Alexandra – going on the Clutha River Cruise today departing at 1:00pm.
We were at the Boat Ramp early and watched the boat being launched ready for the trip. It was lucky that we phoned to book the night before as this was the last sailing for the end of the season.
We cast off on time, together with two other couples, Laurence our guide/skipper and his teenage daughter who had come along for the ride too.
We headed off past the old stone bridge pylons and cruised slowly downstream taking in the sights – the water so calm and a beautiful greeny/blue colour and the trees lining the banks all lovely in their autumn colourings, making a sharp contrast to the stark grey rocky hillsides.
Laurence was very knowledgeable and we learnt heaps about the mining of the river before it was flooded and the lives of hardship the early miners endured. As we cruised along he pointed out the little rock shelters on the hillsides where the miners lived. Most were so well hidden that unless you knew they were there, you would’ve missed them altogether.
The steep rocky walls lining the sides of the gorge were quite awesome – reaching nearly 350m on both sides at one point. There is an old walking trail starting from Alexandra (near the Shaky Bridge) that goes to the mine area at Doctors Point – at times we could see it near the riverbank and other times high on the hillside. In the early days miners would have to trek along this to reach a settlement where they could buy supplies.
The Roxburgh Gorge Cycle Trail runs alongside the other side of the river. It stops, however, opposite the Doctors Point mining area. The cyclists then have to travel by boat downstream for 12kms to rejoin the southern section of the Trail. Apparently the Landowner of this middle section has not yet given permission for the Trail to be developed on this part. Perhaps he’s in cahoots with the local boat operators..the fee for an adult with bike is $95!!!!
We pulled ashore at Doctors Point and had lots of time to roam around the main mining areas.
This area has some pretty intact house ruins and shelters, large areas of mine tailings, old tunnels, water race channels and sluicing pipes lying around. It was all very interesting.
As we walked around we were walking on and disturbing wild thyme plants which were giving off their beautiful fragrant aroma. The plants were introduced by the Chinese Miners to add flavour to their cooking – they have thrived in the bleak growing conditions and now cover vast areas in the Central Otago goldfields. They must look amazing when they flower in summer.
Once we had all finished our exploring we enjoyed a hot drink and muffins on the riverbank before we boarded the boat for the return journey.
There were more dwellings to see hidden among the rocks on our way back up the gorge.
At Butchers Point we could see a larger ruin of the Leaky Lodge Hotel, that probably profited well from the miners spending their earnings on the way back from cashing in their hard earned gold findings.
We really enjoyed the trip and felt it was money well spent. The Doctors Point area can only be reached by boat (unless you wanted to swim or face a very long 20km return walk from Alexandra) so it was a place that we would not have seen without going on the Cruise. The trip down the river and along the gorge was a serene and the colours and scenery well worth seeing…I would do it all again!