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|Touring New Zealand 2014 part 4|
We decided to make our next overnight stop in Manapouri. Manapouri is much more tranquil than the nearby Te Anau where most tourists stay and has views out over one of the most stunning lakes surrounded by snow topped peaks.
Lake Wakitipu: The route took us up the side of Lake Wakitipu and it was a clear morning with magnificent views across the lake to the high mountains, some still with a scattering of snow onto shaded areas on the peaks. We stopped a couple of the times and took some photographs. The first stop was a Reserve called Drift Bay that we had not found before, perhaps because it was 200m off the road and the sign was easy to miss. It has been donated fairly recently by Carlin Enterprises and it is also the start of the 6 km return Lakeside Walking Track which we will note for the future. The views were stunning. The second stop was at an area where there seemed to be informal camping and had a beach with even more magnificent views - it was too tempting to move on imediately so we set up our chairs and had a snack before getting back under way. It was just short of Kingston and we have marked it on the GPS to return to and it is also marked as a resting place on the Hema map.
Kingston Flyer: We had a quick look at Kingston, partly to see what had happened to the Kingston Flyer which was one of a small number of steam trains still running in New Zealand and partly to see if we could locate where the Earnslaw had been reassembled and put into the water. The two were probablyat the same place as the railway line ends a few hundred metres beyond the station at the old steamer wharf and we assume the slip was to the side in an area now done up but containing a small slip for trailer boats but leading into deep water. The Kingston Flyer has not run for a year or more and Bob told us the owner had lost interest as it was no longer a paying proposition - a shame as we had enjoyed the sole journey we had on it.
Manapouri Campsite: We found the campsite at Manapouri was very quiet - most people now seem to book on the internet and the owner has resisted that. It is old style camp-site we like with lots of character and at a reasonable price. Every cabin is different with some being two story mock stately abodes almost like home. It is a collector's paradise with a collection of old Morris Minors and other cars and a games room full of classic arcade games. It also has a good kitchen and although there was no Zip there were no less than 4 electric kettles. Pauline however noted it was the only camp site where there were more washing machines and driers than stalls in the ladies, which is unfortunate as they are full of cartoons so everyone tends to linger. There is an Inn and Café almost next door which we have frequently made use of, sitting drinking jugs of Speight's Gold and looking at the view until forced back by the sandflies.
Kepler Track: The next day we did the section of the Kepler track from the swing bridge and going only far enough to sit on a very windy beach - it did not look like swimming weather where we were although one of the huts has a beach facing the other direction which would have been more sheltered from the wind. The section we did has only moderate height gains, has two swing bridges and passes through beech forest. The ground and many of the trees are covered in a thick layer like moss - it is reminiscent of the Goblin forest round Mountain House on Mt Egmont. There are two huts close to the beach - smaller hut has only six beds and is surrounded by trees the other hut sleeps 40, has a sandy beach and stunning views. We first did a section of the track in 1998 when it was part of a DOC orientation trip on the lake and track. The walk including both huts is about 14 kms and it is about 11 to just go to the beach.
It took us 3 hours 15 minutes but a lot of the time was taking pictures and just sitting on the beaches - the DOC estimates of 1 hour ten mins to the point where the paths diverge to the two huts is perhaps a bit long but the 15 and 20 mins extra to the huts is about correct, the beach is reached after 10. The track is very good, perhaps too good, the courageous could probably take wheel chair over the section we did, but for some reason it is not so popular and exploited as the Milford Track and some of the other so called 'Great Walks', perhaps because there are no fancy places to stay for the commercial operators.
On the way into Te Anau we diverted to have a look at the Control Gates which keep the level of the lake constant, it is of course used for hydroelectric power generation. We would not want to be trout fishing up to ones thighs in water as one gentleman was on a sandbank just below. The Kepler path crosses the river over the flood gates and we walked over them. The 'lookout' was closed for helecopter use - they were carrying big loads slung underneath into the mountains for track or powerline maintenance. We then sat on a beach reading for half an hour before going on into Te Anau to the La Toscana Pizzeria and had their 'earlybird special' of garlic bread, two medium pizzas or pastas and two sweets for $45 for two people. By the time we had finished we could hardly move - we should not have added so much parmesan to the the garlic breads!
Manapouri Walks: It was still early so we thought we would look for a new 'informal' path which takes one from Manapouri to the Kepler Swing Bridge which has been created by the Campsite owners son Aaron. We decided to look for it where it crossed the rouad to Supply Bay, we missed it on the way and found a wharf used for the supply barges for the power station at the end. We located it on the way back - there was a small parking area and the track was obvious one way and the other one had to climb up a bank and could then see a marker board. We did not have time to do any distance so we marked in on the GPS for another day. On the entry to the path I was joined by a South Island Robin. They are very tame and are only interested in the insects one disturbs with ones feet. It was not even put off by my flash as it was very dim even at the track entry by that time of night.
