Touring New Zealand 2019 - part 4
South Island - Alexandra and Naseby
Camp site at Alexandra: This time we stayed at the Alexandra Holiday park rather than the Tourist Park we used last time. It was much better and our cabin had far more than we expected from the price including a large fridge freezer, microwave and television as well as basic kitchen utensils, cutlery etc. On can walk in from the campsite along the riverside past Shaky Bridge and on into town. The park on the edge of town had originally been the site of a dredging operation and one could still image that one could see the dip from the pond the dredge had been working in.
Alexandra Museum: We spent a long time in the Museum, one of the best of the regional museums looking at the history of gold mining in the area and their displays.
Butchers Dam: We had noticed a sign off which we explored to Butchers Dam and Flat top Hill on the road to Roxborough about 6 km from Alexandra. Butchers Dam and its outlet tunnel (728 metres through solid schist rock) were built between 1935 and 1937 during the great depression in order to create a water reservoir for the nearby town of Alexandra. The dam and race are now only used for irrigation. The Last Chance Irrigation Company now owns the dam. We stopped to take some pictures and to investigate the walking trails in the Flat top hill reserve for the future - they are supposed to give some excellent views down onto the Roxborough Gorge. We could see many irregation channels near the dam and as we drove in the area.
Mitchell's Cottage: We diverted to look at Mitchell's Cottage, another of the Otago Goldfields Park sites that we had not looked at on previous visits. Andrew Mitchell built this fine cottage using techniques he had learnt in the Shetland Islands and it took many years to complete - started in the 1880s it was not finished till 1906. He also left another legacy of his remarkable skills in a The garden was planted with a wide range of exotic trees most of which are still present.
The Mitchell family were, not surprisingly miners who finally were successful when they struck a gold bearing quartz reef high on the Old Man Range. By 1889 the venture was paying well and their main shaft was 50 metres deep with the adit (tunnel) 250 metres long and they were employing 19 men in the mine and the associated battery. They sold out and took up a sluicing claim on Bald Hill Flat in 1890 and it took them three years to complete the water races and tail races. The Goldfields warden commented that the construction of the races and the way the working faces were kept were "without doubt the neatest I have ever seen" by 1893 they had installed a small hydraulic elevator and it seems profitability went hand in hand with industriousness and neatness and the records say the were well satisfied with increasing yields of Gold. One can understand something of their standards from the construction of the cottage, which seems untouched by time. It, and the surroundings, is preserved as a site in The Otago Goldfields Park as a tribute to the industrious and skilful people who contributed to Central Otago's heritage. The cottage is open and normally unattended, a reflection on the difference between New Zealand and Europe.
Memorial to Miners who perished in the great snow of 1863: We stopped briefly to view this memorial which is just off the road at Gorge creek. In July-September 1863 a devastating combination of flood, snowstorm, and blizzard caused heavy loss of life among the mining population of Central Otago. In a matter of days the main gold rivers were in violent flood. The Clutha rose 20ft in a night, the Shotover was 35 ft above normal and the Arrow engulfed Arrowtown. Miners living only in tents on the river banks were caught unawares, and even those on the terraces only escaped with difficulty. Worse soon followed with snowstorm in early August. Blizzards swept inland Otago and roads were not so much impassable but impossible to find. The Warden's Court records place the ascertained deaths at 37 but unofficial estimates gave figures as high as 200 - the fate of many was never determined.
Roxborough Dam, Lake and Power Station: We stopped at the viewpoint of the Roxborough Dam, Lake and Power Station. We have written a lot in the past about the Hydroelectric schemes so will not repeat it this time.
Roxborough Town: We have passed through Roxborough many times before as it is on the main route South (Highway 8) towards Dunedin and only 40 kms from Alexandra where we have often stayed. It is a strip development and looks large than it is - we had not realised that the population was only 600 until I came to look it up for this write up. It is in Teviot Valley on the banks of the Clutha River. Our interest has been that it was an important centre during the Central Otago goldrush of the 1860s, in more recent times Roxburgh has relied on a mixture of livestock and stone fruit production for its economic survival. It is one of the country's most important apple growing regions and other stone fruit such as cherries and apricots are also harvested locally. It is five kilometres to the South of the Roxburgh Dam, the earliest of the major hydroelectric dams built on the Clutha. Our main reasons for stopping have been the Roxborough Teviot Museum which I will come to latter.
