|Touring New Zealand 2012 part 4
Central Otago is home to some of the most interesting Goldfields in New Zealand and these were reached by a number of trails many of which still exist as Back-roads, Summer Dry Weather Roads, 4WD Tracks and Hiking Trails. We have taken the vans along quite a few of these in the past and now we were back in Otago and having already travelled along some interesting unsealed roads we began to think again about driving along the Thomson Gorge Road over the Dunstan Mountains between the old gold towns of Bendigo and Tinkers which is near Omakau. It started as a Maori trail and was then used by goldminers before becoming an access road for the remote farms. Before we did it the first time we spent a long time preparing and had done a few miles along the road from both directions and bought a 1:50,000 map. It was mainly the 5 fords in the central portion which had worried us. There is now an excellent leaflet first published by the Otago Goldfields Heritage in 2004 and updated in 2007, which describes the important features and historic sites, we used the matching one on the Nevis road. We stopped in the Museum in Cromwell and picked up the latest leaflet and the lady was very helpful and reassured us about the current state of the road which was helpful. Last time we had followed the veteran car club which had taken their vehicles across before Christmas in 2005. The Thomson Valley Road is classed as a summer 2WD Trail, but definitely 4WD at other times or after heavy rain.
According to the map, the road begins at the Cromwell end either at Bendigo township or at the Ardgour Road. We found in the past that the recommended road from Bendigo was marked as a private road and was in bad condition. Now we heard that there were more vineyards and the road was even more difficult to find. We decide to enter from the more major Ardgour Road at Lindis Crossing. This was a good decision. According to the map the two entry roads eventually joined at a triangle, but even with the join marked on the GPS we did not see it.
We were interested in the old gold mining sites, so stopped at the Come in Time Reef. In 1880 it was the last of the Bendigo reefs to be discovered. Both open workings and tunnel operation were used, known as the Red Tunnel Mine. A marked track leads down past the entrance to a mine tunnel and then on down to the old Eureka battery. It was clear that DOC were working in the area and restoring the battery, although there was none around during our visit. We were pleased to see the work because for many years DOC had tried to ignore the gold mining heritage. Portions of the overhead cable-way gear could just be seen high up on the opposite slope. Then we drove along the Rise and Shine Creek. We had wanted to explore all the historic sites but were uncertain where they were. We only had a mark on the map to guide us.
The beautiful countryside continued as we climbed over Thomson's Saddle, at 990 metres. We soon descended to the valley and saw the cattle yards. This time we did no do the short walk up Thomson's Creek to see the old stone hut as we had missed the parking. By this time we were following a 4 wheel drive who was opening gates and we were closing up. We had the five fords to cross and they were checking we were OK past the difficult bits which was nice although. We could see some evidence of the Thomson Creek Gully Diggings along this section. At the last ford there was a large modern cattle building which looked out-of-place in the valley. We were pleased to have finished crossing the fords and wondered why we had been so worried. In a dry summer with no recent rain it is no problem.
We had travelled 29 kms in just over 2 hours and only saw one the other 4WD vehicle which we let past and followed. Of the 5 fords, none had been a problem and two had been nearly dry – the only problem was one very steep turn with big rocks which was a bit of a scrabble before the tyres gripped. Last time Pauline kept a record of the gates and she had opened, and closed, 15 gates, this time it was closer to 20. This is in addition to the many which we had found already open. The road was wide enough to pass easily in most places and where it was narrow there were long views ahead to see oncoming traffic, even on the sections cut into the hillside along the gorge. There is one section along a narrow crest which we were warned could be subject to high winds but in dry calm conditions there should be no major problems with a car provided the road continues to be well maintained. We enjoyed the journey with its magnificent views and it is a road we will take again, most likely in the opposite direction which also matches the information sheet.
