There is a ‘Poppet Head’ mine tower here that is the last one still standing in the Otago area. It holds a weight to countersink a lift that carried men and in and out of the 62m deep mine shaft and also lifted out the mined quartz.
Two fairly intact Boilers are nearby and we passed by larger single boiler on the loop track back to the start of the walk.
One of the old cottages has been restored in the area where the main mining operations were.
We then drove back through Oturehua to go and visit the Hayes Engineering Works – Heritage Trust Buildings. One of the old cottages is the entrance point and a nice little café. Entrance Fee is a reasonable $12pp.
We wandered around the old buildings – offices, workshops, huge windmill stand, stables/single men’s quarters and then through the ‘Big House’.
Earnest Hayes was originally a Flour Miller but became a great ‘inventor’ of farming implements. His Fence Strainer System is still in use today. He also invented a Rabbit Smoker (using sulphur to gas the rabbits in their burrows), windmills, livestock handling cradles (like those in use today for alpacas), tractor hoists, trailers…and many more such useful implements. His attractive wife, Hannah, was possibly one of the first travelling sales-person in the area – in her long skirts, she would bicycle all around the district, taking orders for products that were made in their workshops. She would travel up the steep Lindis and Dansey Passes and on some trips covered over 130km – on a bicycle with no gears or cushioned seating!
The 1890’s Workshop was originally powered by a large water driven windmill that drove a pelton wheel that moved pulleys inside the ‘factory’ that were swapped around to run whichever machine they wanted to use at the time. The pulley system still operates today (using electricity) and they hold open days once a month over the summer months (Jan to April). That would be something to see!
The ‘Big House’ has recently opened up for viewing too and it was impressive – built in the 1920’s it had water-powered electricity, a flushing inside loo, an upright fixed shower above the bathtub, piped sound to family rooms for music etc. He was a clever man. His legacy also continues in Dunedin where the Hayes Hardware Store is still run by family and where Burt Munroe’s original “Worlds Fastest Indian” motorbike is on display (see earlier “post” on this).
We enjoyed a warming coffee and yummy cake in the café before leaving. Then headed to the St Bathans area to stay the night at a DOC camp there.
We experienced some pretty strong wind gusts overnight but being forewarned we’d parked facing into the wind so didn’t get too buffeted. Woke up in the morning to see fresh snow on the neighbouring hills. Needless to say it was a bitterly cold day.
Drove back into St Bathans to go and see the ‘famous’ Blue Lake – not so blue today…just a dull grey! The lake is another one formed by mining operations back in the 1870’s and is 58m deep.
We parked up and went for a nice walk around one side of the Lake – in and around sluice tailings and past good views over the lake.
Finished off with a walk up to a Lookout and then strolled around the town looking at the old buildings. We would like to come back here in summer to see the lake in all it’s ‘blue’ glory!
Onward and ended up back in Omakau (where we’d started our trip up to Poolburn). We booked into the local Van Park and stayed there for a few days to catch up on laundry and take a ‘breather’.
19 May – back to Alexandra and spent another 2 days there having a ‘shopping fix’ and getting a haircut. The Old Man Range now has a snow covering – it was completely clear when we were there last, at the beginning of the month.
On leaving there we took the back road to Clyde which passes through the Earnsclaw area. The river here was extensively dredged for gold (before it was flooded) and there are large areas of tailings along the way.
At Clyde we drove under the bridge to a small carpark – the water was very green and fast flowing with dangerous looking currents….coming from the Dam just upstream.
Drove on, back through the Cromwell Gorge to Cromwell and stopped for the night at Lowburn Harbour free-camping area again.
Some nicely restored buildings in the town area.
It was starting to drizzle intermittently but we wrapped up warmly, donned our good raincoats and set off.
It was listed as a 2 hour walk but it did take us longer – stopping to look at things and try to get photos minus raindrops on the lens.
The path look us up a rise surrounded by tall pinnacles that were formed by sluicing operations and we also saw caves and shelters where the poorest miners once lived.
The track then continued uphill past the site where Menzies Dam was located, which fed the surrounding mining operations via substantial stone water races. This was the largest mining storage Dam in Otago. Today its just a flat dry area with a low earth wall.
We then arrived at old Stewart Town – just the ruins of a couple of rammed-earth miners houses and some old fruit trees (still bearing fruit in summer) left.
From there we started back via Pipeclay Gully where we saw evidence of the stone water races and the remains of the blacksmiths shop.
We arrived back at the m/home wet and freezing cold and with our shoes on ‘platforms’ of gluggy sticky clay! It took some washing for it to come off. We could also see that it was now snowing up on the hills just behind the area we’d been walking…no wonder it was so cold.
Next day it rained on and off all day so we didn’t leave our camp by the lake, keeping nice and snug inside with our diesel heater.
