|Touring New Zealand 2014 part 5
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 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. The post office has a lot of photographs on the walls as well as a number of locally made items. There is a motor museum with an eclectic collection of cars - including a Standard 10, car memorabilia, model cars, radios and many other items
We stayed for two nights at the Larchview Motor Camp. They have a variety of accommodation and last time we stayed in the 1896 ex mine managers residence which 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 (now $90) and there are also two miners cottages which we have also stayed in, also now up to $90. They were all brought from Oturehua in original condition. This year we picked one of the much more basic chalets because it was up on the hill and had a small deck which caught the sun and a much better view than the various cottages. In comparison it was very small but the price was only $47.
Naseby Forest and Goldfield Walks: The day had cheered up so we went up to the swimming dam just above the camp site - a good place to start the forest walks. We started our walk by going up to the lookout over the old gold works and then dropped down to look at the various items left over from the workings, many lots of pipes and hydraulic monitors and sluice boxes. 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! Considerable areas have just been sluiced away and you can follow where the tailings channels took the residue down to the Hog Burn. We tried to follow the route out down the Hog Burn Gully but the whole forest is now criss crossed with tracks from mountain bikers so one needs a compass if it overcast and we ended up on a shorter route than we had intended via the the water race before reaching the Hog Burn Car Park.
We then followed the One Tree Hill Walking Track which the brochure told us would take us to a set of Gold Sluicing Landforms we had not seen before. The track was poor and quite eroded so one was walking across some quite angled and slippery sections of track with big drops if one slid sideways. We however got to the workings and found a seat overlooking them perched on the top of a ridge. The seat had obviously been repaired several times and was held together with cable clips making it an interesting experience whilst having a drink and eating our biscuits with a vertical drop a couple of inches in front of ones feet. We continued and quickly reached even worse slips and the track appeared to be covered by a tree fall so we started back - as we reached the seat and were worrying about our route down slopes which had been bad enough going up we bumped into three cyclists who pointed out an insignificant looking side track they were about to follow and told us to just keep right if there were any choices and we would return to the water race. We passed a couple of storage dams (keeping to the right!) and after some interesting sections we eventually got to the race at a bridge exactly as they predicted and it was a simple walk along the water race and back into town.
We stopped for a at the store which used to have some of the biggest and best ice-creams in New Zealand - in 2006 they were $1.20 and now a double is $4.00, on the expensive end of prices although still an acceptable size. Inflation in NZ is even worse than UK.
Naseby Early Settlers Museum: We then had a look in the Early Settlers Museum which takes a gold coin donation although the other museum opposite also needs a $2 token.
Naseby Indoor Curling Rink At the end of the afternoon we thought we ought to go and have another look at the recent indoor Curling rink as we had been told in the museum that the New Zealand Seniors would be practicing at 1600. The Naseby rink 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 had been once before but were given the opportunity to watch the introductory film again. It was fascinating to watch the team playing from the overhead viewing area and Sean Becker was one of the ones playing - he represented New Zealand at the 2006 Olympics. In fact the Beckers seem to dominate New Zealand curling and some years there 4 of them winning and coaching in the international team. They have there own wall of fame in the Becker Lounge which contains the viewing area.
Naseby Water Race Walk to Hoffmans Dam: The following morning it started with low flying cloud but by 1100 it had all cleared and we had a sunny day. We decided to do the longest of the walks which follows the water races and takes on to the Coalpit dam. 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. We walked round Hoffmans dam expecting to be able to cross back to the water race - there was no bridge but in the past there was a convenient log one could precariously balance on and walk across. No such luck and we had to follow a new route which took us up and round and eventually back to the race where we continued past the second siphon to Coalpit dam where there is a picnic area with lots of tables. There are some 'forest walks' signed up which we have done in the past but last time they had been virtually destroyed by logging so we did not bother and just walked back on the water race. It took about 1 hour 40 for the outward trip and about ten minutes less for the more direct return - the water races are very tortuous but we reckoned it was about 10 miles for the round trip.
Ranfurly: The next morning we set off fairly early as rain was on its way. We stopped at Ranfurly which 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 encourage visitors like holding art deco weekends. It however does have a good information office/museum with an excellent display of contemporary photographs of the Maniototo and Sue was most helpful in providing all sorts of information we needed as well as having a wicked sense of humour.
