|Touring New Zealand 2008 - Part 4
Naseby is a delightful place with almost the whole of the centre being original 1864 with some additional buildings from the gold rush days. They also have a nice little Settlers museum. The town was very quiet while we were there - it has a permanent population of 85, which grows to around 4000 over Christmas when the cribs, campground and hotels fill up. It then fills again as winter comes as it is a centre for curling. It has excellent walks in the Naseby Forest area, which is also full of well-preserved and documented gold artifacts and workings. The only thing that spoils it is that many of the tracks have been cut up or turned into gravel slides by mountain bikes, despite signs on the entry restricting the areas and banning them from walking trails. I guess the problem is they can be hired in the village.
We stayed over night at the Larchview Motor Camp in the 1896 ex mine managers residence this year for two days before we had to move into more basic accommodation. We found it was set up for up to 9 people and could sleep 11 if you used the convertible settee and had all the usual facilities and a big log fire - all for $65 with our own bedding. There are also two miners cottages which we have also stayed in previously. They were all brought from Oturehua in original condition. There is a new owner who is progressively making improvements and has put in Wifi with a number of novel features.
We did one of the longer walks along an old water race for the gold workings and still in use today for water for irrigation. It must have been one of the longest races produced at 112 km long taking water from the Mt Ida range. We then passed Hoffman's dam and on to Coalpit dam where we were back in 'civilisation' at a picnic area with lots of tables. We avoided the mistakes we have previously made and followed the track correctly past some of the old workings. We then went through the area more recently used for mining which still has many artifacts in place including piping and several of the hydraulic monitors used for sluicing the faces along with some excellent explanatory boards.
The next day we did a tour round the area by car taking back-roads through the Ida valley our first stop being at The Golden Progress Quartz mine. A short walk took us to the mine workings with the Poppet Head, a 14 meter high structure supporting wheels over which ran ropes to cages used to hoist the gold bearing ore to the surface. The remains of the Stamper Battery mountings remain and there are several boilers left which powered the steam engines for the hoists and Stampers.
Nearby is Oturehua, an old mining town that had been the source of the cabin we were staying in 1896. The historic store dates from 1882 and still largely in its original state with Kauri counters, box shelving and cabinets still occupy one side in which are displayed many items of yesteryear - well worth looking into as well as being one of the only sources of ice-creams in the area. They also had a magnificent old set of Avery Scales, the type with a big weighing platform and an arm, which you hung weights on and then slid a small weight along.
We then drove past the Hayes Engineering Works and to our surprise there was a sign outside saying they were open . Whilst it normally opens only at weekends the Historic Places Trust have decided to employ an extra person for January - March he lives on the site in a converted bus and keeps an eye on the museum and a small camping area. Better still we found that there was a visit by a group of cyclists due and they were planning to power up the works and demonstrate the various machines. The Works is just as it was when it closed in 1952 and is still operational and run once a month driven from a tractor power take off, and like now when there is a special visit planned. The original power source, a dam driven Pelton wheel, does not work as there is no water supply from the old dam above the works.
Hayes was an inventor as well as Engineer and initially designed and built his own windmill to power the plant. It was on a tower 12 meters tall with sails of 7 meters diameter, the largest in the country at the time, but was later replaced by the Pelton Wheel to give more reliable power for the works. A major part of his business was production of windmills of various novel and patented designs.
His most famous inventions were to do with the seemingly mundane but actually very important job of tensioning the wire for fences. His designs started in 1905 and were soon in use all over New Zealand. They were developed further and the final version produced in 1924 is still in use now and finally won an engineering innovation award in 1982 - that must be a record! You will still find the Hayes brand name on most of the tightening devices at the end of barbed wire fences - we have been checking! The works is well worth a detour for a look when open especially when it is powered up with dozens of belts of novel forms driving the tools.