New Cameras: We first had a quick look round the town and went into the local Op Shop. Most of our readers will already have read somewhere in our write ups about Op Shops but for the few I will say they are a New Zealand form of Charity Shop, many for local charities. They are excellent at recycling almost everything to those that need it and can sometimes offer real bargains as well. We often look in as we pass and Roxborough was no exception. Pete was idly looking at a couple of partly open boxes of unpriced digital cameras whilst Pauline was doing a more serious search, not for need but because we have been discussing the differences beween our existing Panasonis anc Canon Cameras and one was a Canon Ixus of a type we had considered. Whilst looking a lady from the shop rushed up and asked if he was interested so out of politeness Pete said how much. She said they had just been dropped off and they had no idea if they worked as the person had rushed off again but how about $3 for the Canon Ixus 145. Pete is not sure what sort of expression he had but the immediate response from the lady was - "how about $5 for both? " A quick glance showed they both had chargers, cables and batteries and one had a good hard case - the deal was done. The expectation was that in practice both would be dead or only partially working but nothing ventured nothing gained and it was a good cause so we left with a red Canon Ixus 16 mpixel 8x Optical Zoom about 4 or 5 years old and a slightly older purple Olympus VR-310 14 mpixel 10x optical zoom with image stabilisation - Pauline fancied the colour!
To cut a long story short Pete installed some of our spare 32 Gbyte SD cards and charged the batteries and both sprange to life and as far as we can tell operate as well as when they were made, even batteries seem to be good, the Canon gives about 150 pictures from a 670 ma/hr battery and the Olympus seems about the same. Neither look as if they have been used much unlike our cameras where we shoot many thousands of pictures every year (12,000 total last year). We have now carried out some extensive comparitive testing and as far as standard point and shoot with low zoom both have more consistent colour rendering than Pete's Panasonic and the same as Pauline's Canon. We have always been biased towards Canon's for colour in really awkward circumstances such as highly gilded churches but Pete's Panasonic (a heavy brick) has many other features which make it extremely versatile and it has the most incredible steady shot and instant focus even at 30x zoom on, for example, aircraft. Both of the new cameras are however perfect spares or slip in a pocket cameras. Our tests have extended to Pete's latest phone, a Samsung A6 also bought partially for the reputation of the internal camera and all have their own uses. When we start adding pictures to this years pages we will occassional identify the cameras. We went back past the shop intending to make an extra contribution but it was closed but something will happen in the future.
Roxborough Teviot Museum: This is a fascinating small museum. Last visit we enquired about it in the information centre in town and were told it only opened for a couple of hours at weekends but were also told that they were usually more than willing to open up at other times if people were interested. After a quick ring round a volunteer came and unlocked it and we were left for an hour to look round. It was small but packed with interesting information and displays and considerable work must have gone into it. We were particularly interested in the many pictures of dredges and other goldmining but it also taught us a lot about the area and how the fruit growing industry grew up round Roxborough. Many thanks for opening your lovely museum to us and sharing the fruits of your hard work.
Tank on Hill: We took the car up to the "Tank on the Hill". An open water race from Chatto creek supplied Alexandra with water from 1873 to 1903 when the large tank was built to supply the town using the James River water race which brought water from 22km away. There were however continual battles over the water rights and it turned out that the Council had not check properly the priorities and in times of drought the diggings took priority. The Supreme Council finally ruled that James Rivers could not be expected to supply water that did not exist! The tank was therefore abandoned after only 6 years. We had an excellent view down to Shaky bridge and could still see the huge area of tailings from dredge operations on the banks of the Clutha over the top of Alexandra.
Observation Point: We continued up to the Observation Point and lookout where the views were even better across Alexandra and out over the Manuherikia Valley and adjacent mountains with the distinctive Remarkables just showing in the distance with snow covered tops. Below were the Tucker Hill Diggings. The Tucker Hill Diggings remain much the same as when mining ceased in the early 1900s. Mining started in 1862 and the proceeds were never spectacular - the name comes from the miners standard reply to how things were going of, "Just making tucker". One could see across to the Earnscleugh tailings were quite clear and one realised the huge area they covered. We took a lot of pictures on the two old and two new cameras for comparison.
