Curling In Naesby

Curling in Naesby

In Naesby I found people curling which wasn’t really a surprise considering how cold it was. So, I decided to stay and watch a while. It was quite interesting really. Over the half hour I was there, I walked around and heard all sorts of terms I’d never heard before and didn’t really understand. But, I can say this, they seemed to be having a great deal of fun and what’s more, not one person slipped over while I was there. A feat I was rather impressed with.

The Haunting Of The Vulcan Hotel

The Vulcan Hotel in St Bathans

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 dining room, it was a very quiet night. They certainly didn’t mind me setting up my camera for a photo before the landlady told me about the local ghost.

The story goes that many young ladies came to the Otago gold fields seeking employment in grog tents, bars, and dance halls that sprang up all over the region. At the time, it was thought that a lady could earn a substantial wage on the gold fields, and thus create a better life for themselves. So when a lady called Rose started working in the area as a prostitute near the town of St Bathans, she most likely wasn’t alone. During her time in the area, Rose worked at the dance halls while also renting a room at the Vulcan Hotel at night to see male clients. Having collected a small amount of gold in payment, one night a male client of Rose strangled her, robbed her of her gold and threw her body into the nearby lake. 

The killer was never found and to this day the restless ghost of Rose haunts the Vulcan Hotel and particular male gentlemen who stay in the famous Room 1.

The Manuka Gorge

The Manuka Gorge

I drove through places that had names like Shingle Creek, Roxburgh, Beaumont, Lawrence and Waitahuna to name a few. Places that were born out of the search for farmland or from the discovery of gold, often a little of both. As I wound my way over the countryside I couldn’t help but think of the extraordinary efforts people had made to traverse the landscape on foot. Often walking in the bitter coldness of winter or the extreme heat of summer. The trek to the gold fields on ‘The Dunstan Range’ and the Molyneux River took nearly a week to complete. It was as daunting as it was physically gruelling and completed while carrying close to 40 kilograms of equipment on their back. Something that is impressive by anyone’s standard.

I had time to ponder all this as I found myself stuck behind a tractor! As were about ten other vehicles until the driver had the good sense to pullover, before he was forced! Now travelling at a quicker clip, eventually we left the barren countryside of Central Otago behind and dropped down onto the more lush surrounds of the Clutha District and further beyond to Dunedin.

Alexandra

The Alexandra Bridge

The drive through to Alexandra was simply marvellous. In fact, there was only one word that could describe the day, and that is ‘delicious’. Everywhere I looked, everything had a radiant autumnal glow as the sun hung in a rich blue sky that reflected off the shop windows as I drove past. The whole town had a relaxed, lazy sort of feel. It was almost as if no one was in a hurry to do anything at all. I was certain that if at that moment a meteorite the size of texas had come hurtling out of the sky and headed straight towards this spot, all the town residents would have casually looked up at the sky and said, “well, would you look at that”. 

As I passed through the town, I suddenly decided to detour to look at the former town bridge, a structure that is a true feat of skill and engineering. Built in 1882, the remains sit right next to the newer version that spans the Clutha River. Beyond the bridges, the banks of the river were lined with autumn colour that was reflecting off the water. I wished I had longer to enjoy my current surroundings, however time was now starting to press against me and I really did need to get back to Dunedin. I vowed to return at some point to do the place justice.

Jackson’s Inlet, Lake Dunstan

Jackson’s Inlet, Lake Dunstan

At about the time in my podcast that Ms Patterson (The Mushroom Cook) was discovering that the Australian police were a little suspicious about her actions and that she would be facing charges of both murder and attempted murder, I was coming into view of Lake Dunstan. This was at Bruce Jackson Point, above where the old Cromwell township used to be, before the lake was formed. As I continued along State Highway 8, I now had the lake for company out of the right hand window, and a truly lovely scene it was. I rounded a bend and was greeted by a serene view of the lake. It was placid and tranquil as the mid-morning sun took over the surrounding hills that once formed the Cromwell Gorge. Not being able to resist, I called in to a picnic area at Jackson’s Inlet for a closer look. 

When I arrived an elderly couple were just packing up a picnic that they had been having under a row of Poplar trees. The trees were covered in golden leaves, glowing in the mid-morning air and not a breath of wind was out on the lake. It looked rather pleasant and somewhat idyllic. Standing on the shoreline, looking out to my picturesque and blissful surroundings, I found myself for the second time that morning tempted to start negotiating a time of departure. Alas, aware that I had a prior appointment to get to in Dunedin, I went back to my car and rejoined the line of traffic that was snaking its way past Lake Dunstan to Clyde and further on Alexandra. 