The Hayes Engineering Works moved to Invercargill in 1952 and we had read in one of the books about Burt Munro that he had made a lot of use of the Hayes Engineering Works. We discovered in conversation with the lady from the Historic Places that the current Hayes store in Invercargill has a small museum and display area with Burt Munro's Indian motorcycles. We then changed our original plans to include Invercargill to visit it the museum as we had been fascinated by the film "The Fastest Indian" and had also bought a book about Burt Munro and his quest for speed.
The next stop was at a small village of Ophir - the descent on the back road towards Ophir has the most staggering panorama of views over the Ida valley. It is like being in the middle of a huge bowl with wrinkled ranges rising thousands of feet on the horizon in every direction perhaps 15 kms away. No photograph could do it justice. Ophir that has twenty or so houses left in their original state. Gold was discovered in the area in 1863 and almost overnight the population reached 1000. In its heyday Ophir was the commercial and social centre of the district with a number of stores, a school, police station, courthouse, post office, hospital, two hotels and two churches. Many of these buildings remain and are being steadily restored and the few extra buildings are very much in character. Features such as the wide street with massive kerbstones and stone lined gutters remain. Apart from the odd car you could have been transported back 130 years.
We then went on to St Bathans, one of our original targets. The town is interesting and, like Ophir, time has stood still, although it is perhaps a bit more commercialised. What interested us was the mining remains. St Bathans was the site of perhaps the greatest of the Hydraulic Elevator and Sluicing operations. Starting in 1864 Kildare hill, originally 120 meters high was reduced by Hydraulic Sluicing to nothing and then in 1880 Hydraulic elevators were used and eventually it was reduced to a pit 68 meters deep. This was the deepest hydraulic mining lift in the world. The enormous hole was flooded in 1935 when mining was abandoned. They only stopped because of fears that the main street of St Bathans was about to collapse into the workings - one can see the cracks in the builds today. It is difficult to convey the size of the Lake and surrounding workings full of tailings and faces. We guess that it could be close to a kilometer long and 200-300 meters wide which ties in with statements in one of the books that over 100,000 oz of gold had been removed from a 200 acre area by 1893. An awe inspiring sight and a must to visit.
The next day we dragged ourselves away and took the old gold trail over Dansey's Pass. It is an interesting narrow, sometimes single track gravel road. It took us past sluiced cliffs and heaped tailings of the Kyburn Gold Diggings but we did not stop except to photograph the sign at the old cemetery giving burial charges. We passed the Dansey Pass Hotel built in 1863 which used to be the centre of activities but it has been extensively modified. The original was built by a stonemason called Happy Bill who took his payment in beer, a pint for every schist boulder shaped and laid on the thick walls. The nearby picnic area has a grove of different exotic trees, one to represent the homeland of every nations miner in the workings.
We then went round the Goldfields trail loop back to Cromwell where we set up the tent for the night at the Top Ten campsite - we usually have a cabin but it was a busy weekend. We had time after setting up to take a walk through Old Cromwell.
Cromwell was a major centre during the Goldmining days and was at the junction of two of the major gold-bearing rivers, the Kawarau and the mighty Clutha. In 1862 gold was discovered just below Cromwell and the rush was on. As Gold ran out Cromwell became a centre for farming and fruit-growing viewpoint. The Clyde dam, which formed Lake Dunstan, flooded a Old Cromwell. The area is already quite interesting and can easily occupy an hour or two. Cromwell Museum has a lot of Cromwell history from its start and initial signification as a centre for the gold fields on to fruit farming. A major part covered the changes on the area when the hydroelectric scheme started.
Before flooding, some of the historic buildings representative of the original town were rescued from the main street and rebuilt mud brick by mudbrick and corrugated iron sheet by sheet above the water level. This comprises the (free) museum area of Old Cromwell. The first building is the Victoria Arms Hotel, then the Masonic Lodge. Both are opposite the parking area. There are then eight historic buildings which were relocated, including the Cobb and Co Store, London House, G Stumbles General Merchant, Cromwell Argus and Jolly's Grain Store. It only takes a short time to admire the buildings, unless you get tempted to stop for a coffee or look at the various arts and crafts. In the period after the buildings had been recorded, demolished and moved the mining companies moved in to mine the glacial drift gravels opposite Cornish Point which had been denied to them because of the town - it is believed that over 4000 ounces were recovered in this final goldrush, more than enough to reconstruct the old town.