Old Coach Road: We continued for another couple of kilometres on the now gravel road to where the Old Coach Road crossed where again there were good views and we could also see more of the old water races winding across below us with their stone walls still looking in good condition. We met up with a couple of cyclists coming up the Old Coach Road who suggested we continued another couple of kilometres to just after where there was a cattle grid where we would intercept one of the races and could then follow them on foot for a considerable distance. They were correct although we did not walk a great distance in either direction they obviously continued onwards although they were well worn down.
Cemetery:Once back at river level we went as far as the old cemetry which has had a plaque erected to the memory of the early pioneers who died betwen 1863 and 1868
Shaky Bridge, a suspension bridge was opened as a light traffic bridge in 1879, judging by the way it moves with even a couple of people the name was apt. It fell into disrepair when the road-rail bridge opened in 1906 but was restored as a footbridge in 1951 by volunteers and dedicated to the pioneers. Water just broke over the deck at the eastern end in the 1995 floods. In the past we have stopped the other side at the Shaky Bridge Vineyard Café.
Lower Manorburn Dam: On approaching Alexandra Pauline spotted a sign to the Lower Manorburn Dam which we recalled was close to the feed for the major water race created for the Tucker Diggings, namely the Rose, Thistle and Shannock water race that we had walked to a week earlier. The feed was at Chatto Creek a few miles upstream of the current dam and was taken over the Manorburn on some impressive wooden aqueduct just below the site of the dam according to the information board and the race then continued to where we had intersected it. What we had not realised was that it had not been a great success as an error meant that it arrived too low to be useful - we guess that surveyor was not popular! The aqueduct was eventually broken up and used for firewood. There is a roadside exhibit with a number of old dredge buckets from the Manuherikia Dredging on the road to the Manorburn dam.
Before leaving the campsite at Alexandra we made some enquiries about rabbit processing as we had heard that some of the campsite building had been part of the old processing plant and some of the cabins had been rabbiters' huts. This turned out to be true so we took a number of pictures of the relevant buildings.
We then headed across towards Naseby using some backroads including stopping at the Hayes Engineering works for a snack lunch and another quiet look round on a day when it was not in 'motion'.
Omakau: We paused 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, hotel and camping grounds.
Ophir: We crossed the main road to take the side trip round the small village of Ophir. Ophir 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. Most of the buildings are in private hands however the Post Office is owned by the Historic Places Trust, to which we belong. We have spent some time in the Post Office talking to the postmistress on previous visits. She took over 12 years ago 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 fascinating number of local photographs and information of all sorts.
Hayes Engineering Works: The Hayes Engineering Works 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 an electric motor (or a tractor power take off when required) - previously the power was from a dam driven Pelton wheel is still in place but does not work as the water supply from the adjacent hillside is no more. When they fitted the electric motor they did tests to see what size would be needed and it turned out that the whole system with its belt drives to three workshops only required 2 kwatts and a 3 kwatt (4 horsepower) motor was fitted to give a reserve.
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 before and were lucky this time that it was the appropriate Saturday and even more lucky that we arrived just as a tour was starting and that Ken was doing it - he has the farm next door and is a real enthusiast and maintains everything in pristine condition as well as being a very good and entertaining speaker as we found on a previous visit.
The homestead was built in 1920 to replace the old original 1895 homestead which is now a café and shop. We had our own food but the homemade cakes in the cafe, especially the chocolate one, looked very tempting. The maintenance and updating work on the homestead which we had reported in previous years in now completed and the recommended tour is again self-guided using the entrance through the front door, exiting through the kitchen at the back. Ken mentioned that his wife had spent a lot of effort on the work in the homestead. Last time Ken also showed us round the house and pointed out Hayes various inventions and engineering idiosyncrasies in the house including bookshelves supported from the ceiling and one of the first overhead showers and flush toilets in the country. The flush uses a double insulated tube system which is almost silent in operation. The laundry contains a switch for power to the house operated by a chain and the speed of the pelton wheel and hence voltage can be adjusted from the laundry via a system of cables out to the power house. The radio signal was also piped round the house by a system of tubes.
