Gold Fever and Ghost Towns in Central Otago
|St. Bathans' famous Blue Lake - mining eventually stopped when the sides of what was at one stage the deepest mine in New Zealand, began to encroach on the town - the white sections are in fact tailings dumps|
|Not sure what this building was - possibly one of the general stores given the loading facility and potential storage upstairs|
By 1870 people started drifting away to new fields, though gold production by hydraulic sluicing continued until 1934. As the Central Otago News wrote in 1948, “... Gone are the dancing girls, the numerous hotels, the banks, the hundreds of diggers… but St. Bathans is not gone. No,it is a town – a very small town – blessed with glorious sunny days, star -lit nights and rich in hospitality and so it remains.”
|On the left is the half stone and half -timbered Policeman's House (1870) at Ophir and on the right, its stone Courthouse (1884)|
|Beautiful streetscape and stone buildings in Clyde (pop. 1,161)|
|I especially liked the stone walls and old fashioned flowers everywhere|
|Lodge Dunstan dates from 1874|
|There's still a bit of gold to be found in Clyde's main street|
|A narrow rock ledge on the Clutha before it was flooded, was an important crossing for the Maori enabling them to go between the interior and the coast or West and North from here|
|Purple haze - The gorge through which the Clutha flows has been planted with wild thyme|
At dusk I drive through the spectacular Kawarau Gorge and stop in briefly at Cromwell (pop. 5150, in 2018) on Lake Dunstan. While Cromwell also owes its existence to mining, its ongoing prosperity may have more to do with its fortunate location at the crossroad between the Lindis Pass, Queenstown, Wanaka and Haast, and the roads to the South and East. Although its original diggings at The Junction where the Clutha and Kawarau Rivers met were flooded when the Clyde Dam was built in 1993, its charming buildings have been relocated to a historic precinct on the Lake at the southern end of town. Even the heritage roses have been replanted here, along with descendants of very early walnut and almond trees. Today the area is famous for both its stone fruit and its vineyards. If you were very quick i.e. by 29th of December, you could still make it to Cromwell's Cherry Festival and take part in its cherry stone spitting contest.
|Lovingly reconstructed - Inside Scott's Bakehouse 1866|
|The all important newspaper Office - The Cromwell Argus ran until 1948|
|The Cobb and Co. store where goods were held for delivery or collection, dates from 1866 and is now an artist's studio|
|The Blacksmiths -There are many more beautiful buildings here, these are just to give you an idea. Full marks to those keeping the traditional stonework skills alive too|
|Good Night Cromwell|
Alas, it’s too dark to see anything after that but having gotten a reprieve on the car, I sneak off to Glenorchy in the morning and then return to Kawarau Gorge again on the promise of one last waterfall –Roaring Meg, before I have to turn the car in.
|Last glimpse of those sawtooth mountains - near Paradise just past Glenorchy|
Both places are also Lord of the Rings sites and stunning in their own way, but I must say that after seeing so many huge and beautiful waterfalls, I am a bit disappointed in Roaring Meg. It’s basically a hydro outfall - a pipe pouring water down the side of a cliff, though the stream itself is a churning maelstrom with that characteristic ice blue of mountain waters here. At Nevis Bluff, highest point on this part of the road, men are halfway up the rock face, drilling and blasting potential rockfalls. It’s an image that stays with me -men/people struggling against the forces of nature and how puny they look against these towering mountains.
|Can you see the men laying charges on these slopes to prevent rock falls at Nevis Bluff beside Kawarau Gorge? You really feel the power of nature here|
That’s pretty much the end of my New Zealand travels. I wish I could have
done more of the walks, but I fly out in the morning. Now that I’ve seen the
lie of the land I already have lots of ideas for next time, if only there were
other ways to get there besides having to fly. There were a couple of other
things that I wanted to mention such as almost
all the hostels being very environmentally conscious – recycling, conserving
water, separating out compost and the newer ones, e.g. Te Anau, having motion sensor lighting
and sockets for recharging electric vehicles. I also wanted to write about conservation in New Zealand and how I was a bit shocked by the amount of poisoning going on.
Perhaps I’ll write something about that in the New Year. For now, I hope I
have given you a taste of some of New Zealand’s amazing, wonderful and very diverse
landscapes and wish you all
a fantastic New Year
PS. A big welcome and many thanks also to the US firefighters (and their families!) who have come to help us too. It’s already been a terrible summer for a lot of people. If you want to offer more than thoughts and prayers to the families affected, including those of the fire fighters who have lost their lives here are some links:-
For the New South Wales Rural Fire Service : (Account Name: NSW Rural Fire Service, BSB: 032-001, Account No: 171051). Or click here for Credit Cards
For Queensland - goods or money click here.
The Victorian Country Fire Authority or South Australia's
For more ways to help, Click here