South Island meanderings…January 2018 (Part 1) Dunedin-Brighton Beach-Taieri Gorge Train Trip

02 Jan – Left Warrington Domain Camp and drove back to SH1 then headed south to Dunedin.  Drove straight to the NZMCA Park at Woodhaugh for the night.

Went for a walk to explore the path across the river bridge beside the park.  The track went a lot further than we expected and we came across a network of paths around the Ross Reservoir area.Encountered lots of runners and walkers along the way, so it’s a popular place with the locals.  We headed uphill and came across another footbridge over the Waters of Leith and a back entrance into the Caravan Park (next door to the Club Park).We U-turned and continued along a path following the Ross Creek and came across a pretty little waterfall along the way.Not sure where we ended up but we rock hopped across Ross Creek at one point and followed School Creek to the base of a concrete wall before we decided to head back to camp.  We were away about 1¼ hours and didn’t actually find the Reservoir so we felt we’d be better off walking up Malvern Street from the Club Park, find another track directly to it and walking back down through the bush (next time).

Interesting rock face on the way back

It’s a great bush walking area, very scenic and just so many tracks to choose from…we never knew there was such great walking opportunities on the doorstep of the Club Park.

Next morning, we packed up again and headed into the City to do bit of shopping and then headed to St Kilda Beach.  Such great views along the beach from Lawyers Head right back to St Clair Beach.  We stopped overnight here on our last visit to Dunedin and decided to do the same that night along with a few others.  Last time the whole roadside was clogged with vehicles of all shapes and sizes – so it appears that the Council has had a big clean-out and the non-self-contained cars/vans have got the message not to stay there.  It only takes a few to be slapped with fines and the word goes out on social media.

We had a lovely walk along the beach late afternoon and were treated to beautiful ‘golden’ sea views as the sun went down.

Next day we drove back into the City, parked the truck a couple of blocks from George Street and went for a walk around the ‘big smoke’.  Neville disappeared into a camera shop and fell in love with a mini drone that virtually flies itself (not like the manual flying ‘toy’ one we currently have that is almost impossible to control).  We have been considering upgrading to one with a camera and the “Spark” seems a good option as you can set limits while you’re learning to fly it so it doesn’t get away on you.  And it’s like a ‘homing pigeon’ in that it flies back to base when it’s battery is getting low.  We didn’t buy it but I somehow think…it’s just a matter of time!!!

Ate lunch in the Mall – yummy freshly cooked gourmet burgers.  And I had a browse in the I-Site and found a good map showing all the walking tracks around Ross Creek.  Picked up a spare one to leave in the shed at the Club Park when we go back there.

On our way back to St Kilda Beach we found a Printing Place in South Dunedin that was recommended to us by a lady in Warehouse Stationery and ordered a batch of business cards picturing the motorhome and our contact details.  So now we can hand them out to people we meet in our travels instead of having to scratch our names onto to bits of paper.  We have been talking about getting this done for almost 3 years…better late than never!

City night view

Spent another night overlooking St Kilda Beach but that was our max 2-night stay so we moved off in the morning.  Went back to the printing place to collect our ‘cards’.  $120 for 500…colour photo on one side and our details on the other…very pleased with them!!  We had intended to get them done at Warehouse Stationery as they advertise card printing on the spot in the larger stores…but in reality that is not true.  They are all done in Auckland and sent back to the originating store, meaning a wait of a few days.  Ours were all done in a few hours…great service…thank you Alto Print!

Leaving the city we drove south to Brighton Beach Domain for a couple of nights.  Another favourite ‘free’ camp of ours.  However, the Council have put heavy bollards and chains up all around the grassy areas so parking spaces are now limited…can’t say we were surprised as we’ve seen vehicles make a real mess of the grass when it’s wet.  We found a fairly sheltered spot beside some bushes…the trick to finding a place to park in any of these ‘free’ sites is to get there early!  By nightfall the place was chokka…and still people drove in after 11:00pm trying to squeeze in.

Had a couple of windy nights…the van was ‘a rockin’.  A cold southerly was blowing up the coast…even had to put our heater on in the mornings.  We did go for a walk down to the rocks and around the south point when the sun came out on the second afternoon to blow the cobwebs out.

View to the north
Unusual rocks – looks like petrified wood
Sand fingers!
Local balancing act!
South view
View – just a few steps from our ‘doorstep’
Green Island in the distance

07 Jan – Drove back to Dunedin – booked on the afternoon Taieri Gorge Rail Trip.  We did this trip through to Middlemarch many years ago so thought it was time for a refresh.  This time we’ll do the 4hr shortened trip as far as Pukerangi (seeing as we’ll be driving through Middlemarch when we set off again towards Ranfurly).

Neville got us ½ price tickets on-line through “Book Me”.  This site has worked well for us on 3 occasions now – you have to book little way ahead (5 days this time) but when you travel with no fixed timetable it’s certainly the way to go!