Hayes Engineering Works and Homestead

Hayes Engineering Works and Homestead

Fortunately when I passed by the museum was open – although it was hard to tell. With the entrance on a busy highway, I wandered how many people had driven past without even knowing it was open. However, on this day it was and I was extremely pleased as it meant I could spend all morning wandering around the backyard of an original Kiwi innovator such as Ernest Hayes and the famous Hayes Engineering Works, Museum and Homestead.

The Dunstan

Dunstan House – Buy 

At one point in history, The Dunstan Hotel, or ‘The Dunstan’ as it was known locally was the most popular spot in Otago and possibly the entire country. At the height of the Otago Rush, miners from all over New Zealand and the world were flocking to the Otago region, as news of the ‘The Rush’ spread. The gold rush caused many small towns to grow rapidly, one of which was Cylde, known at the time as Dunstan. The Dunstan Hotel was originally built in 1863 and not only featured accommodation but dining, drawing and smoking rooms, as well as a theatre for Saturday night entertainment. It was also the stopping point for the famed Cobb & Co’s coaches that ran from Dunedin to ‘The Dunstan’ and journeyed further on to Arrowtown and Queenstown.

The Matrix Is Fixed

Towards Chatto Creek & Springvale Road – Buy 

The Matrix is fixed. You might have noticed there’s been a bug over the last few days as posts appear and then vanish or don’t seem to appear at all. It turns out there was a problem with an update in one of the widgets and a few other bugs that had crept into the system. Essentially my blog had a cold! The good news is that it’s all fixed and normal business has resumed. 

The Blue Lake of St Bathans

The Blue Lake of St Bathans – Buy 

When Gold was discovered in Otago by Australian Gabirel Reid, in 1861,  it started what was to become known as the Great Otago Rush. The rush brought miners from all over the world to the Otago region who steadily made their way inland as the hunt for gold, fame and fortune took them all over the barren hills of the Central Otago landscape. 

By around 1863, the search for gold had brought miners to an area known as Dunstan Creek, a place now called St Bathans, and a town quickly grew. The famous Vulcan Hotel was built in the area in 1882 and by 1887, the place had developed into a bustling town of over 2000 people. 
In the area, one of the main ways to search for gold was by sluicing, where powerful jets of water are blasted at banks that wash gravel into sluice boxes. The boxes then trap the gold at the bottom of the box. In St Bathans, this method was so popular that the nearby Kildare Hill was transformed into a 168 metre deep pit. It was only when the pit started getting too close to the town that mining was halted in 1934. Once mining was stopped, the huge hole was filled with water which created the beautiful blue lake that we see today.

Arrowtown

Autumn on the Arrow River – Buy 

Back in autumn I was fortunate enough to spend some time in Arrowtown. I say fortunate because I wasn’t meant to be there at all. I had planned to spend some time near Christchurch, but my accommodation was unexpectedly cancelled. So, I had to choose an alternative destination and Arrowtown was it. What a joy the town is during autumn when the colour takes hold.

Conroys Dam

Skull in long grass – Buy 

Is it just me or is there something fascinating about old animal skulls? After leaving  Butchers Dam, I ventured the short distance up the road to Conroys Dam. An historic gold mining site that was dammed in 1935 for the Last Chance Irrigation Scheme to provide irrigation for orchards on the Conroy and Earnscleaugh flats. Having arrived, I enjoyed a pleasant amble around the conservation area, which is where I spotted an old animal skull in the long grass. An object I found most captivating I must admit. For a moment I considered taking it with me but being stuck by a moment of clarity, I realised it wouldn’t fit on the mantelpiece. A while later, I continued on to Alexandra, skulless, yet knowing my wife would be a little happier with my decision.

Cromwell

Lake Dunstan near Cromwell – Buy 

I drove to Cromwell along the shores of Lake Dunstan. It really was a picture to behold. The lake was still and clear with the surrounding, snow covered hills reflecting in the cool, lake water. All along the shore, people were packing up campsites at the end of the long weekend. As I continued on towards Cromwell I passed roadside stalls that were advertising pine cones, honey, and horse poo, while orchards offered seasonal fruit, vegetables and nuts. The closer I got to Cromwell, the busier the traffic became till at last I found myself in a queue for petrol. If there was ever a sign that the long weekend was coming to an end, this was surely it.

Luggate

The Red Bridge – Buy 

The next day I headed for Luggate. Another of those small South Island towns that had developed during the Otago Gold Rush of the 1860’s as miners made their way inland in search of alluvial gold, fame and fortune. The day was still with clear blue skies as far as the eye could see while all the surrounding peaks were covered in snow and the ground lay frozen. The lakes of both Wanaka and Hawea looked tranquil, serene and undisturbed as I passed them. Having the road to myself, when added to my surroundings, the drive was calm and relaxing, almost peaceful. In fact, it wasn’t until I was close to Lake Hawea township that I came across other traffic. This annoyed me somewhat. In the short time I had been on the road I had started to consider it my own private highway and now discovering I had to once again share it, I was a little displeased. So, I turned to the radio for comfort. 