In the morning we spent some time in the museum and shopping, most of it for patchwork quilt materials as Pauline has been admiring the many quilts now on sale in New Zealand and has decided to make one. We then went for a walk round the Bannockburn Sluicings before taking a challenging drive into the Nevis Valley.
The Bannockburn Sluicings are only 5 kms from Cromwell. We have been before but even so it is difficult to appreciate the scale of operations and the magnitude of materials removed. The full walk round the area takes about three hours the first time allowing time to read the many explanatory boards and to explore and photograph a little. There is also a shorter walk taking about an hour, which is enough to get some understanding. The scale of the old operations is awe inspiring - cliffs perhaps a hundred feet high and hundreds of yards across cut out of the hillsides making huge amphitheaters and the whole area between stripped away. One is just seeing little "islands" standing to the original surface level.
Almost all of the operations were powered by water, first ground sluicing where water was just allowed to pour over the edges of the faces washing the gold bearing gravel down into sluice boxes, then latter, hydraulic sluicing where high pressure jets of water were used from below to bring down the faces. The tailings followed complex channels cut into the ground to eventually be washed away down the Kawarau River. During the walk we saw some of the water races and dams bringing in the vast supplies needed to wash away millions of cubic feet of gravel and the complex channels cut to get the tailings away to the river. The water was often reused and we saw an intermediate dam used to collect the water from sluicing before using it to periodically flush the build up of tailings down the tailings races to the river.
One walks through an old settlement, Stewart Town, of a few mud brick houses beside one of the larger dams. In its day it had big orchards with hundreds of fruit trees irrigated as a bonus of the water races. Now the area is once more arid and only a few pear trees survive although the whole area of Bannockburn is alive with wild thyme and there is the most wonderful smell wherever one walks as one crushes it underfoot. One can still see the shape of the water races leading from the dam, in some places running beside each other along the slope, each feeding a different set of workings or claim. As they descend the channels were stone lined and complex flumes, aqueducts and pipes distributed the water - there was often more money to be made in supplying water and removing tailings than in the gold itself. Bannockburn is perhaps the best place to get to understand and appreciate large scale sluicing operations and the couple of hours walk covers all the main features.
The road into the Nevis Valley is interesting and the entry road is the highest maintained road in New Zealand with steep climbs and descents. We picked up a new Goldfields Heritage Trail leaflet and we had also bought a 1:50,000 map last visit. The first section of the road over the Carrick Range is a climb to 1300 meters, up Long Gully and passing Dead Horse Pinch named after the number of pack horses that died on this steep stretch. Looking back there are magnificent views of Lake Dunstan, and we could just see Mount Cook in the far distance. We were very fortunate that it is only on clear days that the visibility is good enough - it is almost 200 kms. We occasionally glimpsed the Carrick Water Race. Originally used to supply water to the Young Australian battery and to parts of the Bannockburn sluicing claims, it is now used for irrigation. The summit, 1300 meters, is just 10 kms from the Nevis turnoff, and there is a good view of the Remarkables. The young Australia Battery still has a stamper battery which has been preserved by DOC but there are reputedly no markers on how to reach it on foot and it is a several hour walk.
Now began our steady descent. At our first glimpse of the Lower Nevis Valley we had to stop and admire the beautiful green valley with the Nevis River gently flowing through. Crossing the bridge at Nevis Crossing we stopped to look at the site of goldmining from 1862. At its peak there was a settlement with three hotels. All that is left of the original buildings is the wall of the old "Nevis Crossing Hotel". Ben Nevis Homestead is a further 1 km along the valley. The old Nevis School building was shifted there after it closed.