We stopped at Omakau at the Muddy Creek Café on the corner of the main road for enormous ice creams. Omakau is an important stopping place for cyclists on the Otago Rail Trail, and there are the usual services – a good little supermarket, Post Office, fuel and garage and hotel. Whilst we were sitting eating our ice creams we saw an advert in the window for camping at the local reserve including cabins at $40 for 2 people and decided to have a look. They were a hidden gem so we first decided to stay for two then 3 days. The nine cabins were brand new and high up looking over the site and the Otago plain to the mountains in all direction. They did not have a lot inside, just beds and electric points, but we have chairs and table. The kitchen however had everything one could ask having a huge stock of every utensils, plates dish type of cutlery etc. - enough for dozens of sheep shearers! There were four fridges and freezers and dozens of free showers - it is shared with the rugby club. Washing machines and driers were as cheap as anywhere.
Once we were installed we had a quick trip into Alexandra and looked at the new museum buildings now re-badged as 'Central Stories' but much better done than most. There were several videos from very old films of the Gold Dredges which had some titles but no sound thank goodness. There were some excellent models of some of the dredges and some well done information boards although they had fallen into the trap of allowing there contractors to put the text on a pictorial background with little contrast making it difficult for even a person with good eyesight to read comfortably. Overall well worth a visit. We had it marked on the GPS at the old position which is not the Tourist Offices and we had an interesting talk before we moved to the correct place. This week, 26 January, is the 150th anniversary of first major gold findings in the area and some extra leaflets are being launched and the rest of 2012 has various special celebrations.
Having seen the old film which included some of the dredges on the Clutha it seemed appropriate to go and have another 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. There is still a car park right under the tailings but no access and the old bridge across has come down and you now have to park in the new parking, walk almost to the Clutha on the walkway, cross a foot bridge over the Fraser river and walk back to be opposite the parking on the other side of the river – an extra kilometre or so before you can walk up to a viewpoint or do longer walks. The new parking is also used by fishermen for river access. We still have an early (1999) information leaflet which was fortunate as most of the boards we remember seem to have gone. DOC estimated the walk from the foot bridge to the viewpoint, some 400metres, would take 50 minutes!
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 giant's 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.
We then stopped at Clyde for an ice-cream and a quick look at the dam and resulting lake and recreational areas. A double win - 450 megawatts of green power and a rough gorge transformed into a recreational wonderland. It was then back to Omakau to get the Red Devil out for a Barbecue of Lamb and the last bottle of 2008 Pinot Noir from Esk Valley.
The following day had a poor forecast so we set out on one of the minor roads to the Hayes Engineering works. We went first to a small village, Ophir which has twenty or so houses left in their original state. Gold was discovered in 1863, and they will celebrate the 150th anniversary on 2 March 2013, 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 kerb stones and stone lined gutters remain. Apart from the odd car you could have been transported back 130 years. The best approach is over the last remaining suspension bridge in Otago down a gravel road, with parking just before the bridge for the inevitable photo stop.
Most of the buildings are in private hands however the Post Office is owned by the Historic Places Trust, to which we belong. We spent some time in the Post Office talking to the postmistress. We came almost exactly ten years ago (on the 25th January whereas today is 26th) when she had only recently taken over and she found details of some of the mining survey reports for the area dating back to 1890 and other early reports on dredging from the turn of the century. Her predecessor who had been in post for 27 years, had gathered a vast and fascination number of local photographs and information of all sorts. In return we had promised to send details of LeClenché cells she had on display from some of my grandfathers technical books - they were early batteries used for telephones. She remembered us and that she had never received the information and thought she still had our card! I recall looking it all up and there is probably somebody somewhere in the Historic Places Trust wondering why they were sent an email with information on obscure batteries. She forgave us and gave us and a few other people from the Auckland area a tour round the Post Office showing us how all the letters are still hand franked and specially bagged to avoid automatic over-franking as well as seeing the old safe, money boxes, scales etc. We walked out the back to look at the jail, a substantial building with two solid cells. We had been warned not to get shut inside.
We then continued to the Hayes Engineering Works which is another Historic Places site we have visited before. It is just as it was when it closed in 1952 and is still operational, although it is now driven from a tractor power take off - the original power from a dam driven Pelton wheel does not work as the water supply from the adjacent hillside is no more.
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 metres tall with sails of 7 metres 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 however the 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 production 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 are well worth a detour for a look when open and it is even better if you can arrange to be there on one of the days when it is powered up with dozens of belts of novel forms driving the tools. It seems to be the first Saturday in every month this year up to April but will vary a lot. We have been there when it is running.