24 May – stocked up with groceries in Cromwell town and did a few ‘necessary’ chores before we left and drove up eastern side of Lake Dunstan to checking out the camping areas along the way.
Stayed for two nights at a spot near the northern end of the lake and close to the turnoff for the Bendigo Gold Diggings Site. We had a lovely view across the lake and the hills beyond with their covering of fresh snow.
On our second day there, we woke up to a beautiful sunny day which was perfect for exploring Bendigo.
Drove along a normal gravel road as far as the old Bendigo School site but from there on it became very narrow and steep.
We didn’t meet any traffic coming towards us but encountered a car parked in the middle of the road where a man was ‘messing’ about with some plants on the side of the road. He ignored us but his wife managed to back their car into a small space – just enough for us to squeeze past.
We drove on past the Logantown site and continued uphill to the Welshtown area. Just after we got there a DOC vehicle pulled up beside us – the lady Ranger was there to see a worker who was erecting barriers around one of the large mine shafts (when we got there we saw that it was covered by iron mesh already…must be OSH getting involved).
Took lots of photos of the old stone buildings here and the view was fabulous across the valley looking towards the snow covered hills in the Lindis Pass area.
We followed a path that took us around the Bendigo Mining area and to the Matilda Battery site. We passed some large mine shafts and huge mountains of diggings along the way.
On our way back we amused ourselves by tossing a few stones down the Cromwell Mine Shaft – it was a long way down before we heard the thud of it hitting the bottom.
The walk wasn’t long but we took our time exploring and just enjoing the valley views and sunshine.
Returned to the carpark and set off again to cross over a small valley to go and look at the ruins of Pengelly’s Hotel. The ruins in these areas are again very well preserved due to the dry climate.
At the carpark again a couple of cars had arrived and a small bus with a party of school kids getting a ‘history lesson’. Glad we didn’t meet them on the road anywhere. We quickly got back into our ‘truck’ so we could head out before them and not hold them up behind us.
However we did stop briefly at Logantown on the way out to look at some ruins and a couple of old horse-drawn carts.
And at the bottom of the hill we also stopped in a carpark area to investigate a relic that was part of a large dredging machine that had been located here – quite a bit of history about it. Interesting too that two Dunedin Contractors – Jules Fulton and Bob Hogan – worked on the project as paid employees and they went on to found the Australasian roading and maintenance company that bears their names today!
Back to our nearby camp where we explored the area and came across a nice view over the top of the lake and lots of birdlife on the water.
There were quite a few ‘sleeping’ vehicles using this area overnight – it did have a toilet block here thank goodness. But many of them seem to want to light fires for their cooking, despite signs around saying “fires not permitted” and guess which way their smoke goes…straight at us every time!!
26 May – The Lindis Pass road to Omarama has re-opened after being closed for a few days…but more snow predicted so time was right to drive over before it closed again. Set off about 1100 to give any icy patches time to thaw.
Snow on the hills all around and we were right in it by the time we reached the Summit. Everyone stopping there to take in the view and hurl a few snowballs. Was funny watching the reactions of some foreign tourists from a tour bus. More neat views along the road on the way down from the Pass.
Arrived in Omarama about 1:00 pm. There is a DOC camp there, just out of town along the Ahuriri River so headed there for the night.
Next morning we decided on a detour eastwards, back to Lake Aviemore (we had almost made it there during our travels southward in summer). Set off along SH83 towards Kurow.
Drove along the south-western arm of Lake Benmore and stopped for a photo at a boatramp beside a camping reserve. The camp was all shut up for the winter!
Arrived at Otematata town and drove out to look at the Benmore Dam. It’s a huge earth dam – the largest in NZ and the lake behind it is the largest ‘constructed’ one in NZ. Has a large Spillway but not in use currently. Explored around the area – big camping areas here below the dam level but they too were all closed for winter. You can still drive in freely though, so we could easily have stopped being self-contained.
Had a look around the complex at the base of the dam.
A Visitor Centre here but it too was closed for winter! So we headed up the road to the Lookout point above the Dam – great views out over the valley beyond.
Followed the road across the top – more lookout points down the spillway and across the lake.
Then followed the Scenic Route along the north bank of Lake Aviemore. We passed lots more Waitaki Council camping areas along the shoreline – most were shut with closed gates but a few allowed self-contained campers still. We stopped for lunch at a picnic spot near the Akatarawa Station homestead.
It was such a lovely day and we really enjoyed the scenic drive.
Near the Aviemore Dam we had a look at the Deep Stream Walkway. The stream is a backwater from the Lake and it looked like a nice walk but we didn’t know how long it would take so we moved on with the idea of finding out more and going back the next day.
