It’s amazing how lazy you can feel after sitting by a river all day. Having done just that, by the time evening hit the Central Otago town of Arrowtown, I started to feel like some exercise might be needed. So, as dusk approached I decided to stretch my legs with a walk up Tobins Track to see the sunset over the Wakatipu Basin. Set high above the hills of Arrowtown, Tobin’s track was originally built by Irishman Thomas Tobin who won the roading contract to link the Wakatipu Basin to the Cardrona Valley in the 1870’s.
Butchers Dam Near Alexandra – Buy
Butchers Dam was built between 1935 and 1937 as part of a works project during the great depression. At the time, the reservoir was created to supply water to the nearby town of Alexandra however these days it is used for irrigation purposes. It’s also a great place to wander and explore on a lazy summer’s afternoon.
Mid July in the hinterland – Buy
Mid July in the hinterland, heading up along one of the tracks that leads into the hills above Butchers Dam near Alexandra. Around these parts in July, the days are cold, the evenings are bitter and the mornings are painful. Yet, the air holds a mystic beauty. Isn’t it strange how these things work.
The Neighbours – Buy
The township of Oturehua is a delightful wee place and is one of the many small, isolated townships that make up Central Otago. Officially known as Rough Ridge until 1907, it once had a post and telegraph office, a general store, a hotel (pub) near the railway station, a school and nearby coal pits and a flour mill. Only the pub and the general store remain.
Jupiter model on the rail trail – Buy
In the small Central Otago town of Waipiata I found this sculpture of the planet Jupiter. At first it seemed a rather random place to have a sculpture such as this but, I figured it must be there for a reason. Instead, I was much more interested in the unique shape and structure of it and the way it looked against the clear blue sky. I then spent a good 20 minutes photographing it from all sorts of usual angles and distances.
The Hayes family homestead – Buy
The Hayes family homestead and engineering works really is an intriguing place and tribute to the term ‘No 8 wire thinking.’ In fact, an argument can be made for Ernest Hayes to be one of the original backyard Kiwi innovators (even though he was actually English!). Set amongst the rural backdrop of Oturehua in Central Otago, Hayes set-up his home and engineering workshop around 1895 where he invented all manner of agricultural tools, rabbit bait cutters, wind turbines and a patented wire strainer for applying tension to wire on farm fences. Which is still in production to this very day.
Butchers Dam – Buy
Am I alone in thinking that driving New Zealand roads isn’t the majestic, relaxing pastime it once was? All too often the journey is filled with morons with caravans who drive at 20 km/h an hour, idiots in campervans who seem to be permanently lost and Leaf drivers who pull out in front of you and drive like they are at the front of the parade. Then, just as you break free from this challenge to your patience you come across a 10 kilometre stretch of road that is reduced to 30km/h and a single lane, just so 6 guys can fill in a pothole.
Thus it was that I found myself on a stunning Sunday afternoon in mid-January, driving in a long line of traffic through Alexandra’s dry, rocky and dramatic landscape, slowly losing the will to live! By the time I reached a place called Butchers Dam, with 10 kilometres until Alexandra, my sanity couldn’t take it any more, so I called in at Flat Top Hill Picnic and Conservation Area and went for a stroll around the lake.
Little Valley Road – Buy
In the morning I awoke with that feeling of dread that overcomes you the second you first open your eyes and realise the first few moments of the day are going to encompass dealing with your own stupidity. I’d forgotten to leave the heating on and as such my room was like a ice box. The only way to solve this problem was to either brave my way across to the heat pump and set it so the room temperature resembled a Caribbean Island as quickly as possible, or dash straight for the shower and the instant awakening from a blast of hot water.