The homestead was built in 1920 to replace the old original 1895 homestead which is now a café and shop. There was replacement rendering work on the front but the back entrance was open and we had our first look round which was very interesting - they say they are still looking for matching china, furniture and books etc. from the correct period but it all looks pretty complete to me.
The Hayes family still manages the hardware shop in Invercargill, and it was Irving Hayes who helped Burt Munroe with some of his metal working as he modified his Indian motorbike, and won the speed record. It is all explained in the film The World’s Fastest Indian. The record breaking bike is on display along with many other memorabilia in the shop in Invercargill. We passed, but did not stop this time, at the Golden Progress Quartz mine.
We stopped at the Gilchrist Store at Oturehua which is in a time warp as the wall and many of the counters are stocked just as they would have been half a century or more ago with just some modern goods in the middle. Unfortunately they still do not have scoop ice-cream so we had to make do with a Trumpeter. For cyclists who need warm woolly socks there are beautiful striped socks for sale, and hand knitted children’s jumpers.
We then went on to St Bathan's, one of our original targets. The town is interesting and, like Ophir, time has stood still, although it is perhaps a bit more commercialised. The original Post Office (owned by DOC) used to be open as a shop and there is a local outcry as it is planned to turn it into accommodation.
St Bathan’s was the site of perhaps the greatest of the Hydraulic Elevator and Sluicing operations. Starting in 1864 Kildare Hill, originally 120 metres 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 metres 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 Bathan’s was about to collapse into the workings - one can see the cracks in the buildings 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 kilometre long and 200-300 metres 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 visit’. The town hall is open and has lots of early pictures showing it in operation which needs to be looked at. A loop walk has been opened since our last visit and we did part of it but were forced back by the winds which were blowing dust and gravel into the air. There were some artefacts remaining to see and good views of the lake. The walk does not go right round the lake but there are plans to open up a full circumnavigation. As we departed a large group of touring bikers arrived to stay at the old Vulcan Hotel.
On the way back we diverted 1 km to look at the old mining village of Cambrians which the Otago Goldfields booklet said still had some of the Welsh miners cottages remaining. By now it was very windy, and the sky ahead was dark black and foreboding. If it was Wales we would have said it was going to snow. The old school with its bell outside was open so we braved the winds. It was full of historic black and white images of the area, including an enormous print from the archives at Te Papa showing the place as it was during its heyday. We settled into the settee with one of the folders of information from the Otago Witness in 1881 - 1900, all collected by Tricia Batkin. Then she arrived and we had an interesting discussion about local history and the school which had been moved away and then relocated back to its original site. She had been a pupil at the school in the 1950s and was collecting information about past pupils and local families. She pointed out. He always wore tall riding boots so was distinctive.
We counted the kilometres as we drove back to Omakau, hoping to get back to our cabinbefore the weather arrived. We were lucky - the serious rain only started at dusk and by then we had cooked and eaten the last of our Mt Cook salmon tails with the first of our Chard Farm Riesling.
The rattle on our metal roof stopped in the middle of the night, it all went quiet, and we awoke to find a light sprinkling of snow on the ground and all the hills around were white. It was cold and we were glad we had bought a fan heater for $8 at the Sally Army in Cromwell. This would not be a good day for a slippery gravel road. We decided it would be a good day to go to Naseby – the snow looked thickest on the hills in that direction and Naseby is higher than where we were, in fact Naseby has the marketing jingo “2000 feet above worry level” As we travelled across the snow got thicker in the fields beside the road until the grass was completely covered although the road itself was clear and we got some nice pictures of the ranges to either side. In Naseby itself the children had been making snowmen and Pete walked down to get a picture alongside – he had to go barefoot to avoid getting the snow over his sandals.
Naseby is a delightful small town with almost the whole of the centre being original 1864 and a bit 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 about 100 which grows to around 4000 over Christmas when the cribs, camp ground and hotels fill up. It then fills again as winter comes as it is a centre for curling, although this has now become an all year sport as they have the only Olympic standard indoor curling centre in New Zealand. It has excellent walks in the Naseby Forest area which is also full of well preserved and documented gold artefacts 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.