The town of Ranfurly was formerly known as Eweburn, one of the "farmyard" names bestowed by former Otago Chief Surveyor John Turnbull Thomson on many small streams and locations in the Otago district. After the gold-rush faded Ranfurly grew at the expense of Naseby, spurred by the arrival of the railway in 1898, in fact the town was created and laid out as a railhead 5km from the original Eweburn. The rail line was closed in 1989 and the track removed, but its course became a major walking and cycling route, the Otago Central Rail Trail, which now attracts 14,000 tourists a year, more than the rail line did for most of its life! The former railway station now serves as a museum and display centre.The modern name honours the Fifth Earl of Ranfurly, who served as Governor of New Zealand (1897-1904) at the time of the extension of the Otago Central Railway to the area.
An interesting fact is that Climate scientists trawling through old records have found that Ranfurly has the dubious honour of having the lowest temperature ever recorded in New Zealand of minus 25.6 degC in 1903, second is Ophir with minus 21.6 degC, recorded in 1995.
Dead Horse Pinch: We stopped to look at the historic plaque at Dead Horse Pinch, near the Pigroot summit, placed to commemorate the hardships faced by the miners traveling to the goldfields on such routes. Dead Horse Pinch was the last major hill which the horses faced when bringing goods from Dunedin to the Dunstan Goldfields. Many horses final perished at this point and they were buried nearby hence the name of the site. We had expected a proper memorial but there just seemed to be a small information board about 120m off the road looking out towards the hill. Good were brought on wagons carrying 4 tons towed by 8 horses with usually two wagons together so they could be doubled up if one got stuck. The cost was typically £8 per ton but at the peak of the rush charges ran to £100 per ton. A small fortune in those days.
Macraes Flat: Our objective on this section was to look at Macraes Flat which has one of the few current large scale mining actives in New Zealand - it is extracting close to 200,000 oz of Gold per year from 6 million tons of ore. The Macraes mine has been in operation since 1990 and has produced over 3 million ounces of gold .Macraes,, New Zealand’s largest gold mine is operated by Oceania Gold and comprises two mines; Macraes Open Pit – which has been operating since 1990 and Fraser's Underground which was commissioned in January 2008. The combined open pit and underground reserves currently support an approximate eight year mine life. Further exploration drilling targeting the deeper extensions of the Macraes ore body is ongoing with the objective of identifying and developing additional underground mines along the strike of mineralisation. Additionally, exploration is also targeted at other potential surface mineable targets along the Macraes line of strike. The processing plant is situated within short distance of the Macraes Open Pit and includes a pressure oxidation plant for the processing of sulphide ore (which is one of only three in the southern hemisphere). At the Macraes processing plant, the ore is put through crushing, grinding, flotation, fine grinding, pressure oxidation carbon in leach, elution, elctro winning and smelting.
On approached Macraes Flat we met an area devastated by open cast mining activities, huge pits and terraces with massive diggers and trucks yet looking like toys extracting ore from the deep pits and in the distance great banks of spoil being shaped into a new landscape. We had expected that they would be running mine tours as on previous years but had been warned in Ranfurley that they might have stopped. That was the case. We went down some of the side roads which views across the desolate landscape and found a viewing area. The information office in Macraes Flat village had closed but we parked opposite the Stanley's Hotel. Stanley's hotel was rebuilt in 1889 but dates back in various forms to the earliest days. It has the motto - "Whilst I live I'll Crow" referring to an earlier rivalry between Stanley and Griffin, the publican of the competing United Kingdom Hotel.
Golden Point Gold Mine: We turned off down the side road leading to the Golden Point mine and found even more workings and eventually a viewpoint of the processing plant. It is difficult to convey the scale of operations but we came past workings for perhaps two kilometres before we turned and the track was 5 kilometres long and the workings were almost over the top of the old mine. Aerial pictures of a few years ago show the workings to be near circular so we are looking at tens of square kilometres being open cast mined to depths of several hundred of metres - Round hill has already been converted to a deep lake. The underground mining starts at 450 m.