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.
Oturehua Store: Just down the road 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. It was then a short drive to Naseby passing the Golden Progress Quartz Mine which we left for a planned loop drive from Naseby which would also take in St Bathans. We were booked to stayed at The Larchview Motor Camp and it was getting late.
The Larchview Motor Camp is an old favourite we have been staying at for many years. They have a variety of accommodation a couple of visits ago 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 $130 (2019) and there are also two miners cottages which we have also stayed in, also now $120 which is reasonable these days for self contained accommodation. They were all brought from Oturehua in original condition. This year we had one of the miners cottages for two nights then moved to one of the much more basic chalets which is up on the hill and has a small deck which catches the sun and a much better view than the various cottages. In comparison it is very small but the price was only $62.
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
It has been exceedingly hot and dry so unfortunately for us the forest had been closed the day before we arrived because of the extreme fire risks so we were limited to walks up to the Swimming dam and round town. I will however included some information about longer walks we have done on previous visits for completeness. The weather in Otago can be very extreme and previous years we have been here at the same time of year with snow thick enough to make snowmen and other days with temperatures in the 30s.
Naseby Early Settlers Museum: The Early Settlers Museum takes a gold coin donation. It has a lot of interesting early gold mining information for the area. They have some interesting equipment including a monitor with an automated mechanism to keep it sweeping the area run by a tiny overshot water wheel - in fact there were two such mechanisms, one commercial and one local using tin cans to form the water wheel. Naseby was one of the small number of towns which had a School of Mines, a subsidiary of Otago University. It only functioned for a short period of about ten years as the demand seemed to have been low and the lectures somewhat intermittent. Much of the collections from the School are now in the hands on the museum and they are planning to display them. Such museums are managed and manned by local volunteers who all seem very enthusiastic and knowledgeable but opening times are often short and it it makes major enhancements difficult to organise and fund. Entry is often by donation and there is little pressure to contribute.
Winston's Museum Winston is a great collector and has always been ready to show off his collection. This time we found him outside his house on the main street with a beautiful 1930s Pontiac which he has recently bought and he was delighted to start the engine and show us round it and his collection of photographs of when it was delivered and subsequently. It is in a virgin state having never even been repainted or had any other significant restoration, he has even acquired a spare hub cap as such items tend to evaporate as they are collectors items in their own right. He has been rationalising his collection and several other old vehicles we remember such as a Standard 10 have now gone as as some of his collection of early model trains. Even so it is quite difficult to move round in side his house and collections.
Naseby Indoor Curling Rink The forest remained closed so we thought we would 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.
Cemetery: The Cemetery is almost en route to the Curling rink and is worth a visit. We found the cemetery much more interesting than we had expected and showed some of the tensions of the past. Protestants were to one side and Catholics to the other and the Chinese burials were outside the boundary. There were few Chinese burials as most had been dug up and returned to China. It was obvious many were gold miners as there were causes of death such as earth falls.
Cemetery Walk: When the forest is open there is a nice short walk which takes one along the water race and then down through the forest to the cemetery. The surrounding forest had been largely felled and looked like a battlefield on our last visit and some of the paths were closed but we eventual found an alternative track to take us back up to the water race and back to the campsite.
With there being no sign of a change in the weather and hence no sign of the forest being opened a we gave up on doing any of our favourite walks. It is a great place but we would have booked a shorter stay if we had known. However we have decided to included some information on the walks in our write-up to show why we really come to Naseby.
Naseby Forest and Goldfield Walks: The swimming dam just above the camp site is 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 last time we ended up taking a shorter route than we had intended via the the water race which eventually ended up at the Hog Burn Car Park. There are many tracks and they are mostly unsigned so we are never completely sure where we have been! There were features including another siphons we are sure we had not seen before.
The One Tree Hill Walking Track is one of the tracks starting in the area. It takes one to a set of Gold Sluicing Landforms which we had done first in 2014. The track was poor then 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 did get 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. It was a little late in the day to repeat that adventure so we left it for another day after we had done some checks on the track condition this year.