We have always stayed in the past at the Larchview Motor Camp, who have a couple of 1896 ex miners cottages brought from Oturehua in original condition but these had been full hence our stay at Omakau. One thing we missed from Larchview was the excellent hand drawn local area maps with all the trails marked
We spent some time in the post office where there were a lot of photographs on the walls as well as a number of locally made woollen items which Pauline bought a few of. We looked into the motor museum, an eclectic collection of cars - including a Standard 10, car memorabilia, model cars, radios and many other items.
By the day had warmed and we went up to the swimming dam just above the camp site - a good place to start the forest walks. We had a walk along the water race which was in full flow and up to some of the old mine workings. There used to be a big hydraulic elevator and the explanatory boards were by far the best we have seen - I fail to understand why the clearest expositions are from the forestry people! The water races were built 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. It seemed odd walking with snow on the ground in the middle of summer with blue skies. We normally continue to Hoffman's dam and on to Coalpit dam where there is a picnic area with lots of tables. We did not have the 4 hours required and we turned at the Syphon so we would have time to go via Ranfurly on the way back. We did find time to take the shot diversion and look into the old gold workings.
Before we left Naseby we thought we ought to go and have a look at the new indoor Curling rink which is the only Olympic rink in New Zealand - not bad for a town of 100 people but there is a long history of curling in Naseby and it had the second highest number of players in NZ, only just less than Auckland. Curling is a sport in which players slide stones across a sheet of ice towards a target area, a bit like an icy cross between bowls and boule. Two teams of four players, take turns sliding heavy, polished granite stones, across the ice curling sheet towards a circular target marked on the ice. Points are scored for the stones resting closest to the centre of the house at the conclusion of each end. The curler can induce a curved path by causing the stone to slowly turn as it slides, and the path of the rock may be further influenced by two sweepers with brooms who accompany it as it slides down the sheet, using the brooms to alter the state of the ice in front of the stone. A great deal of strategy and teamwork goes into choosing the ideal path and placement of a stone for each situation, and the skills of the curlers determine how close to the desired result the stone will achieve.
Curling was introduced by Scottish gold miners, with the first reported game in Maniototo, Central Otago, on 6 July 1878. The long, cold winters made outdoor work difficult and curling provided a way to pass the time - Scottish and Irish immigrants would go to the small towns such as the village of Naseby, and in the harsh winter conditions they would use the natural ponds and the miner’s dams to play their native homeland sport of curling. New Zealand is now one of the last countries in the world where the traditional style of curling is still played on the outdoor ice. The Naseby Indoor Curling Rink opened in 2006, at a cost of $1.3 million and the efforts of over 6000 volunteers. It offers all-seasons curling and by 2008 13,000 people a year were using it and it was bringing $250,000 a year to the area We went in and watched the introductory film and curling from the overhead viewing area for half an hour. They do an economical package to try it out for $10 a person but the four lanes were busy so we continued on our way back via Ranfurly.
Ranfurly claims to be a Rural Art Deco town but it is a fairly tenuous claim with only one or two what we would think of as Art Deco - it seems to have been the result of a working party in 1999 on how to get them on the tourist map! We feel they have little justification compared to such places as Napier - in fact many New Zealand towns have a greater proportion of true Art Deco buildings. It may be an excellent example of a country railhead town but that does not get visitors like holding art deco weekends. It however does have a very good information office with an excellent display of contemporary photographs of the Maniototo and they have always been exceptionally helpful in seeking out information we needed.
On our way back from Ranfurly we again took the back-road through the Ida valley so we could stop at The Golden Progress Quartz mine which we had missed out on the previous day. 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.