New Zealand Astronomers: In the morning Aaron Nicholson, the creater of the path turned up and we spent a long time talking about the path and many other things. Aaron is a local historian and has recently succeeded in getting two of the local peaks named after famous New Zealand astronomers, very appropriately as they are part of the Keppler Mountains named after one of the most famous of the early astronomers. Aaron had put the names for two mountains forward to the New Zealand Geographic Board in 2008 to recognise the late Sir William Pickering and Beatrice Tinsley. This was just before "The International Year of Astronomy" (in 2009) so he thought it would be appropriate to have a place where famous New Zealand astronomers could have a place to live. Mt Pickering is at 1650m, 20km west of Te Anau, and Mt Tinsley is at 1537m, 15km west of Te Anau. Dr Pickering was known for his work as director of the Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena and for leading the development of the United States' unmanned space exploration, very much in my area as I used to work closely with JPL in Remote Sensing. Dr Tinsley's work, the Evolution of Galaxies and its Significance for Cosmology, looked at the evolution of galaxies and the effect on the origin and size of the universe, which had a profound effect on scientific knowledge. I also worked in the same field of climate research as her husband who, I understand used to and I think still does come to stay at the camp site. It is all a very small world we live in.
Manapouri to Post Office Rock Walk: We did the section of the walk from Manapouri to Post Office Rock which should have been under 90 minutes as we started part way along from manapouri but actually took us a lot longer. We missed the trail where it turned off from what had turned into a well trampled bridle way and the rest had not been walked for a while and parts were quite difficult going with boggy patches and ferns acros the path. It was however one of the most enjoyable walks we have done because it was so isolated yet close to civilisation.
Croyden Aviation Heritage Centre at Mandeville: The next day was set to be the long run across to Alexandra and the Otago Gold fields. Our first stop was at an aviation museum and restoration workshop which we had not found previousl - the Croyden Aviation Heritage Centre at Mandeville. They have a significant number of restored aircraft most of which are available for flights. Aaron had mentioned them when he was talking about his flights round Manapouri and indicated that the Dragon Rapide flying out of the Manapouri Airport was originally from there and on lease. At Mandaville they have a Tiger Moth, Fox Moth, Dragonfly and a Rapide also available for flights as well as an extensive collection in the hanger for viewing including a pre war Austrian two seater glider which is just about through the certification for flying in NZ. They also have a replica of the Pither 1910 Monoplane. At this point no one can prove Pither flew, but the successful flight of the replica, showing that it is both flyable and controllable, greatly increases the probability that Pither flew, especially when placed alongside Pither's own description of his experience.
We were fortunate that we could also have a look round the restoration workshop where there was some beautiful work taking place including the restoration of the record braking Comet with impressive woodwork and another Fox Moth which had the best recovering I have ever seen. Most of the work carried out is to original specfications and materials, as was used in the 1930's when these type of aircraft were built originally. The company has many of the original de Havilland drawings which is essential if the completed aircraft are to be granted a Certificate of Airworthiness by the NZ Aviation Authority. The timber used for the major wooden components is Sitka Spruce from North America. The trees suitable for this work are in the main over 400 years old. They are very slow growing in that environment, therefore the wood is light yet strong and complies with the original specifications. They also had various newer aircraft including a jet which they are preserving.
Pinders Pond: As we were driving towards Roxborough we noticed a sign to Pinders Pond and recalled it from a goldfield brochure. Pinders Pond is an old hydraulic elevation pond, off Teviot Road is about the only major evidence left from that second gold rush period in the early 1900s that the public has access to. This pond was formed as a result of the hydraulic elevating sluicing work done by the Teviot-Molyneux Gold-Mining Company which John Ewing, the Gold Baron, was the managing director.
John Ewing is probably best known for his hydralic elevators at St Bathans where he started with thepurchase of a small claim on Kildare Hill in 1873. Ewing became extremely wealthy by installing modern mining appliances, including a hydraulic elevator. By 1894 he was working 30m below the level of the tailrace, and in the same year installed an elevator of his design to raise the material in one lift, far higher than any of the sceptics. After a roller coaster ride between riches and bankruptcy he embarked on what he described as "the hydraulic mining enterprise of my dreams". His aim was to mine the reputedly rich auriferous ancient beds on the east bank of the Molyneux (Clutha) River on Andersons Flat, below Roxburgh. He entered into this venture in 1907 and suffered many setbacks culminating at Pinders Pond which never realised the potential he hoped for.
Memorial to Miners who perished in the great snow of 1863: We stoped 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.
We diverted to look at Mitchell's Cottage, another of the Otago Goldfields Park sites that we had not looked 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 sundial chipped from a solid block of schist; the shaped part above the block must be a metre across. 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.