We looked at the old sites of dredging operations but went no further. Last time we continued a little further to the river crossing at Commissioners Creek after which the track continued into Upper Nevis via a narrow gorge. The track through the gorge is said to be only passable by well found 4X4 vehicles after which it opens out into another area of mining and an exit to the other side of the range.
We left Cromwell after two nights and started South through Alexandra where stopped to look at the Earnscleugh tailings. It is not well signposted - for reference anyone looking for the Dredgings Reserve should cross the bridge out of Alexandra, after a hundred yards turn right into Earnscleugh Road (back road to Clyde) and go 3 kms at which you will find Marshall Road on the right and a sign to the 150th Centenary walkway. At the end the car park is under the tailings and you can walk up to a viewpoint or do longer walks.
Dredging was probably at its most spectacular on the Clutha near Alexandra. The ground was worked over several times and as the dredges became more powerful they would cut there way into the solid ground of the river terraces working their way over huge areas leaving behind what can only describe as furrows. The Earnscleugh Flat Dredge Tailings and The Golden Beach tailings lie either side of the Fraser River entry to the Clutha and a large area has been turned into the Historic Reserve we had eventually found. The Earnscleugh dredgings were formed by the activities of 5 dredges between 1896 - 1924 and 1951 - 1962. Hundreds of acres have been dredges with the resulting tailings laid out like a giants ploughed field with furrows 40-50 feet deep and hundreds of feet across where they had been ejected from the back of the dredge.
Paddock dredging involved cutting deeply into the dry land of the terraces from a small pool of water in which the dredge floated and gradually cut its way forwards. The tailings were scattered behind from centrifugal drums and elevators. It is an awe inspiring sight and it was well worth all the diversion to visit it again, the other memorable thing was the thyme, the whole area was covered with wild thyme and the smell was almost overpowering as one walked around. We understand that there are plans to rework the dredgings again, which is causing concern with conservationists so it was good to see them before any changes take place.
It was then a fair drive before we stopped at the Lawrence Visitor centre and Museum which is one of the best local museums we have been in - we have also spent time a lot of time in Museums at Cromwell and Alexandra in the past and it would not be fair to chose between them as they all have excellent displays relative to gold and we have spent a lot of time with the curators in all three who have been most helpful. One must also not forget the smaller museums at Clyde and Naseby. All are well worth a visit if you are passing. The Lawrence museum surprised us for the size and range of exhibits in a relatively small town. There are several rooms of what one could class as 'settlers' exhibits of early life, the goods and clothing brought by the settlers, machinery and household appliances, and early life in New Zealand. There is also an excellent set of exhibits and old pictures covering all aspects of gold mining, it is unusual to find such a broad spread including dredging as well as the various forms of sluicing and elevators - it also covers the involvement of the Chinese gold miners. They are carrying out excavations of the area where the Chinese miners had there settlement.
Gabriel Read's discovery of gold at Gabriel's Gully in payable quantities started gold fever and start of the gold rushes which were of huge significance to the whole of the new colony of New Zealand and heralded a period of economic growth and social turmoil in Otago. Within 7 months of the first discovery 10,000 miners had flocked to Gabriel's Gully and other parts of the Goldfield. Back in 1857 the Otago Provincial Council had offered a prize of 500 pounds for the proven discovery of a payable gold field, there were a number of finds including Lindis Gorge but after winter had set in the field was declared a failure. Gabriel Read was an Australian who had traveled to the Californian Goldfields but had little success and after trading in the Pacific returned to join the Victoria goldrushes again with little success. Following the success which finally came to him with "little more than a butcher's knife" in Otago, his claim was worked by his partners and he spent most of his time helping others before returning to Tasmania to take up his family lands and marry.