In the morning we decided to have longer look at Alexandra and the museum. Alexandra is another example of an old gold mining town on the banks of the mighty Clutha River and in the later days of gold fever some of the greatest dredging operations took place near Alexandra. There are two excellent 'Historic Sites Viewing and Walking Tour' leaflets available freely in the town which are basically historical tours of old Goldmining sites and places of interest from the golden days of Lower Dunstan. Alexandra also claims to have the highest average temperatures in New Zealand and the lowest rainfall in its advertising brochure. Our main reason for stopping was to visit the Museum, partially as somewhere where we could sit for a while with internet access as we had not had Vodafone coverage for 3 days and Pauline needed to do some OU work. Whilst she was working Pete started to investigate the archives which had a lot of fascinating information and one of the best sets of old pictures all properly catalogued and in folders as well as comprehensive files of information. We also spent a long time speaking to the Curator who was very helpful. One reference we hope to follow up is “Gold Dredging in Otago being a series published in the Otago Daily Times June July and August 1899”
We the worked down the route of the Clutha to Lawrence where we decided to stop at the holiday park as it was late in the day to go round Gabriel's Gulley. They had a set of 4 ‘basic cabins’ round a facilities area at a very reasonable price. There is a new owner who has been steadily doing them up and it can now be recommended. We had done washing in morning which needed drying - the wind was so high it hung horizontal on the line and a peg was blown into a ditch 10m away! The kitchen was small but adequate and in the morning we were greeted by a raging wood burning stove.
In the morning we set out for Gabriel’s Gulley which is of great importance as. 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 travelled 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 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 received a complete set of interpretation boards which give some 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 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 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 has a room dedicated to the Chinese in the area which covers the involvement of the Chinese gold miners.
There is a collection of old pictures from round the area in loose leaf ring binders - we spent a long time going through the as they had a few pictures we already knew and many new ones on Goldmining and dredging in the area. We bought a photocopy of the Gabriel's Gulley Golden Jubilee Celebration booklet (1911) when 300 of the original miners returned. We also took the opportunity to pick up a number of extra Heritage Trail booklets we did not have - there is a wide network of Heritage Trails, mostly set up and sponsored on a local basis, but all using a common format of well printed free leaflet and explanatory signs in a distinctive yellow and teal green.
Last visit we enquired about books we should look for and the curator suggested we looked at “Tuapeka - The Land and it's People” by W R Mayhew published by Otago Centennial Historical publications, 1949, a copy of which was in the collection in an old desk set up in the corner which we looked at. It is a social History of the Borough of Lawrence and the surrounding districts and has definitive coverage of Gold in the area. We were then very fortunate she had this spare copy of her own which had been signed by the author which she was prepared to offer to us when she realised we were enthusiastic about the area and were looking for bookshops. We had re-read it before we got to Lawrence and the surrounding area.
Leaving Lawrence, we turned off immediately and took a back-road through some of the other areas across past the Mahinerangi Lakes and the Waipori goldmining area and then down past Berwick to join the route 1. The road was gravel but in good condition and mostly wide as it looked as if it was used for logging and forestry operations as well as for access to some nice leisure areas. Back roads, however short they look, never prove to be short cuts, but if one has plenty of time they are rarely disappointing in one way or other - the scenery is usually good and you can go for hours without seeing another vehicle.
Unfortunately the flooding of Lake Mahinerangi for hydroelectric in 1924 covered all traces of Waipori, a gold rush boom-town and the location of extensive dredging but two historic reserves have survived. We passed through the reserve at Pioneer Stream which apparently has excellent examples of water races and reservoirs without seeing any off road car park, signs or routes in through the fencing. We did find the OPQ (Otago Pioneer Quartz Co) reserve just down the side road to Waitahuna more by luck than judgement as the signs and parking were very overgrown. It was the site of the first underground quartz mine in Otago and subsequently many mines opened in the area. There are a number of artifacts accessible on the reserve including the Canton Stamper Battery still which was in a very sad condition. We eventually found a style and fought our way through long grass to approach it - the final stretch was on a board walk - Pete found out why when he stepped back to take a picture!
The Canton Battery was not for the original OPQ mine but for latter mines on the flat area on the other side of the road. The OPQ itself had a tramway for loaded trucks to a battery not far from the one which is visible. We have been told that the battery foundations can be found - as can the oldest verifiable gold rush artifact which is a water wheel with name and date of a Melbourne foundry. Thanks to Gregor Campbell for the updated information. For our future reference there are a number of intersing links here, here and here.
Follow our journey in Part 5 - Dunedin, the Otago Peninsula, the Catlins, Invercargill and Lake Manapouri