Camp site at Alexandra: The less said about that the better. We made a mistake and stayed at the less popular camp site which is primarily used by fruit pickers and sheep shearers. The sprinklers were going so the tent pitch we picked was a mud bath even after they were off and pegs did not penetrate tree roots- perhaps our fault for picking a power site to charge the computers. We then had a cabin which was OK for a single night but we moved on earlier than our intention. We have been told the other site by the river is better.
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.
Tucker Hill Road & Diggings and the Rose, Thistle and Shannock water race: There are a number of viewing and walking tours from Shaky bridge which are described in the Otago Goldfields Heritage leaflets such as Alexandra and Immediate District Historic Sites - Viewing and Walking Tours . Last time wecame to Shaky Bridge we went to the left down Graveyard Gulley to the Cemetry. This time we first drove down the Tucker Hill Road past the Tucker Hill Diggings which 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". We drove as far as the end of the maintainedroad and were quicklyforces to continue on foot althoughthe track would be fine with a four wheel drive. After about 2 kms we could see the old water race supported by stone walls up on the hillside as described in the leaflet.It was part of the Rose, Thistle and Shannock water race of 1864 supplying the northern end of the diggings. One can continue on foot(or 4x4) to the Manoburn ford and join the Teviot road. We walked up the hill and returned on foot on the Otage Gold bicycle trail.
Tank on Hill: We then got back into the car and climbed 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. The views were already opening up and we had an excellent view down to Shakky bridge and could start to 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 across Alexanda 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 tailings were now quite clear and one realised the huge area they covered. See below for more details of dredging activities.
Old Coach Road: We continued for another couple of kilometers 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 walss still looking in good condition.
Earnscleugh tailings: We decided to next 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.
Clyde: 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.
Omakau: We stopped at the Omakau Camp Site - it is a well hidden gem we found a couple of years ago. We had planned to stay for a single day but extended it to two 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.
Ophir: Once we had setled in we took the short trip round to the small village of Ophir. Ophir that has twenty or so houses left in their original state. Gold was discovered in the area in 1863 and almost overnight the population reached 1000. In its heyday Ophir was the commercial and social centre of the district with a number of stores, a school, police station, courthouse, post office, hospital, two hotels and two churches. Many of these buildings remain and are being steadily restored and the few extra buildings are very much in character. Features such as the wide street with massive kerbstones and stone lined gutters remain. Apart from the odd car you could have been transported back 130 years. 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 have spent some time in the Post Office talking to the postmistresson 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 fascination number of local photographs and information of all sorts. This time we were disapponted to find it had already closed but we could look in the old jail round the back which has just been restored.
Hayes Engineering Works: 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 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.
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 as a group of cyclists had arranged for it to be run the previous day but had come late and Ken was persuaded to come and run it - he has the farm next door and is a real enthusiast and maintains everything in pristine condition as well as being a good and entertaining speaker.
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. Ken showed us round and pointed out Hayaes various inventions and engineering ideosyncrasis 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: Nearby is Oturehua, an old mining town that had been the source of the cabin we were staying in 1896. The historic store dates from 1882 and still largely in its original state with Kauri counters, box shelving and cabinets still occupy one side in which are displayed many items of yesteryear - well worth looking into as well as being one of the only sources of ice-creams in the area. They also had a magnificent old set of Avery Scales, the type with a big weighing platform and an arm, which you hung weights on and then slid a small weight along.
Golden Progress Quartz Mine: We then went to the Golden Progress Quartz Mine. A 500 m 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.
St Bathans: We then went on to St Bathans, one of our original targets. The town is interesting and, like Ophir,time has stood still, although it is perhaps a bit more commercialised. 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. The Vulcan Hotel is still popular as ever with groups of motor cyclists. What interested us was the mining remains. St Bathans was the site of perhaps the greatest of the Hydraulic Elevator and Sluicing operations. Starting in 1864 Kildare hill, originally 120 meters high was reduced by Hydraulic Sluicing to nothing and then in 1880 Hydraulic elevators were used and eventually it was reduced to a pit 68 meters deep. This was the deepest hydraulic mining lift in the world. The enormous hole was flooded in 1935 when mining was abandoned. They only stopped because of fears that the main street of St Bathans was about to collapse into the workings - one can see the cracks in the builds today.
It is difficult to convey the size of the Lake and surrounding workings full of tailings and faces. We guess that it could be close to a 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.
Cemetery at Drybread:It was then on to Cemetery at Drybread , we foundthe entry easily and went through the gate expecting it to be close - not true. We went through gate after gate until we seemed to be driving across fields full of sheep with hardly a track visible in the grass. Just as we were loosing faith Pauline saw it in the distance. The cemetery had a lot of history and some remarkably ornate gravestones and monuments, many from the Hamilton family. When we left we noticed many roads etc had Hamilton in the name and they must have been major run holders in the area.