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|Touring New Zealand 2016 - part 15|
The last part left us leaving the Earnscleugh Tailings and Golden Progress mine on our way to Naseby from Alexandra.
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 were booked to stayed for three nights at the Larchview Motor Camp. 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 $95 (2016) and there are also two miners cottages which we have also stayed in, also now $95 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 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 $50.
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 we took 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 siphones we are sure we had not seen before.
We contemplated follow the One Tree Hill Walking Track which 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: The following morning looked perfect for a longer walk. We decided to do the walk 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 where we stopped for an apple and a couple of biscuits. The walk had been very quiet and we had only seen 4 people on the whole way but we saw a couple of vehicles come and people taking walks round the lake.
On the way we had seen 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 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.
Naseby Early Settlers Museum: We then had a look in the Early Settlers Museum which takes a gold coin donation. It has a lot of interesting early gold mining information for the area. Thye 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 subsiduary 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 knowledgable 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.
Cemetery Walk: We took a short walk in the afternoon to the Cemetary which took us along the water race and then down through the forest to the cemetery. The cemetery was more interesting than we had expected and showed some of the tensions of the past. Protestants were to one side and Catholics to theother 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 werecauses of death such as earth falls. The surrounding forrest had been largely felled and looked like a battlefield and some of the paths were closed but we found an alternative track to take us back up to the water race and back to the campsite.
It was time for a barbeque in the evening so it was out with the Red Devil and continuing trials of the various Pinot Noirs this time the Brightwater Lord Rutherford 2012 and the Chard Farm 2014 Finla Mor - old favourites versus new contenders, we will certainly be going back to both in the future.
Ranfurly: The next morning we set off fairly late as we were only intending to go as far as Alexandra. 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 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.
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 Manoburn on some impressive wooden aquaduct 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 aquaduct was eventually broken up and used for firewood
We checked back into The Alexandra Holiday Park and the same excellent Kitchen Cabin as we had initially on on our last visit. We were a bit early so we went back into the museum and spent a lot of time speaking with Jan Morgan whose husband's father was a gold miner at Cambrians in the 1860s. She was a very useful source of information and Pete spent a lot of time in the Research Section looking through there information and pictures of the Dredges that worked the Earnscleugh Flats. The tailings that one can visit are mostly from the Earnscleugh 2 and 3 and the monstrous Clutha dredge know in the area as just the Alexandra dredge. We bought a book on John Ewings who developed the Hydraulic elevators at St Bathan's and we wrote about him earlier with reference to Pinders Pond. The final reason for the purchase was that we had found he was also a major player at Tinkers which we visit earlier this year and we will probably extend our sections on Tinkers and Pinder's Pond with what we read. "The Gold Baron, John Ewing, Central Otago's mining entrepreneur" by John McCraw - ISBN 978-0-473-15670-1 published by Central Stories 2009
Brief stop in Alexandra in Morning then across to Cromwell and Top10 holiday park as more convenient for quick dash to Queenstown the next day. Stopped at Cromwell Viewpoint where one gets a good appreciation of why Cromwell used to be called the Junction and how the raising of the levels due to the Hydroelectric lakes has buried part of the town. We went back to Carrick Vineyard for lunch, we intended to have a simple platter but got seduced into their Venison and thhat really needed another glass of the fancy Pinot Noir. We were early and had a quick tasting - Tried two rieslings and to our surprise the 'dry' one was actually very good and German style and we slightly prefered it to the German Style. There is also a sweeter one we were going to have with the platter so never tried.
In afternoon we planned to walk off the lunch with a stroll up the track to Carricktown. It did not turn out to be a stroll with a lot of height gain (360m) in the 6.5kms on a very hot afternoon with just the lightest of high cirrus. Pauline regretted not having put on walking boots and had a huge raw patch by the time we reached the top where there was actually very little there -just a few remains of houses. We saw much more on the way down including picking out many of the water races as the shadows changed in late afternoon. Not a walk to repeat as there are more interesting ones but good exercise.