Got to the Station a little early so had a look around the old building.  Fabulous detailing and tiling.

Getting ready to board the train

The train departed on time at 1430 and we enjoyed the trip like it was our first time – neither of us could remember the specific sights along the way…just the river gorge and the tunnels in general.

On leaving Dunedin we were initially travelling on the Government owned Main-line Track and we passed through two long tunnels, then at Wingatui we turned off onto the Taieri Branch Track.  The Government decided to close the Taieri Branch track in 1989 due to the lack of freight after the Clyde Dam was completed.  In 1990 the Dunedin City Council stepped in to save the line for tourist excursions and purchased the track as far as Middlemarch.  Beyond Middlemarch the track was lifted and the trackbed was handed over to DOC and is now the Otago Central Rail Trail.  The Council also purchased the Dunedin Railway Station in 1994 for the grand sum of $1.00 (but they have the upkeep of it now, so that must cost them heaps).

The track and rail trips are now owned and operated by “Taieri Gorge Railway Ltd” a Company that was incorporated in 1955.  It’s a collaboration of the Council’s “Dunedin City Holdings” who had the majority of shares (approx 72%) and the original Trust (owned the carriages and locomotives) who held the rest of the shares (approx 28%).  Both the Council and the Trust sold their assets to the new Company and it’s governed by Board of 6 Directors, who are selected by the two shareholders.

The Wingatui Viaduct was built in 1887 and is the largest wrought iron structure in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s 197 metres (646 ft) long and quite impressive.

Shortly after the viaduct the railway meets up with Taieri River on its left-hand side.

Just a ‘small’ log jam!

Camping group on the river

After Mt Allan Station we crossed over a joint rail/road bridge and into the narrower section of the Gorge with the river on our right-hand side.

Great scenery…steep rock faces (occasionally herds of goats on them) and the river below.  Side streams gushing down steep channels to the river, crossing over more viaducts and creeping through narrow hand-made tunnels (10 of them) along the way.

The ‘big hotel’ along the way…yeah right!

After Deep Stream the track slowly climbed higher and we left the river to emerge onto flatter ground shortly before Pukerangi.

This was the end of the line for us and we alighted the train for around 15 minutes to have a look around the Station while our engine was swapped to the other end of the train to pull us back.

The room at one end of the Station building was displaying old photographs of the area and other items of interest.

The rear end now that the engine has gone to the ‘front’

Also waited for the other Scenic Train to pass by on its way back from Middlemarch.  It had a number of more ‘modern’ carriages hooked up for passengers on the longer journey.

I loved the carriages on our train though as they were ‘heritage’ ones like I remember travelling in as a child with the ‘netted’ overhead racks etc.  My Father worked as a Guard with the Railways and we lived in Railway Houses until I was 18, so trains are ‘in my blood’ well and truly.  (I wasn’t a railway brat…honest!).

So then it was homeward-bound for our train as well and we enjoyed the views on the way back all over again. We spent a lot of the journey standing outside on the platforms between the carriages.  Better for taking photos and lots of fresh air!

We aren’t leaning out…honest!

The only disappointing thing on the trip was that we missed most of the interesting ‘commentary’ over the speaker system on the outward journey.  Not the fault of the Train Host…but the group sitting opposite us – talking loudly in a foreign language.  Each time the commentary started they talked even louder to drown it out! Grrrr!  OK they probably couldn’t all understand it but why did they have to spoil things for others who did want to listen.  Makes you wonder why they would spend a lot of money on the trip and then not make the most of it.  They were only interested in themselves…hardly looked at the views out the window…and on the return journey they fell asleep!

Steppin’ out

We arrived back at the Dunedin Rail Station about 6:30 pm. 

Hardly any people around this time of the evening so took a few photos of the gardens and the historic building without buses and tourists getting in the way.

We’d parked the motorhome on the street nearby so was only a short walk back.  We could have stayed there overnight (By-Law allows it) but in the end we decided to go back to the Club Park and stayed there a couple of nights.

We went for a walk following the Leith River down the hill this time.  People have made rock dams to form pools, one was deep enough to lie down in for a ‘cool off’ on hot days.

At the road we continued downhill along the footpath and arrived at the corner Dairy to buy milk and bread and also bought a cone ice-cream.  It was huge…the largest we have seen in a long long time…took us ages to eat them.

Walked back up the hill through the Woodhaugh Park.  Nice playgrounds for kids and lots of paths through trees. 

The only ‘kids’ enjoying the paddling pool today were a few seagulls!

We followed the Water of Leith Path along the lower part of the river and up the hill back to camp.

To be continued…

                 *                     *                     *                    * 

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One thought on “South Island meanderings…January 2018 (Part 1) Dunedin-Brighton Beach-Taieri Gorge Train Trip

  1. Chris Nuttall June 12, 2018 / 6:37 pm

    We also enjoyed the stunning Dunedin architecture and The Taiere Gorge rail trip was a real highlight.

    Like

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