The field at Gabriel's Gully had long life and many of the techniques in Goldmining were used there making it an excellent first visit. Initially miners targeted a surface layer of alluvial gold lying on a band of blue slate below a 2 meter layer of mud and gravel - the claim size allowed was 25 feet by 25 feet - in the first months from May to mid August over 30,000 oz had been carried to Dunedin before the onset of winter and the discovery of new fields at Dunstan caused the number of miners to reduce. Once the easily reached surface gold was exhausted the deeper gold in a conglomerate, known locally as 'cement' was targeted, in particular on Blue Spur between Gabriel's Gully and Munro Gully. Water was by now the key and complex water races and dams quickly appeared. The techniques of Ground Sluicing quickly followed by Hydraulic Sluicing were employed until the tailings started to build up in the valley bottom. As the complexity increased the claims were progressively amalgamated and by 1879 to only nine, most of which were using Stamper batteries to effectively break up the cement. The ever-larger companies used more sophisticated equipment; reworking the tailings up to three times and hydraulic elevators were used as the cement was worked down below the surface level. All the terms are explained on our introductory page to Goldmining at http://www.uniquelynz.com/nzgold.htm .
We had been there a few years ago but it was nice to see it again and place it in our new perspective. You can see a vast smooth slope where the sluicing took place and a pool at the bottom where there were hydraulic elevators raising the gravel to overhead sluices and riffle boxes. The valley floor has been steadily raised by the tailings and is now over 50 meters above the original level. Other interesting statistics for the area are that there were 450 kms of water races created in the first 4 years for ground sluicing, the longest of which was 40 km going right to the Waipori River. The one and a half hour walk round the field has just received a complete set of new interpretation boards which give a real insight into what happened at various stages, initially we thought they were set at a level more suitable to children (or a minister) but persevere as all the information is there!
We traveled to Tapanui where there was a small camp site marked in our Hema map which had an interesting write up, especially if you read between the lines. We rang in as we had a fair drive and would be arriving a bit late. We were still a good distance away which suited the owner who said he was out for the day and would not be able to get it ready until 1800.
We were running a bit early when we passed a sign saying that the World Record for track laying vehicles had been broken the previous day. We hit the brakes and turned round to see what it was all about. After following the odd signs down a gravel road we passed a large transporter with a few people round it and stopped to find out what it was all about. They told us that there had been a gathering of over 500 track laying vehicles the previous day with the objective of creating a new record for the Guinness book of records. The South of the South Island (Otago & Southland) is reputed to have the highest density of crawler tractors per given area in the world and they had succeeded in having 503 vehicles simultaneously working - each of the machines towed one harrow leaf for about 20 minutes around a stubble paddock under the watchful eye of three Justices of the Peace. We found subsequently that 95% of the vehicles were crawlers with 20 hydraulic diggers, 2 bren gun carriers, and 6 or so half track wheel tractors making up the balance. The 480 odd crawlers there were probably only about 50% of the available crawlers in the area. A lot of local farmers who didn't own heavy trucks of their own, weren't prepared to pay for local transport companies to do the hauling. The attempt was part of the West Otago Vintage Club 50th birthday celebrations
Many had left but there were still a large number in the field and a steady stream of transporters coming to load them up. We had a quick look round and took a few pictures before carrying on to the camp site.
The Tapanui Motor Camp turned out to be even smaller than we expected but was a gem, there were no cabins but there were a couple of modestly priced caravans available and we had taken the more expensive at the great sum of $35. Each of the four power sites/caravan had its own individual adjacent toilet and shower and in addition we decided there was probably space for another 4 tents or very small campers. It has been little advertised and people seem to have been coming from word of mouth although a friend had set up a simple web site. And of course there was now an entry in the Hema map which the owner Dave Scott had been unaware of until we told him, he had wondered why more people were coming. Dave used to have his own caravan on the site and when it came on the market he bought it and still lives in his caravans. As it says in the Hema guide there is not kitchen or washing machine - the regulations are too onerous but if you ask nicely it is possible you may be offered complementary use of his own washing machine, microwave or a bit of freezer space in his own little private facilities block. We thought it a great place.