This was the day for this years visit this to Queenstown known in the early Goldmining days just as the camp. A town meeting was held to decide on a name and somebody said it was a town good enough for a Queen and the name stuck. To some Queenstown is the essence of New Zealand - the centre of the adventure sports NZ has become known for with bungy jumping, rafting, parachuting, parascending, hang gliding and jet boating to name a few. It is a place you really have to visit the first time one comes to New Zealand but much of what it is best known for is not what brings us back to New Zealand - yes we have been on the Shotover Jet boat rides (which are an incredible experience in a rather theatrical way) and we have watched or participated in many of the other activities. It is however thronging with tourists unlike almost any other town in New Zealand. It is also one of the few places where one worries about leaving things or bad behaviour; mostly we regret to say from Europeans.
Despite everything said above we always come once and sometimes even stay for a day or two. There is the magnificent scenery round the lake looking across to the Remarkables and all up the road to Glenorchy, one is close to the Goldfields with Arrowtown and the Kawarau Gorge and there several of the Otago vineyards within an easy drive. The main reason is the superb old steamship the Earnslaw still running as smoothly and silently as when she entered the water over 100 years ago. She was initially built and had a preliminary assembly in Dunedin before being brought up by train to Kingston in February 1912 where she was reassembled and fitted out before steaming to Queenstown for final fit-out and her maiden voyage in October 1912.
Arrowtown: We stopped in Arrowtown on our way to Queenstown and walked round the old Chinese Goldminers area before continuing to Queenstown where we initially only stopped long enough to pick up our pre-booked tickets for the Earnslaw trip in the evening and then went up the Glenorchy Road.
The Glenorchy Road has, on a good day, magnificent scenery looking over to the various stations and the Remarkables range of mountains as it clings on cliffs and hillsides above Lake Wakatipu. The road is 45 km long and has only recently been sealed throughout its length. Today was not a day for magnificent pictures with blue skies but it has, arguably, even more atmosphere in the rain with the clouds hanging low over the lake! We stopped at a picnic area and lake lookout about 10 kms from Queenstown and watched the Earnslaw slide by. Shortly after there is a DOC campsite at 12-mile creek, which covers a huge area right down by the lake - it looked good when we last checked it out and there did not seem to be many Sandflies in evidence. We stopped at several more viewpoints, which can have stunning views over the lake and into the central snow topped mountains. Several sections of the road were originally built by private individuals but perhaps the most memorable section is called Darrell's Bluff (40.5 km from Queenstown) after a contractor, who with a simultaneous explosion of 17 carefully sited cases of Gelignite excavated almost the entire section out of the rock face directly into the lake. There are still warnings of rock falls.
Glenorchy town has grown rapidly since the road has been sealed and has a DOC office where we got a lot of useful information a few years ago on the roads we were planning to follow and the Invincible mine. The invincible mine is located 18 km from Glenorchy up the Rees valley road, much is unsealed and gets progressively more interesting with a couple of significant fords, fortunately our Toyota has good ground clearance. This time there were warnings the Dart Valley was closed due to floods so we did not continue which was a pity as we wanted to see what state some of the artifacts weren now in.
Gold was first discovered in the Wakatipu area in 1862 but it was not until 1879 that significant quantities of gold were won, after a gold bearing quartz reef was found in the Richardson Range. The Invincible Mine and its batteries of quartz crushing stamps into production in 1882. The battery of 10 350 kg stamps worked round the clock crushing 90 tons of quartz per week to release the gold. The crushed quartz passed down blanket tables and from these the concentrated sands were amalgamated with mercury in a rotating octagonal barrel later by an impressive se of seven Burdens.
Power was derived from a water race feeding a large overshot water wheel. The gold bearing quartz was extracted from mines at several levels in the mountainside - only the 'machine level' is still visible and is partially collapsed. The ore was largely mined from the, almost vertical, quartz reef by hand with some assistance from blasting powder.
