08 April – back on the road and heading to the Mavora Lakes – the turnoff approx 35 km east of Te Anau. Then about 40 km of gravel road up the Mararoa River Valley and into the DOC Conservation Area. There are two lakes and a number of camping areas are sited along the lakesides. Stopped at the lower lake for a quick look around – lovely views.
We then drove on to the North Lake and found a great spot looking up the lake – the camps here are more open and less sandflies as a consequence.
We spent 3 days in the area relaxing and enjoying the scenery. We walked part of the track which circumnavigates the Lower Lake. It’s a 2½ hr loop but as we set off a bit late in the day we just went part way and then retraced our steps back to camp.
It was a great walk – firstly crossed a swingbridge over the outlet from the North Lake, followed the river to the South Lake, across some tussock land and then back into the forest along the South Lakeshore. We turned around when we came across a real boggy bit (has been a fair bit of rain in the area of late).
There are two Lord of the Rings sites at Mavora – the Silverlode River and the Fangorn Forest. We didn’t see any Orcs, Goblins or Demons, but you sure could image them skulking around in the trees.
The 3-4 day Greenstone Walkway also passes through Mavora – it starts past Glenorchy on the western side of Lake Whakatipu. This is also forms part of the Te Araroa Trail which will eventually cover 3,000 kms from North Cape to Bluff. The Southern Horse Trail also uses this path and there is even a horse holding paddock at the DOC camp for riders passing through and resting up here.
We eventually headed out – stopping to look at a pretty tarn and bog area at the lake road intersection.
We thought about turning left here; up the Mt Nicholas Road which takes you through to Walter Peak Station (where the “Earnslaw” boat trip from Queenstown goes to). But we’ll possibly do that trip across Lake Whakatipu at some later stage. So onward through Mossburn to end up at the Club Park in Lumsden for the night.
Next day we continued eastward to Riversdale where we stopped to have a look in the ‘renowned’ antique/curio shop there. It was closed the last time we drove past. Quite an Aladdins cave…the usual 2nd hand paraphenalia but they also had a great selection of semi-precious stones and rocks, old coins, stamps and first day covers, books, old bottles and so on. We ended up spending more time there than we intended as it was so interesting.
From there we headed up another side road to Waikaia where the ‘famed’ Bottle House is. Stopped to take a look, it was all fenced off as it looks like they are upgrading the next door Museum area – took a photo and moved on.
Destination was the DOC camp at Piano Flat Domain. The road followed the Waikaia River which was brown and flooded after the recent rains.
The grass camping areas were very waterlogged so we parked up on a gravel carpark, so we wouldn’t get stuck or rip up the ‘lawns’ with our wheels.
This is a real pretty area and was well worth the long drive in – the Domain/picnic areas, the river and thickly covered bush on one side; forest and hills on the other with several privately owned ‘Cribs’ dotted on the high ground around the camp.
The weather was good the next day so we set off to do the Riverside Walk upstream. However, the track was not in good condition and so boggy in places we were having to bush bash to try and get around them. After about 20 mins ‘we called it a day’ as we hadn’t even got past the picnic area and at that rate it was going to take us a lot longer to do the complete 4 hour loop walk.
So back across the swingbridge and we walked up the camp to the start of The Piano Flat loop walk up the hills on the opposite side of the area.
This track goes up behind the Cribs and follows an old gold mining water race for a while before crossing a creek and meandering back down on the other side of the creek. The water race is still maintained as the water supply for the Cribs and camp area.
The last bit was quite a steep downhill section back to the road. We were interested to see recent hoof prints and long skids marks on the path that looked like a stag had charged headlong down here quite recently. It’s currently ‘the roar’ season and earlier we were overtaken on the track by two hunters that were heading further up to the hilltops. The stag that was in this part of the bush was very wise, as being a public walkway, it’s a ‘no shooting’ zone.
A short walk back along the road and we were back at the Domain area – where we encountered the ‘resident’ native Falcon that we had been warned about. It was sitting on a fencepost about a metre away from us before we spotted it but by the time I got the camera out it had flown to a nearby tree. It nests in the area and has the habit of swooping down on people with talons ‘bared’. But today it was ‘just looking’ and didn’t bother us.
Next afternoon we set off on another walk – this time following the roadway up the valley alongside the river on the eastern side. This road turns into a rough 4WD track that continues up and over the Old Man Range and comes out north of Roxburgh.
We walked as far as a Walking Track leading to the Titan Rocks and then U-turned back to camp. We had intended to go to the northern swingbridge (that we didn’t get see from The River Walk the day before), but the road left the river here and it would have meant another wet slog along the riverbank to get there.
Chatted to a local crib owner on the way back to the motorhome who told us that the river tracks are in bad repair and take a lot longer to walk than indicated. Recently an elderly person had to be ‘rescued’ after becoming exhausted trying to walk it. Glad we didn’t get ourselves in that position.
Next morning two hunters, that had parked their car beside us for 2 nights, arrived back – what no deer?? Where are our venison steaks?? They had been hunting around the Titan Rocks and on their first night while sitting at their camp a stag rushed out of the bush to look at them…they scrambled to take a shot…but they didn’t get it (read that as ‘missed’).
Our last morning here was just magic – the flood had quickly subsided over the last two days and the river was a lot clearer – though it is apparently usually ‘tea’ stained.
We eventually headed out, back to Riversdale and made a beeline for Gore. Returned to the A&P Showgrounds for another couple of nights.