A short while later I reached my destination of Luggate. I had read that there was a red bridge of some significance in the area which I felt obligated to see. After a short argument with my wifi connection and Google Maps, I located it not far away, spanning the Clutha River. Listed as a local icon, the Luggate Grandview Bridge is on the local council’s historic register. It was opened on October 28, 1915, and has been described as ‘one of the most attractively proportioned steel truss road bridges in the country.’  I stood looking at it for a few moments watching cars and campervans slowly make their way across, secretly hoping that it would suddenly collapse in front of me. Making for a very drymatic and historic photo. However, since I had to drive back across it to get to Luggate, I decided I was thankful it was made of such sturdy construction and that it could collapse at a different time, when it would disrupt my own travel plans. It was around this point in my thinking that I noticed my fingers and toes were growing extremely cold and that I wasn’t much of a bridge enthusiast. So, I headed for my car and pointed it in the direction of Luggate and further on, Cromwell.

The Clutha At Alexandra

The Clutha River at Alexandra  – Buy 

I spent the night in Alexandra, Central Otago, a small town with a population of 5,500 which is 195 km north-west of Dunedin at the junction of the Clutha and Manuherikia Rivers. Alexandra was founded during the Central Otago gold rush of the 1860s and has steadily grown to be a major junction point for people travelling to popular destinations further inland such as Cromwell, Wanaka and Queenstown. The town is a pleasant place that is always filled with both travellers and locals from the surrounding farms stopping off for refreshments and supplies on their way through which gives it a busy, bustling sort of feel. It also has a clock on the hillside that lights up at night which I rather like. However, since I had left Dunedin late in the day, it was already dark by the time I arrived at my motel. I’d have to wait to see the clock until morning.

The Hills Of Clyde

The Hills Of Clyde – Buy 

I would like to suggest, and I’m talking from experience, that walking the hills above Clyde on a winter’s morning really is a unique experience. What made it all the more interesting was the fact that it was dark when I set out, there was a hard frost on the road, snow on the surrounding peaks and it was at least minus 4. 

I knew there was a lookout somewhere nearby, a bartender had told me about it the previous night and I had set out in the predawn darkness with lofty ambitions to find it. That morning, when I reached a point that was more ice than road, I left my car parked in a spot where I hoped I would find it again and enjoyed walking the hills on a winter’s morning.

Autumn In Roxburgh

Autumn In Roxburgh – Buy 

Isn’t it hard not to like autumn? There are so many reasons why it is just a wonderful season, the least of which is seeing the colour change on the trees throughout the month. There’s something lovely about walking through a city or town as leaves full of colour fall all around you. It’s a very poetic feeling, particularly when it’s one of those still, slightly overcast autumnal days.

Blackstone Cemetery

Blackstone Hill Cemetery – Buy 

There’s something quite wonderful about the entrance to Blackstone (Hills Creek) Cemetery. It sits on the side of a hill, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Separated from the surrounding farmland by a fence line, the best thing about it is the large concrete gate that is also a War Memorial. In a place that was once a bustling town, it’s a poignant reminder of human existence in a barren and harsh landscape.

Dunstan House In Clyde

Dunstan House Foyer – Buy 

If you get the chance to stay in the Dunstan House Hotel you shouldn’t pass it up. The current building dates back to 1900, however it was a replacement for the original building that was constructed in the 1860’s during the gold rush. 

When I was there, I could imagine the dust flying as an old Cobb & Co coach pulled up outside with fresh supplies for the gold fields. The building has all sorts of stories to tell, some of which I heard from the owners. One goes along the lines of, back in the gold rush days the house had hatch from the cellar to the bar where dancing girls would pop up from to entertain the miners.

Cromwell Lavender

Lavender In Cromwell – Buy 

The day had turned into another Central Otago scorcha with the day still calm and clear while the temperature gauge climbed above the 30 degree mark for the third day in a row. I had left the township of Tekapo, passed through places called Twizel, Omarama and the Lindis Pass before arriving in the lovely town of Cromwell.

Falls Dam At Fiddlers Flat

Falls Dam at Fliddlers Flat – Buy 

I recently found Falls Dam at Fiddlers Flat. The only problem was, I wasn’t actually looking for the dam. I was looking for the Falls Dam fishing village, which, it turns out, is located further down the lake. 

After spending time in Oturehua, located in the Ida Valley, I proceeded to Hills Creek before continuing on the Wedderburn-Becks Road, until I met-up with the St Bathans Loop Road. I was heading for Falls Dam and it wasn’t long before I came to Fiddlers Flat Road and a signpost that read, ‘Falls Dam 6km’.