Burt Munro was the archetypal example of the embodiment of Kiwi ingenuity. He was a cantankerous, eccentric and obsessive inventor capable of making use of anything available to turn out advanced and innovative engineering, using the most basic facilities in his backyard. He was in many ways like Richard Pearse, who arguably made the first powered flights in New Zealand before the Wright Brothers yet never gained public recognition for many years. He also had much in common with Hayes so it is not surprising they knew each other well and Burt made use of the Hayes Engineering works.
Burt Munro became a Kiwi motorcycling legend, and held numerous land speed records, some of which still stand. Burt Munro was born in 1899 at his parents home in Invercargill. At 21 year he was entranced by a brand-new motorcycle in an Invercargill garage. The bike was an Indian Scout, with a V twin side valve engine of 600cc capacity, cast alloy primary case, leaf sprung front fork and gleaming red paint. The price was £120 complete with acetylene lighting. This begin a partnership which was to last until his death in December 1978. The bike was destined to become the world's fastest Indian.
Burt's Indian Scout, engine number 50R627 was a standard model and although it was very advanced for it’s time the top speed was only in the region of 60mph. In the 1920's Burt started tuning the bike for speed. He raced it round Invercargill, much of the racing and trials were on the firm sands of the nearby beaches and ultimately he had it exceeding 90mph in side valve form. In the mid 1930s Burt made patterns for an overhead valve engine conversion but initially he was quite disappointed as it was no faster than the original side valve, he however persevered and in 1940 he gained the New Zealand Motorcycle speed record at a speed of 120.8mph. Originally the Indian Scouts had only two cams and this limited the valve timing so Burt changed this to a four cam system which allowed him to alter the valve timing on both the inlet and exhaust valves - his cam designs were a major factor in the performance of his engines and nobody seemed to be able to reproduce his results.
By now Burt was finding many of the original parts were no longer capable of taking the strain and he started making his own replacements from old but carefully chosen materials. He made his own barrels, flywheels, pistons, cams and followers and lubrication system. The con-rods were manufactured out of old Ford truck and Caterpillar tractor axles, largely by hand with a file, before hardening and tempered.. Burt cast his own pistons using a large kerosene blow lamp and dies he made himself. A major problems was big-end failures. The original lubrication was a total loss system with no direct feed to the big-ends and crank pin. Burt made new fly wheels and increased the diameter of the crank pin which he bored to feed oil direct to the big-ends. He also fitted an Indian Chief oil pump and in doing so changed it to a dry sump lubrication system. Burt had very little equipment as far as machining was concerned and there was a lot of handwork associated with the manufacturing. Over the years Burt gradually increased the bore and stroke which enlarged the engine to just on 1000cc capacity. Burt built four different streamline shells for the Indian Scout over the years.
Burt took many NZ road and beach records. In February 1957 he set a NZ Open Beach record of 131.38 mph, raising this in 1975 to 136 mph at Oreti Beach. In April 1957 he set a 750cc Road Record at Christchurch at 143.59 mph. But Burt's ultimate ambition was to take the Indian to the Bonneville salt flats in the USA and find out her ultimate performance. He was a grandfather of over 60 when he finally achieved his ambition and on his first trip to Bonneville in 1962 he achieved a speed of 179mph, a speed that people attending "Speed Week" found absolutely unbelievable considering the age of both the bike and the rider. On the 26th August 1967 Burt claimed the World Record Class S-A 1000cc - with an average speed of 183.586mph (one way 190.07mph). This record still stands to this very day. His old Indian originally designed for speeds of 55 mph and still with many original parts was measured to be exceeding 200 mph on occasions.
The story of Burt's life and his sacrifices to the God's of Speed are detailed in the book "One Good Run: The Legend of Burt Munro" by Tim Hanna publisher: Penguin, 2006 ISBN 978-0143019749. We had tried to buy a copy in the UK after we had watched the film "The World's Fastest Indian" on a flight to NZ and then bought the DVD. We finally found and bought a copy second hand in Napier. We were enthralled by both and could not resist going to Invercargill to see his bikes at the Hayes shop. There is an excellent write up of Burt Munro's achievements and pictures of him in action as well as the bikes as they are currently in the museum on the E Hayes web site. The synopsis I have written above has drawn on it and many other sources including the book and film. Another site worthy of a visit is the tribute to the Tribute to Burt Munro on the Indian Motor Cycles web site.
