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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 4 (July 1, 1938.)

Country of the Sheep Stealer

Country of the Sheep Stealer.

In writing of this district one's pennaturally trembles a little towards the western side of the pass, with its grandeurs in all that tourist country from Lake Tekapo to Mount Cook, and towards that old tale of Mackenzie, the sheep stealer, whose hideaway was in the great inland plain which took his name and his story forever into its geography and history.

But that story has often been told: how Mackenzie and his dog drove thousands of stolen sheep over the Mackenzie Pass into his great basin and out again across the Waitaki River and through the Lindis Pass into Otago, and how he was captured, dramatically enough, in the Mackenzie Pass, tried at Lyttelton, broke gaol repeatedly, and was eventually shipped out of the country.

His accomplice at the Otago end was supposed to have staged a suicide beside a stream. His clothes were found, but not his body. “Yet,” said Mr. L. Lang-lands in a letter in the “Otago Witness” about 40 years ago, “Had they thrown the grapnel in Princess Street, Dunedin, they might have been more successful, as that is where he serenely bobbed up, very wealthy, after that memorable dive, having divested himself of his name and heavy liabilities, as well as his clothes in the process.”

It is a good story when fully told, and it brushes very close to this saddle, for the Mackenzie Pass is only about a dozen miles from the Hakataramea Pass. But it has recently been written again by Mrs. Woodhouse in her book on the Rhodes family. And the country of this article lies to the eastwards of Mackenzie's dishonest journeys. The Grampian Mountains and the Kirkliston Range divide them.

Another view of the Hakataramea Pass over the Grampian Mountains.

Another view of the Hakataramea Pass over the Grampian Mountains.

It lies also to the eastward of the present tourist road which crosses the lake-fed tributaries of the Waitaki, and goes via Omarama into Otago.

At present travellers on the trip from Mount Cook or Tekapo to Queenstown do not see the fierce majesty of the Waitaki metamorphosed into that vast artificially created lake which breaks over the great spillway of its dam in awesome release. The Waitaki hydroelectric power station is one of the notable engineering achievements of New Zealand. And yet the distance from Lake Tekapo to Lake Waitaki is only about 60 miles by the suggested new route.