The area was first the site of a rush in 1863 and nearby there were quartz mine workings. A highlight of the area is the Golden Point Mine in Deepdell creek. This area was opened up for Gold and latter Scheelite (Tungsten ore) mining in 1889 and worked till the 1930s. The small battery remains, supposedly in working order, in the original buildings. The Golden Progress Mine is dwarfed by the new workings on the hillside above. It would all fit into a couple of the dumper trucks. It is remarkably well preserved and the Stamper battery and separators are all, by repute, usable. There are remains of more modern crushing mills outside, developments of the Berdan with rollers by the look of it. There were various boards round the site but we have, as yet, found no DOC information sheets for the area. The area had many other nearby operations, which are also covered by the boards, and many of the original shacks and the managers house are still standing. The old adit can be reached by a short track and various other artifacts for supplying the battery remain. A very interesting area to visit and an interesting comparison between modern brute force and the skills of the past. We can see why other areas are not enthusiastic to have mining restarted.
Middlemarch: We went across to Middlemarch using the back gravel road which had the most superb scenery, very much like the Rock and Pillar range the other side of the valley. We stayed at a camp site we had not tried before at Middlemarch following Sue's recommendation in the Ranfurly Information Office. It was very good - the kitchen is based round an old railway guards van and has large covered in areas for seating in old arm chairs and a couple of large barbeques as well as a inside sitting room with TV. We had previously only been to Middlemarch on the Taieri Gorge Railway from Dunedin and Middlemarch itself seems to have few facilities and its life is now cantered round the rail trail.
Dunedin: It was a quick drive from Middlemarch down to Dunedin with a stop at an excellent butcher in Outram and a stock up in Countdown to burn time before a room would be available. We normally stay out in a cabin or tent at Portobello on the Otago peninsula at the Kiwi Holiday Park, a site we have used before which is well placed for the Albatrosses, Yellow Eyed Penguins and other wildlife the Peninsula is well known for. It is also almost next to the 1908 restaurant where we have had some excellent meals in the past. This time they, and almost everywhere was full because it was the start of the new year at Otago University and all the parents were delivering their offspring, including Jenny who was bringing Kerry down. We were doubly fortunate as we found a place in the 'lodge' at the Dunedin Kiwi Holiday Park at St Kilda's beach which was much closer to the town. The lodge rooms were very much like a hotel room with shower and toilet - they only lacked bedding - and there was a very fully equipped kitchen solely for the use of the lodge. It was, in the circumstances, a very favourable $76 with 10% off with a Kiwi Holiday Park card which we needed to renew in any case for $20. We got 2 nights but everywhere was full for 20 kms on the Saturday so we planned to go to Lawrence next. The weather had improved in that the torrential rain had stopped but not the winds. We walked round the site but were driven back before we reached the beach and settled for a drive along the front as far as St Clair before returning to cook supper.
Otago Peninsular: In the morning we took the high road out along the peninsular with the ultimate intention of reaching to see if we could see any Albatrosses as the wind was plenty high enough for them to be flying. On the way we noticed some spoonbills feeding close to the shore and stopped to watch in fascination for a while and get some pictures and video. They are quite rare and although we have seen them in the White Heron reserve we have never seen more than a couple together. This time we counted 7.
The Royal Albatross: We went up to the Albatross Centre but found it did not open its doors until 1130 and the first tour was not until 1200. In previous years we have joined the Trust as normally the cost is little more than a visit and future visits are free or greatly reduced, and the Trusts benefit from increased numbers when seeking funding etc. We did however watch a number of them wheeling out over the sea and soaring the waves as well as some over the observatory. Taiaroa Head is the only place in the world where Albatrosses breed on a mainland and one gets a close up view of the flying and chicks from the observatory but the price is $39 each. We have previously seen them close enough to completely fill the viewfinder on the camera and one time we were able to get a long video of two birds pair flying, probably juveniles "bonding". The Royal Albatrosses come back to breed every two years to the same place and with the same partner - the remainder of the time being on the wing. They circumnavigate the globe many times achieving an average of 500 kms a day and often exceed 1000 kms in a day as they move from one feeding area to another. They are magnificent birds to see in flight exceeding 10 feet span. They often live for over 40 years and one known as Grandmother is known to have reached well over 62 years as it she breeding when first seen. The juveniles return after 5 years for their first landing ever on land, which can often be a spectacular crash when they realise the difference between sea and water.