We left Invercargill in the pouring rain and decided to make our next overnight in Manapouri which is much more tranquil than Te Anau where most tourists stay and has views out over one of the most stunning lakes surrounded by snow topped peaks. We had three days at the excellent Lakeside Chalet and Motor Park. It is old style campsite we like with lots of character and at a reasonable price. Every cabin is different with some being two story mock stately abodes and we were lucky enough to get one of those. It is a collector's paradise with a collection of old Morris Minors and other cars and a games room full of classic arcade games. It also has good kitchen and although there was no Zip there were no less than 4 electric kettles. Pauline however noted it was the only campsite where there were more washing machines than stalls in the ladies, which is unfortunate as they are full of cartoons so everyone tends to linger. There is an Inn and Café almost next door which we made use of.
The next day we did a section of the Kepler track starting at the swing bridge and going far enough to look at the two huts. The smaller one was very quiet having only six beds and the area was completely deserted so Pete took the opportunity for a swim. It was very cold so the swim was short. On the way back we spent some time talking to a girl from DOC about her job including the problems of killing the Possums caught in the many traps. We first did a section of the track in 1998 when it was part of a DOC orientation trip on the lake and track. The track is good but for some reason it is not so popular and exploited as the Milford Track and some of the other so called 'Great Walks', perhaps because there are no fancy places to stay for the commercial operators.
The next day was intended to be a quiet one. In the morning we first stopped at the bookshop then continued to look round Te Anau, it is much busier than Manapouri with few New Zealanders in evidence. We continued along the Lake towards Te Anau Downs, in the direction of Milford Sound. We have been to Milford Sound most time - it is very beautiful and a high priority for a first visit but it almost has more tourists than Sandflies. We had initially decided not to do "The Road to Milford" this time but we heard in the bookshop that there were plans to close it to all but buses as there have been so many accidents caused by camper vans rushing back and forth. I had not realised that we have never properly written it up and did not take many pictures or notes so you escape a long description.
Again we had no intention to take a boat trip however there was one just about to depart on a small boat which promised a longer trip and the chance to look at the wildlife so we took it on the spur of the moment. It was good with free soup (it was cold that day) and coffee. The commentary was a bit sparse compared to what one gets on the bigger boats but we enjoyed it greatly. There were only about 25 people on board.
It was now time to drag ourselves away, we had already twice extended our stay as we were enjoying in our two story mock stately abode so much - we now needed to head across to set up our tent at Luggate for the Warbirds over Wanaka airshow. On route we passed Lake Wakatipu and just short of Queens town we found that there had been a major fire. It had been restricted to the area between the road and the lake for 4 days but the high winds had then allowed it to jump the road and it had devastated hundreds of kilometers already and was right up into the hills and about to enter the Nevis Valley. There was a steady stream of Helicopters filling their fire buckets and heading up into the hills as we passed. The road had fortunately reopened so we were able to continue towards Queenstown.
We did not go into Queenstown but turned away at Frankton to take the Cardrona Road to Wanaka, it is the highest main road in New Zealand. It looks like a shortcut but is not and has steep hill climbs but the road itself has been considerably improved recently. The road was one of the old gold trails and was and has magnificent views. Cardrona is a small place; the old School and the Church buildings have been preserved and are sited opposite to the Gin and Raspberry gold workings, named after the owners reward whenever a days washup exceeded an ounce of gold. Just a few yards further is the famous restored Cardrona Hotel and used to be one of the famous inn on the Gold Trails and features on many postcards. We ate well there in 2006 but we had to push on this time and secure a good tent slot at Luggate at the Albion Cricket Ground for the Warbirds over Wanaka airshow - the Highlight of this years visit which is covered in the next page Warbirds over Wanaka 2008 .