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New Zealand Gold part 5
Travels in the Minor Goldfields
Our first morning in Golden Bay was overcast and it seemed the perfect day for a hard walk or two. We set off first for the Aorere Goldfield which we have never got too before - we have been forced to turn back at the Devils Boots, in themselves an interesting Rock formation and series of pools in the river bed which can only be reached by climbing under a dummy electric fence crossing the track to the river.
The Aorere Goldfield. The road on to the Aorere Goldfield is another 2 kilometres long - it is marked in all the information as suitable for cars and there are signs that there is a car park at the end. It is presently not suitable for a normal car, only 4X4. We had no choice once we were part way down and found it had deteriorated to have huge ruts, holes and boulders. We got through as did a number of cars but Pauline was often walking ahead directing so we did not hit anything vital underneath, and the Toyota van had good ground clearance. Stop at an intermediate small parking just short of a gate you have to open and you will miss the worst.
The walk was a pleasant long climb first taking one past Druggan's flat which was worked by tunnelling last century and reworked by digger and rotary screen in the 1980s. We continued the steady climb through regenerating bush for a total of about 45 minutes which brought us up to some water races and associated tunnels which once brought water about 4 kms to the workings. There are two large caves which DOC say can both be explored given the right clothing and care. We looked at Stafford's Cave from outside as we did not have walking boots and duplicate torches. Ballroom cave seemed safer and we went in as far as the Ballroom using the trusty Maglite. We did not complete the loop track past the Dam as it was starting to rain and Pete did not fancy getting the van back safely if the "road" got slippery. In any case DOC say there are no tracks yet to many of the most interesting features so it is best regarded as a nice place for a walk which happens to pass through a goldmining area.
Golden Bay Machinery and Settlers Museum We also had a look at the Golden Bay Machinery and Settlers Museum at Rockville, a few kilometres off the main road and close to the other worthwhile set of caves at Te Anaroa, which we did not go to this time. The Museum has a lot of interesting early machinery and some steam engines which are occasionally steamed. It is run by volunteers and is not very well presented at present so is more for the enthusiast - it is however only a donation ($2 suggested) so it is worth a quick look. We found some interesting old pictures showing some of the Gold Mining and Coal Mining in the area as well as spending a happy hour looking at farm machinery, early diesel engines and tractors. The exhibits of "household/settlers" items seemed to be in the process of being reorganised, last visit they could be seen but in disarray, this time the area was closed which was a pity. There is a complementary but very small museum in Collingwood also run by (the same??) volunteers which has better displays of the typical early settlers rooms.
Pupu Springs The next point of call was Pupu Springs. The springs are accessed through another of DOC's interpreted forest walks which is very interesting in its own right as there are early pictures of the area when it had been cleared by Gold workers and the various stages of regeneration are brought out. The Springs themselves are the largest in Australasia and big on a global standard. There are a number in individual springs but the most impressive come out of a bed of sand in a lake of crystal clear water and you can see the sand being thrown up by the incoming water giving them their nickname of the dancing sands. The area was also a Gold mining area and Golden Bay got it's name from the early rich discoveries and the first gold rushes in NZ rather than the golden sands on the sweeping beaches as now thought by most people.
Pupu Springs Goldfield Walk Not at lot remain although there are some good Goldfield walks one of the best being also close to Pupu. We did it again and it takes you up to and along one of the old water races that brought water at high pressure (a 130 metre head to power the gold extraction - it involves a vigourous climb before the long walk along the channel which hangs on the steep hillside. After the gold field was exhausted the race was restored in at the start of the century and power a small hydroelectric plant, which remained in operation into the 1950s by which time it was the smallest plant connected to the grid. It has recently been once more restored by enthusiasts and can be seen in operation some days. An interesting few hours if you have it to spare.
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