Naseby Water Race Walk to Hoffmans Dam: This is our favourite longer walk. It 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 last time 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 where we stopped for an apple and a couple of biscuits. The walk is usually very quiet and we have sometimes only seen 4 people on the whole way although at the end a few vehicles come and people take walks round the lake.
On the way there is an old sign pointing to the forest walk which is, or more correctly was, a nature walk round the lake and up to the water race further along. It used to have some of the trees marked up but last time we found much of it had been virtually destroyed by logging - the maps however showed it took us in the right direction for our return and we had seen the end up on the water race so we had another go. We were initially put off by big signs saying it was private ground and pedestrians were banned but we realised that they must refer to the ground to the left of the track when we left the dam at the car park. The walk quickly brought us up to the water race and a very decayed sign. We did not do the short loop through the forest but walked straight along the race till we rejoined our incoming route. If we had believed the maps and guide times it ought to have been about a 5 hour round trip but it took us under 4 hours including the lunch stop - the water races are very tortuous but we reckoned it was about 10 miles for the round trip including the forest walk.
St Bathans: On the final day at Naseby the forest was still closed so we took a drive to St Bathans and on round a loop back eventually to Naseby. 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) has at times been open as a shop and when we visited in 2012 there was a local outcry as it was planned to turn it into accommodation - currently it looks deserted. The Vulcan Hotel is still popular as ever with groups of motor cyclists but, like so many places, up for sale. What interested us most were 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 and made John Ewing famous. 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 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 open for a while at the side of the lake and there are some artifacts remaining to see and good views of the lake. There is also a walk that does go right round the lake and we set out . One first goes past a good viewpoint which is worth the climb even if one does not do the whole 90 minute circumnavigation. There had been several slips and parts of the walk were quite interesting and not for the faint hearted or poorly shod. We took a little over the 90 minutes because of the scrambles. Pete did not even have a dip in the lake as he often does - it is normally very refreshing on a hot day it did not have the usual bright clear look and seemed to have a lot of green algae
Cambrians Schoolhouse, and Welshman's Gully It was still early so we looked at the GPS for waypoints nearby and first went to Cambrians where there is an old schoolhouse full of interesting I formation about the area. On the way we passed a memorial to the miners at Welshman's Gully and the Cambrians schoolhouse had information on the early mining there. The whole area is very quiet and the schoolhouse is just open for anyone to visit with lots of original information just on open display.
Drybread Cemetery: We then continued on the back roads looking for a way point marked GRAV which we assumed was the graveyard at Drybread - embarrassingly it turned out to be a 15 year old marker for the change from a GRAVel to tarmac road! We found the correct markers a little further and after a kilometres down a gated road we came to the Cemetery which has been restored beautifully and once more seems to be in use. We then returned to the main road at Omakau and could not resist an ice cream - they are not only some of the cheapest but also the largest we have found this holiday.
Cemetery with Hayes family: The next target was the Golden Progress Mine but Pete diverted Pauline down another interesting looking gravel road (Hills Creek road) to save few hundred metres and we passed another cemetery which rang bells with Pauline and it turned out to have the graves of several of the early Hayes family including Ernest and his wife Hannah who started the Hayes Engineering Works and some of their many children including Juanita.
Golden Progress Quartz Mine: We had plenty of time so we also walked up to the Golden Progress Quartz Mine when we passed it. A 500 metre walk through a flock of sheep took us to the mine workings with the Poppet Head, a 14 metre 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. There are several of the cages still on display, the ones for miners were fitted with safety gear which gripped the slides if the cable broke whilst the ore carriers and water containers for draining the workings just fell free.
Our short tour ended up taking all day, over 120 km driving, much on gravel as well as many hours walking, so it was after 1700 when we got back.
The following morning we left early from Naseby for the long drive to Dunedin. We had a few stops on the journey which were still in Central Otago which we will keep in this part before starting afresh with the Otago Peninsula, the Catlins and Lake Manapouri.
Ranfurly: Ranfurly claims to be a Rural Art Deco town but it is a fairly tenuous claim with only one or two of what we would think of as Art Deco buildings- 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.
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.
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|Copyright © Peter and Pauline Curtis
Content revised: 26th April 2019