Before moving on (17th April), I went and had a browse through the Hokonui Moonshine Museum. It was quite interesting following the times of Prohibition and the ways the illegal stills were hidden from the Police and how people ‘got around’ the laws. Like catching ‘taxis’ to Pubs outside the “dry” area to have their ‘fill’ and sneaking the grog back into the area over the hills. I had my ‘shot’ of Old Hokonui Whiskey at the end of the tour – not that I’m keen on whiskey but hey…it was included in the price…so wasn’t going to waste it!
The Big Trout was located in the same area so had to take the obligatory photo.
Drove north on SH90 and got as far as Tapanui and decided to stop the night there. The Club has a spot organised in the town for members but we settled on staying at the Whiskey Creek Domain instead. A little walkway up Whiskey Gully starts from there and we had a look at it in the morning. Followed a rocky stream in a loop for 15 mins. Another track branched off uphill steeply to a waterfall and a 5-6hr track along the ridgetop (another day!).
Still heading north we turned east at Raes Junction and along SH8 towards Lawrence. Parked in town and walked the main street looking at the historic buildings, they had plaques on them telling the history of each one. It was quite well done and saved having to carry a brochure around with you to follow the trail. Then drove into Gabriels Gully gold mining area and to Greys Dam for a lunchstop.
Moved back to start the Walkway around Blue Spur that skirts the flattened ‘gully’ below and follows the old water race networks around Polland’s Hill. Good interpretive panels to explain everything along the way (though some have not ‘weathered’ well). The longest water race for the Blue Spur Sluices was directed from the Waipori River over rugged country for 64km – an amazing feat to keep it level in those days with basic levelling devices. The water was stored in a series of dams and then directed down the hill to the sluices as needed. (By 1865 there were 872 km of water races supplying the Tuapeka Goldfields areas).
Walked downhill again past lovely autumn colourings on the hillside, to the site and relics of “The North of Ireland” battery stamper.
Path then went uphill again around the other side of the gully to view an old mine shaft and descend down “Jacobs Ladder” where the Gold Office was situated.
It was all very interesting – gold was discovered in Gabriels Gully by Gabriel Read in May 1861 and by September there were 6,000 men working the gold field. When the easily mined gold was exhausted the methods changed to sluicing which required large amounts of water so ‘miles’ of water races were constructed to wash the spoil and later stamper batteries were used to crush the quartz to extract the gold.
The Blue Spur at the end of the gully was once a ridge but it was blown apart with explosives and finished off with the introduction of hydraulic elevating (gravels were sucked up a vertical pipe by pressurised water from a bottom uptake pipe – the water and gravel was forced 20m upward and over gold collection sluices). The Spur was basically flattened by the 1930’s and the spoil raised the floor of the gully by 50m).
We drove back to Greys Dam after our trek to stay overnight there. It was such a neat place and an ever changing picture.
Set out to do some more exploring the next day. Looked at the nearby Victoria Dam (Milburns Pond) which is a public picnic area and the start of a 2hr walking track up Munro’s Gully. Reflections on the pond were quite pretty but these ponds are not very clean looking as they are old storage ponds from mining days and don’t have much of a water flow through them.
Visited the old ‘ghost town’ of Blue Spur – not much to see, just an Info Board and a couple of old houses (currently occupied, so we didn’t like to be too nosey). But it was quite a nice view back towards Lawrence from the top of the hill.
Once in town we checked out a heritage display of mining relics and a restored Battery Stamper and went for a 20min walk through the forest on the hill opposite the town. That was just a stretch of the legs as there wasn’t much to see.
I also had a browse in the local Museum which also doubles as the Info Centre.
Next – up the main road for 1km to the Chinese Camp area. More Info Panels but the only structure left was an old shed and the old Historic Chinese Empire Hotel. It was owned by a Chinese man who married a Scots woman and the Establishment was reputed to be one of the best wayside hotels in Otago in those times.
Where next – a bit further out of town to Weatherstons another gold strike area. We went to have a look at the ruins of the Black Horse Brewery and was the area’s most successful business – first established in 1866 and brewed award winning beer – coveted throughout the goldfields and from Bluff to Canterbury. NZ Breweries purchased the brewing rights in 1923 and the brewery closed. If you click on the photo of the signboard it makes quite interesting reading. At some stage it was developed as a picnic and walking area but that has all fallen into disrepair too.
We arrived at the end of the road and chatted to a couple who have a little property there and they told us the place is closed and fenced off, but they said if we wanted to go and have a look still, there would be no-one to stop us. So with a bit of a ‘careful’ scramble over an electric fence we got in for a look around.
We found it all quite interesting – old overgrown tracks to a waterfalls and picnic areas, an enclosure that used to be a tea rooms, a plant nursery. It’s a shame to see such ‘history’ of the brewery building just falling further into decay. As it’s still privately owned it will eventually just disappear into the undergrowth.
On the way back to our ‘camp’ at Greys Dam, we stopped to look at the Miners Monument on the way to Gabriels Gully.
Woke up to a frost on the ground in the morning – moving off today so did a bit of a walk around to the other end to look back over our ‘perfect campsite’.
One more walkway we wanted to do before we left Lawrence. Stopped again at Gabriels Gully carpark to walk around the valley floor area.
Towering rocks around the edges to make you feel small! Had a closer look at the Pond that we’d seen from the walkway around the perimeter.
Leaving the area today (20 April) – reckon we’ve had a pretty good look around here….time to see what’s around the next corner