1908 Cafe at Portobello: We went back to the 1908 Cafe at Portobello for lunch, we have eaten there in the evening several times and lunch was just as good although it is a much more restricted menu for lunch. We took Miles, Felicity and Phil there a few years ago and my notes from then comment "where else would one find a restaurant happily open four BYO bottles for only 5 people, warn one that the meals were big and could we really handle breads, entrees and mains and when they received an American sized tip (Miles and Felicity have lived too long in the States) come back and say we had made a mistake" - nobody made sweets that time and Pete and Pauline only just managed the contents of her Doggy Bag the following evening! Note it is no longer BYO.
Happy Hens: We stopped on the way back at 'Happy Hens' and ended up chatting to the owner, Shem Sutherland, for a long time. He has spent a lot of time in the UK as a signwriter and narrow boat decorator. He produces many items with Roses and Castles, letterboxes are particular favourites in New Zealand and we were privileged to see some of his work which is not for sale. He also seems to have been involved or know of many of the restoration and steam projects we have taken an interest in.
The Elsie Evans: In particular we were interested to learn about the work Shem and a group of others are doing in restoring on the Elsie Evans the historic former Otago Harbour ferry to a seaworthy condition and operating her again for passenger use on the Otago Harbour as a ferry and excursion vessel. Elsie Evans is the oldest surviving pilot boat in New Zealand as well as being the last ferry to run a scheduled timetabled ferry service on the Otago Harbour and is part of of a local maritime history which would be lost forever had this project not been undertaken.
The Elsie Evans was built in Auckland in 1901 by the firm of Charles Bailey Jnr, a contemporary and competitor of Logan Brothers whose classic boats we have often admired, as the first pilot boat for the Timaru Harbour Board. The Elsie Evans had a length of 42 feet, a beam of 8 feet six inches and a draft of 3 foot 3 inches. The hull was of three skins of kauri, copper fastened and sheathed in muntz metal below the waterline. The original engine was a 20 h.p. Union Oil (petrol) engine developing 280 r.p.m. which gave her a maximum speed of 8 knots. She was brought to Dunedin in 1928 and used for general purposes and to ferry passengers during the surveys of the Portobello Railway and Ferry Company's ferries Tarewai and Waireka. In 1944 she took over from the Tarewai and regularly sailed the one and a half miles between Portobello and Port Chalmers and was licensed to carry 37 passengers. To cut a long story short she is being restored from the original kauri hull with a new superstructure suitable for a passenger ferry on the Otago Harbour. The superstructure is not original to the vessel, but is of a 1907 design to be in keeping with vessels of the same vintage. Shem told us that he hopes she is only 4 months from starting service and we went to have a look (from a distance) at her on the wharf beside the Monarch terminal in central Dunedin and what we could see looks beautiful. We really look forwards to seeing her in action. The pictures below were supplied by Clem.
Leaving Dunedin, we took the road up to Berick and on to a back-road through up the Waipori Gorge past the dams and power stations through Waipori Falls Village (originally built for power staion workers) and up to the Mahinerangi Lakes and the Waipori goldmining area and then down to Lawrence. 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, we had been there before but and the signs and parking were even more 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 the style and fought our way through long grass to approach it - the final stretch used to on a board walk, if it still existed it was under water and Pete was ankle level or worse in water and mud - Pauline declined and watched from dry land.
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
We stopped just short of Lawrence at Weatherstons. Although only one gully east of Gabriels Gully the Weatherstons goldfield was not discovered until mid July 1861 when the Weatherston brothers found gold while on a pig shooting trip. The field grew very with 1500 miners arriving from Waitahuna over a few days and it was claimed that over 4 week period more gold was recovered from Weatherstons than from Gabriels Gully. Over this late 1861 period Weatherstons was arguably the livelyest town on the Goldfields. However after the news of the Hartley and Reilly find at Dunstan came through in August 1862 only two miners remained, Ben Hart and Sam Gare. The population slowly returned as miners worked over the material again. By 1864 there were still 8 hotels operating as well as stores, drapery, post office, blacksmith, news agent, watch maker, iron monger, butcher and 2 banks. Beer was first brewed in 1863 and by early 1866 the Black Horse Brewery was in operation It has a number of owners until 1884 when it was bought by JK Simpson and Ben Hart, one of the miners who remained true to Weatherstons. The Black Horse rose to be Otago's most successful provincial brewery, famed throughout the goldfields and from Canterbury to Bluff but was closed down in 1923 after being bought by NZ Breweries.