The ore was brought out on a tramway to a chute down to the battery. Initially there was no effort to retrieve the gold remaining in the 'tailings' from the separation processes but it was realised in 1884 that there was up to 9.5 oz still remaining in every ton of tailings in the form of gold-bearing pyrites and extraction of even 1 oz per ton was economic. The tailings were sold on to a different company for processing. The tailings were sent in down a 679-metre chute to the workings at the Gold Concentrating site where we first parked. They were processed through classifiers, pyramidal boxes and jiggers (all forms of washers) and the concentrates were shipped to Australia for specialised processing. The lighter fractions then entered a circular 7.9 metre diameter Buddle, something we had never seen or heard of before or since. The material was released in the centre to trickle down the smooth plaster surface whilst jets of water of differing pressures emitted from 4 rotating arms divided the material in waste slime, slime sand (which was reprocessed), lighter ore and pure pyrites (concentrate). The fractions passed into four different concentric gutters on the perimeter. The Buddle is still almost intact with the arms on which the jets were mounted and the gutters are still present. The dams for water storage are still present although the turbine and its building are missing. It is all within a couple of minutes walk of the parking when the roads are open.
Although we did not manage it this year the walk up to the Invincible Mine is an interesting story - it is via a steep track, which various boards and books quoted as being between 30 minutes, and 90 minutes walk to reach. We looked on the optimistic side the first time and assumed the longer times must be for a return trip perhaps even with time to look round - not so. The climb took us 45 minutes of very hard slog and the downward trip made us realise how steep it was and took 32 minutes. A check back at the DOC office showed the height gain was close to 450 metres (1400 feet) with only a couple of brief flats where one could look at the view which quickly spread out underneath as one zigzagged up. It made us realise that one needed to be reasonably fit especially on the hot cloudless days typical of the area.
It was well worthwhile as there is evidence at the site of much of the equipment. The water wheel is collapsed but present as is the battery of stamps. One can walk along the old tramway to the entry to the machine level Adit (mine tunnel), closed by a metal grill and out over the piles of Mullock (spoil). The set of seven Burdens is quite a sight and they seem to almost be in a condition where one could power up the whole set and use them. Overall a fine example of quartz-rock mining and processing which, with the unique associated concentrator plant, make it well worth the rough road, fords and stimulating climb.
We got back to Queenstown by 1430 and had time to find a parking space only ten minutes from the Earnslaw and had a walk round before it was time to board.
Earnslaw and Walter Peak station: The Earnslaw does trips from Queenstown to the Walter Peak Station every two hours during the summer, starting at 1000. The trips can be combined with morning coffee, lunch, afternoon tea or dinner in the old colonial house. We prefer dinner, where there is a good buffet meal with very plentiful food and the carvery has now been changed to a barbeque cooked outside although one still eats inside, luckily it was Wednasday. We found that the normal dinner cruise had been booked up but on Wednesdays they run an extra one at 1600 with an early dinner at Walter Peak Station in the old colonial house. Unfortunately their residen piano player, Bob no longer palys at dinner but only on the ship, he has been playing the piano for them before we made our first visit in 1993. We have his CD at home. Dinner is followed by a sheep dog demonstration and shearing. They used to try to persuade the visitors to have a ride on their bull - the previous one called Robby, which we had seen and Pauline was persuaded to ride, has unfortunately been put down because of arthritis and the young replacement 'did not prove reliable', one wonders what is hidden behind those innocuous words.
The trip is not a cheap trip at $125 including the barbeque and buffet dinner but the experience of the Earnslaw is un-forgetable and the food very good, with a wide selection and plenty of time to revisit the buffet many times. Highlights were the various Cloudy Bay Clams, the barbequed chicken, merino lamb Southland beef, which melted in the mouth and local pork all cooked on a huge wood fired barbeque with market fish (Gurnard). There was a fascinating hot sticky toffee and date pudding served in individual little saucepans for the really hungry. There was a an excellent cheese board mostly featuring the Puhoi range where we discovered an excellent double washed rind cheese very like a good Reblochin.
Even the set-piece sheep dog demonstration and shearing was well worth watching. There was no longer the option of sitting on a bull, but that gave more time for Pauline to visit the souvenir shop! Talking to Peter who did shearing ended up with Pauline bring back a big bundle of freshly sheared Peridale wool to put onto her blistered heel when walking - one only has to pick it up to get ones hands covered in the lanolin.
