibles, antiques and craftware, classic vehicle memorabilia, outdoor furniture and so much more. And there’s a coffee shop housed in a retro caravan.
Only a few hundred metres along the road from Three Creeks is the Burkes Pass cemetery. Many pioneers have been laid to rest there along with Connie Scott, ‘The Lupin Lady’.
In the 1950s, Connie Scott of Godley Peaks Station purchased a sack of lupin seeds from a local stock agent with the intention of making the region more attractive. David Scott helped his mother scatter the lupin seeds along the roadside.
Lupin seeds are able to tolerate wind, poor soil, warm or cold temperatures and grazing, and the explosive seedpods allow lupins to grow and spread quickly.
Russell lupins (Lupinus polyphyllus) are a perennial herb originally from North America. During November to January the Mackenzie Basin attracts countless tourists armed with cameras eager to capture these iconic high-country flowers.
Environmentalists and ecologists believe Russell lupins are an environmental weed as threatening as broom and gorse. They can prevent native plants establishing and are known to alter the shape of riverbeds. Not only do clumps of lupins cause sand and gravel build-ups, resulting in erosion and flooding, they’re also responsible for preventing some river birds from nesting.
New Zealand river birds such as kaki, wrybill, black-billed gulls, black-fronted terns and banded dotterels nest in open riverbeds, where the openness allows them to see predators such as cats, stoats, ferrets and hedgehogs, and they are more vulnerable when lupins proliferate and provide an environment for such predators to hide in.
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