Ben Hart was an enthusiastic gardener and from 1895 he was responsible for planting 25 acres around the brewery mostly with a wide range of daffodils and sourced from as far as the Netherlands, with no expense spared. Prices as high as 100 pounds were paid for a single bulb (Twenty times an normal weekly wage). During WW1 tens of thousands of bunches with 15-20 blooms were gathered by children and sent to Dundin by train raising money for the Patriotic Fund. By 1937 3 special trains required to bring visitors from Dunedin to see the fields. A Daffodil Cavalcade was restated in 2005. We followed the various trails round the site and up the river tothe waterfall. There are lots of boards and an honesty box for entry of $5. The building are little more than shells but it was an interesting hour.
We spent some time 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 always surprises 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 have spent long periods going through the as they have a few pictures we already knew and many new ones on Goldmining and dredging in the area. We took the opportunity to pick up a number of extra Heritage Trail booklets and some new xerox sheets we did not have.
The visit before 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 it with us and re-read it in the evening.
We had rung ahead to the holiday park - it seemed to be the closest available accommodation to Dunedin for the Saturday night. They had a set of 6 ‘basic cabins’ round a facilities area at a very reasonable price of $40. There is a new owner who has been steadily doing them up and although very basic they be recommended. The kitchen was small but adequate and we were greeted by a raging wood burning stove. There was also a small lounge area in the same block.
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!
This time we started by following the signs to a picnic area which turned out to be the site of an old dam with a rather fine lake and a few picnic tables. It was also the start of a walk which was unfortunately closed off because of landslips. We went back to the maincar park and walked down to the old elevator pond rather than doing the 'set' walk round the rim of the area - it gave us some nice views up of the slopes especially as the rising sun angled across the surface. We looked at some of the side areas on the way back where we suspected some more recent investigations had taken place but there was little to show for it now.
Once we were back to the car we followed the backroad road through Blue Spur villiage which has a few houses but little to show from its gold mining times and that dropped us back down into Lawrence where took a picture of the recently restored stamper battery before a brief stocking up with supplies and setting out in the direction of Dunedin. On the way we took the side road into the Waitahunai gold fields where we found the Miners memorial and then continued on the backroad through the Waitahunai Gully, a major goldfield where the first discovery was in 1861. we then looped back down to the main road back to Dunedin.
We did not really intend to stop in Dunedin but we ended up going through the center of town and Pete saw the railway station in the distance and seeing it was a Sunday with free parking we looped back and parked close to it. It is a fascinating and very ornate building which clearly shows its Scottish ancestry. We walked in and found the Taieri Gorge train was in the station and that it had a guards van almost identical to the ones we have stayed in at Waipara. We got talking to the guard and he showed us round and tried to persuade us into a trip - the staff on the trains are all great enthusiasts and when he heard I had already done run on the footplate he offered to see what could be done again - unfortunately it would not have got back till 1830 and the cloud was quite low so visiability would not have been good. The journey, especially the longer ones to Middlemarch are something one must do once although they have got quite expensive - when one looks at the bridges and other structures they need to maintain one can understand why.
We then went into the museum where they have made quite a few changes and have a new and modern entry which links on the old museum buildings which are within what was the Art Deco style NZR long distance coach station. It is well worth a visit and deserves longer than the hour we had to spare. The buildings themselves are quite interesting and the way old and new has been mixed in the exhibits works much better here than I have seen before with computer screens on front of many of the showcases so you can click on any exhbit to get more information. It works very well in the room of local photographs and is fasted than looking for numbers and labels on most exhibits. Unlike many museums most of the articles are real and where they are not the effects are good, the horses in front of the stage coach were a good example of blending new and old to give a stunning effect. We dragged ourselves away having done a very quick walk through of many of the halls including the special exhibition on Scottish Links - it is a much larger area of displays than apparent from the outside.
As we climbed up and out of Dunedin the cloud was rolling down the hillsides and much of the journey was in cloud even after we had descended back to sea level and we stopped at virtually the first campsite up the coast at Waikoaiti, one which was new too us but one we may well use in the future. See Part 6 for more about Waikoaiti, the Vanishing World Trail, Omaru, Arthurs Pass and Hokitika.