The Walter Peak Station is still very active and huge by UK standards running 15,000 sheep, merinos on the high country and 5000 Peridales on the flatter parts, along some cows. When they bring the sheep in the shepherds and dogs are now taken up by chopper to the top of Cecil Peak 1975m and they use 15 dogs to bring them all in. The homestead block and demonstration area has now been separated off from the main station and is called the Walter Peak High Country Farm but it still covers 450 acres. It is owned by Real Journeys who operate the Earnslaw.
Once we were onboard again we went down to look at the engines as they were in slow astern holding the Earnslaw in place on the wharf and found Bob was sitting down there before he started on the piano. Last time we got talking and he was a real font of knowledge on various walks into the old goldfield areas and told of many we knew nothing of and are probably not on the maps. He also seemed to have a great interest in gealogy and fossils and told us of several areas of interest, some only just off the road in areas we had just visited.
We drove straight from Cromwell to Luggate arriving just before midday and fortunately the bach was ready for us. It was everything we had hoped and more and we could watch some of the practice and arrival flights from the patio including aerobatics from the 9 Yak52s practising for their 9 ship tight formation loop and the Me109 put on a super display sometimes coming almost overhead.. In the afternoon we thought we would run up as far as Lake Hawea which we had not visited when we came through Wanaka earlier. We stopped beside the airfield and had a look over the fence to see what aircraft had arrived and then on to Lake Hawea.
Lake Hawea: Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka are two of the most beautiful and largest lakes in New Zealand. They have been gouged out of solid rock by the actions of glaciers and lie parallel, almost connected by a narrow isthmus part way down. To give a scale Lake Wanaka is 45 kms long and Lake Hawea 35 kms. Lake Wanaka is a thousand feet deep and Hawea even deeper and glaciers have smoothed the sides down to the water from their maximum height of 3000 feet above lake level. The bottoms of the lakes are below the present sea level. They however have different characters as Lake Hawea has been deepened by a dam at the Southern end and acts as the top resevoir for the major hydroelectric scheme in New Zealand and the lake sides are more shear and to us even more spectacular..
The lakes are fed by Glacier melt water and have the most incredible colours, usually a light blue, sometimes almost white, from all the fine rock, ground to a powder by the Glaciers. - we have seen them so still that it is almost impossible to tell the reflection from the mountains behind when you turn a picture upside down and we have seen the with wave crashing on to the beaches. They can be so still and clear we have looked down and watched cormorants hunting underwater over a bottom perhaps 50' below. There are a few boats, mostly tinnies or glass fibre boats trailed in for fishing so they are virtually still on the surface, dots in the vastness of the lakes.
The mountains tower above the lakes - the mountains beside the lakes rise to over 7000 feet, some with a powdering of snow or ice at the top but mostly sheer rock faces angled upwards - we are sitting along the joins between the Australian and Pacific plates which are still tearing the fabric of this land and throwing it up at crazy angles to be smoothed by glaciers in successive ice ages.
We stopped in Hawea itself at the general store for an ice-cream and then started up the lakeside to some of the viewpoints. The views were excellent although we could see some big storm clouds brewing up and we did not have the reflections in the water that one sometimes is fortunate enough to get
Kidd's Bush Recreational Reserve: We then continued on the rough gravel road to Kidds Bush Reserve and Campsite we have used before - it has one big plus in that it is good for swimming and another in the fact that the beach is composed of flat pieces of schist perfect for skimming across placid pale blue waters.The downside is that it has arguably the largest number of sandflies in New Zealand and they start to bite early in the day! Despite the sandflies we have spent several days there camping in previous years. Pete had his statuary swim but did comment he had second thoughts when he started in but it shelved so steeply that he found he had slid down and was swimming before he could decide. It was on the cusp of feeling warmer or colder as one stayed in buut eventually he had to face up to the sandflies. The deterent kept the worst away but it was not a place to sit for more than an hour so we headed back to Luggate especially as we could see big rain storms over Wanaka. It turned out they had very heavy storms turning parts of the airfield into a quagmire for the start of the show but Luggate had escaped the worst.
The next part will cover the Warbirds over Wanaka 2016 Airshow.