Drove past the Aviemore Dam and down a hill to a lower level and overlooking Lake Waitaki which begins at that point from the Dam wall. Another huge camping area along the lakeside – open to drive in so we decided to stop the night. Officially it is closed for winter – ground was pretty wet so we parked carefully in a place we figured we wouldn’t get stuck. We were overlooking the lake – it would be a magic place in summer.
It rained most of the night and we didn’t have any problems moving off, but the freshly graded road heading out was very muddy and we got a plastering on our body work, especially on the back wall (window…what window?) We stopped on both sides of the Aviemore Dam to take a few photos. There was a substantial fish spawning canal system in place which was interesting.
Decided it was too wet to go back to do the Deep Stream Walkway so we just started back along the main road to Otematata and thence back to our starting point at Omarama. Spend another night there at the DOC camp.
Next day we started off towards Twizel along SH8. Turned off before then along the Lake Ohau Road. Snow was down to low levels on the surrounding hills and we stopped a few times to photograph the lake with the mountains beyond.
Arrived at the Lake Ohau Village and drove around the housing area. Not many of the homes seemed to be occupied and we got the impression they were winter ski lodges.
We continued along the road at the south end of the lake and then up the western side. We left the tarseal and carried on along the gravel section – it was quite corrugated in places but wide enough for passing. There was a small ford part way along – not much water in it currently but would probably be more exciting after heavy rain. A bit more scary were the Avalanche Warning signs – no stopping of vehicles between the signs! Not too much snow on them today though, thank goodness.
We eventually got to a sign saying we were entering Lake Ohau Station and we stopped there to marvel at the view during our lunch break.
You can drive a bit further through the Station to a DOC camp in the forest but as we were already near the end of the lake we decided to drive back to another DOC camp we’d spied earlier, on our drive in. It was right on the lakeside with lovely views of the hills opposite and down the lake to Ohau Village. We settled for the night and we counted it as one of the nicest places we have stopped at in our travels.
Frosty in the morning and -2deg. While having our breakfast three big logging trucks came roaring past us, heading out from the end of the road. Glad we didn’t meet them yesterday when we drove in!
We left camp to head back to the main road but spied a Signboard on the side of the road so stopped to check it out. Amazing the things you come across when you’re exploring. We tried to find evidence of the ‘spade line’ across the paddock but couldn’t see anything obvious.
Back on the main road we headed northwards to Twizel. There is a large commercial salmon farm south of the town situated on the canal system that runs from Lakes Ohau and Pukaki and then feeds into Lake Benmore. The canal water is a milky-green colour as it is glacier fed from the Tasman Glacier at the north end of Lake Pukaki.
The NZMCA has a POP overnight area overlooking the salmon farm and there were about four other club members already parked there.
Still early in the day so we went exploring along the canal system towards the northern end of Lake Benmore and passed two power stations along the way: the Ohau B and Ohau C.
At the lake edge there was another large summer camping area – this one displayed a sign advising ‘winter camping’ allowed at $10/night (half price).
We chatted to some people fishing just below the last Dam – they told us they always catch fish here…but not today it seemed.
Drove back up the Canal and checked out the Dams and Power Stations. There was also another big Salmon Farm on the opposite Bank.
Drove into Twizel township to buy some groceries and fill the water tank. Looked around the shops and browsed in an amazing Hardware Shop that was crammed to overflowing and selling ‘everything’ – paint, toys, stationery, tools, camping, fishing and cycling gear, kids party outfits, gifts…you name it…I’m sure they sold it!
Headed back to the Club POP for the night along the Canal. Six of us parked there and I noticed on Facebook that the 5th Wheeler there belonged to a couple who post regular blogs of their travels under the name “Two Go Tiki Touring”. I have been following their blog and Neville corresponds with them on his Motorhome Forum. He went to say hello and introduce himself.
31 May – Packed up and went to do some exploring around the local area. Checked out nearby Lake Ruataniwha – camping allowed at the south end.
Then followed the lake to the Ohau A Power Station – drove over the dam and followed the canal road on the south side to the Lake Ohau outlet. Freezing cold here – reckoned it was snowing on the hill nearby. Didn’t seem to be putting off the people fishing here though.
Tried to find a camping area there but couldn’t find anything obvious – a gravel road led to a boat ramp but it was pretty rough so we didn’t go too far before U-turning.
Headed back along the canal, following the road on the north side of the canal. Passed another big Salmon Farm operation on this canal – there are always lots of people fishing around these ‘farm’ areas hoping to catch escapees from the net enclosures no doubt. Probably better odds than other places.
Back at Ohau A we continued north along a gravel road following the Pukaki Canal until we could cross over the Canal and head back to SH8. We were driving into sleet as we turned back towards Twizel town again…brrrrr!
Stopped the night at Lake Ruataniwha – quite a lovely spot and nice views. This spot is also renown for it’s rowing course marked with buoys and lanes.
We stayed there a couple of nights which brought us to the end of our travels for May.