I braced myself and got up, heading for the shower, stopping only momentarily to flick both the kettle and heat pump on. A short while later, having readied myself for the day which included packing, I headed out into a fine Central Otago morning. The streets were quiet with the only signs of life being parents desperately trying to get their children into the family car for Saturday morning sport. I headed across town and five minutes later I was crossing the Manuherikia River and driving up Little Valley Road into the hills above Alexandra where I would be able to enjoy seeing the Alexandra Clock up close. The clock was installed in 1968 and has been keeping regular time ever since, apart from a brief period in 2020 when someone swung on the arms of the clock during lockdown and it stopped, forcing repairs to be made. To get to the clock there’s a very steep track that can be navigated, something I wasn’t prepared to do on this trip, however you do get to glimpse the clock as you head to the observation deck and lookout in Little Valley. I headed there now and found myself with views that simply are outstanding. As I took in the view in the crisp morning air I noticed most of the activity seemed to be coming from runners heading out of town onto one of the many dirt roads that surround the town. The smoke from chimneys started to drift across the valley and in the distance the traffic heading further inland seemed to already be growing. I suspected most people forget about views such as the one in front me.
St Bathans Reflections – Buy
While staying at the haunted Vulcan Hotel in St Bathans, I took the time to wander around the Blue Lake. Situated directly across the road from the pub, the lake is 800 metres long, 50 metres deep and completely man made. During the Otago gold rush, around the time of 1887, Saint Bathans transformed into a bustling town with nearly 2,000 miners living in the immediate vicinity. When the town was flooded with miners during the gold rush, the nearby Kildare Hill was transformed into a pit due to extensive sluicing operations. The pit was later filled with water and man into a lake.
The lake really is amazing and it was while walking along one of the tracks that I started to ponder what St Bathans would be like without the lake. Would the town still hold the attractive quality it does if it didn’t have the lake? I think it would!
McNally Road in the Ida Valley – Buy
I had the bones of this photo sitting for a while before I eventually finished it. The idea of crossroads is a wonderful metaphor for so many ideas and themes. I particularly like the idea of a tarseal road crossing beyond the edge of the frame, while an alternative gravel road stretches off in the distance. It also has the added human elements of power poles, a giveaway sign, far off farm sheds and two hawks circling above on a summer afternoon in late December.
Winter morning in Alexandra – Buy
If you leave Dunedin and travel in a north-west direction, after 195 kilometers (or 121 miles) you’ll reach a town that started life being called “Lower Dunstan”. These days, it’s better known as Alexandra. Named after Princess Alexandra of Denmark by town survivor John Connell, it sits at the junction of the Clutha and Manuherikia rivers.
In 1862, the Otago Gold Rush stretched into the Cromwell Gorge and later towards the Kawarau Gorge and Lake Wakatipu when Horatio Hartley and Christopher Reilly collected 34 kilograms of gold from the Cromwell Gorge. The discovery brought thousands of miners over the Rock and Pillar from Strath Taieri into the town of Lower Dunstan which became known as Alexandra.
Butchers Dam – Buy
It was while admiring the lovely sights of Butcher’s Dam that I decided it’s a shame it’s there at all. I’m not opposed to the dam, and the area is very nice. Not only is there a dam and lake to enjoy, but it also contains a historic hut, a multitude of tracks to walk and even a conservation area above it at a place called Flat Top Hill.
However, before the dam was built between 1935 and 1937 during the great depression, the area was filled with all sorts of buildings and structures from the gold mining years of the 1860’s. Once gold was discovered there in 1862, miners from everywhere flocked to the area and a town quickly sprung up. The town included a Hotel, a store, butchers shop and market gardens that were owned by Chinese prospectors.
As I walked along the dam I imagined how wonderful it would be to see the remains of the historic town that would have stretched through the valley and what a shame it is that those remains are lost forever. Still, the lake is very nice!
Shed at Waipiata– Buy
It wasn’t long after I arrived in Waipiata that I found the disused goods-shed that once belonged to the railway. In fact, I saw it immediately after turning into the town! Waipata’s claim to fame is that there was once both a rabbit processing plant and a tuberculosis sanatorium operating near the town in the early 1900’s. While the processed rabbits were transported to Dunedin via train, people were transported from Dunedin to the sanatorium.
Inside The Vulcan – Buy
I stayed here one night and almost had the place to myself. I’m not sure what I would have done if it was busy. It was the perfect spot to process a few photos over a pint or two of Speight’s. Apart from a Grandfather and Grandson at the end of the bar happily sharing tales about fish and a lady in the dinning room, it was a very quiet night. They certainly didn’t might me setting up my camera for a photo before the landlady told us about the local ghost.