Our journey south continued from the Clutha Dam to Clyde and Ophir. Both historic mining towns. The scenery en route changed dramatically to rocky and dry, looking uncannily similar to the Derbyshire Dales in the UK.
Cute As Clyde
Due to our tight schedule, we skimmed Central Otago sadly. Clyde looked like a great place to stop and explore for a while. We had about half an hour to see what we could.
Taking Time To Smell The Roses
Some years ago, I read a delightful, poignant New Zealand book called ‘Time To Smell The Roses: A New Life In Ophir‘. It summed up much of the reasons Barry and I are doing what we’re doing. Working flat out to earn money to pay bills to sustain a house, car and holidays can be likened to spinning plates and hoping you don’t drop one. You’re living to work rather than the other way around. So Lois and her husband Bill decided to move to their holiday home full-time. Her descriptions of the small settlement were endearing, and I wondered if I’d ever get to see it.
Well, just over two weeks ago, Thursday 25th February, I did. Sadly it wasn’t quite as I’d imagined, it feels like it’s become rather ‘touristy’ of late. Says I who visited as a tourist! However, it was still an interesting and lovingly kept place. We easily found Elm Cottage, where Lois lived. There was a woman in the side-yard doing some work and I politely enquired if she was Lois. Sadly not. She was the fairly recent new owner. Lois had returned to Dunedin, and Bill has died. I was too late …
We picked up an excellent Ophir Town Guide, called ‘Walk Around Historic Ophir’, (2017) which Lois contributed to and is acknowledged. Using this as our guide, we walked down and back up the other side of the main street. reading about the buildings along the route. Though many of the homes had been modified, they were mostly in keeping with their historic past.
Elm Cottage is described: “This humble cottage is unusual in the its lean-to is built of stone. Adding to the mix of materials is a mud-brick add addition at the side, all carefully restored. Behind is a stone and rammed earth bunk room. The original two-roomed cottage dates back to early mining days.” I recall Lois renovating the chimney inside and uncovering a whole host of unexpected things! Not all pleasant. You’ll have to read the book to find out more!
I doubt you’ll ever read this, Lois, but if you do, please know I adored your book. I still have it somewhere in the UK and shall re-read it when we return, with a new view of Ophir so that your descriptions come to light even more vividly. Thank you.
No Shortage Of Fruit
We had to start moving faster now, as our ferry to Stewart Island was booked for Saturday 27th. Heading south we noticed another difference in landscape afterwards. Surrounding us now were rolling green hills. Lots of acres of farmland.
Central Otago is a prolific fruit growing area. As we passed stall after stall by the roadside, I spotted a sign that had Barry in ecstasy. Black Doris plums – his all-time favourite! Unlike places like the UK and Europe, most fruit and vegetables sold in New Zealand is seasonal. So you have to wait for delights such as this. Unfortunately we couldn’t get a $10 box, as we only had two days to eat fresh produce. But we managed a $4 one and took a couple on the ferry to finish off.
Parking At Pinders Pond
We parked up at a quaint place called ‘Pinders Pond‘, a free campground on the Clutha Valley Cycle Trail. ‘Big John’ Ewing emigrated to New Zealand from Scotland in 1863 and saw the potential for a gold mining site here. He managed to acquire an unsecured bank loan, around 1902, formed the Teviot and Molyneux Gold Mining Company, and conducted sluicing operations at Pinders Pond. The information board states he mined and mined, and came up with nothing – and died from prostate cancer in 1922. The pond is a popular picnic site, 3 kilometres south of Roxburgh. It is an old hydraulic elevating sluicing gold pond. Luckily he also had large mining interests around St Bathans, north of Alexandra.
“After having heaps of luck in the gold fields, and basically having the claim that is now Blue Lake in St Bathans, John moved on down to Roxburgh and got a company called the Teviot-Molyneux Gold-Mining Company into action. His plan; to mine the supposedly richly auriferous ancient beds of the Clutha River. What this means, is trying to guess where the river used to flow, then dig down and find the gold. Well he dug alright, in a couple of spots. But alas, no gold was found, but we do now have a very cool swimming hole.”http://hiddenotago.co.nz/adventure/central/pinderspond.html
Tragically a young man living in nearby Roxborough drowned in the pond in January after going for a swim and not re-surfacing. Yet another NZ drowning statistic 🙁
A Short Stop At The Brown Trout Capital
The following day we continued southwards, with a short coffee and lunch stop at Gore. Not the most pleasant sounding town name I’m sure you’ll agree? We felt it had a lovely ‘homely’ feel to it. Well mostly! With a wide main road, shops and cafes on either side. And signs scattered around saying that everyone says hello. Hmmm, that wasn’t obvious to us.
We met one friendly woman with a broad Scottish accent when I took a photo of the lovely trout and sheep mural. She happily informed me it had only been painted last week. Conversely, a while later, as I was logging in the QR ‘Track and Trace’ code at a bakery to buy a coffee, a highly aggressive woman walking out exclaimed rudely, “You don’t have to do that anymore!” I was taken aback and didn’t retort as it was such an unnecessary ‘attack’. We soon realised this city is ‘blue’, the National party won one of their few seats here in the last election. Aha. That makes sense! We suspect she was a ‘Farmer’s Wife’, the snooty type. I thought she sounded like the vicious excuse for a woman leading (I use that term loosely) the blue party.
I hope that when the changing COVID Levels alert came again two days later, she had some recognition of the importance of logging in everywhere we all go. All the time. But I doubt it, perched aloofly on her mentally-made-moral-high-ground.
We walked across the road and back towards NZAreandare and bought a couple of pies for lunch. I was thrilled to find a Lambs fry pie! I’ve never seen one before. “Do you know what’s in it?” asked the woman behind the counter. “I’m assuming it’s lambs liver and bacon?” said I. What an odd question, I thought. It seems not. Apparently, many people don’t know and bring them back after one bite! It’s definitely an acquired taste – Barry would vomit if he got one by mistake. It was delicious.
The Southernmost City In The World
Our next stop was Invercargill (Waihōpai). What an interesting place. We definitely didn’t see it at its best, with a gloomy, overcast sky and intermittent drizzle. It’s the capital city of Southland, and the southernmost city in New Zealand – and apparently the world!
“Fondly dubbed the “City of Water and Light”, referring to the long summer daylight hours, frequent appearances of the Aurora Australis (Southern Lights), and the city’s position beside the Waihopai River estuary, Invercargill has plenty of character and a friendly, laid-back atmosphere – except when it comes to celebrating Southland’s obsession with classic motoring!”https://southlandnz.com/invercargill
Have you seen the film ‘The World’s Fastest Indian‘, with Anthony Hopkins attempting a southern New Zealand accent? There’s not much dialect change as you travel New Zealand, but down in these parts, things do alter a little. It’s thought to be due to the high percentage of inhabitants who originated in Scotland. Burt Munro came from a town near Invercargill and set the land/speed motorbike record at Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, in 1967.
Unique Licensing Laws
We were aghast to discover the Invercargill Council licencing laws mean you can’t buy alcohol in any supermarket. Not a can of beer. Nor a bottle of wine. How unusual. Places like ‘Liquor King’ have a monopoly. Where it’s generally more costly. I doubt it stops people buying it. However it seems they think it may:
“A Local Alcohol Policy (LAP) enables local authorities to make a meaningful contribution towards addressing issues associated with the sale, supply or consumption of alcohol.
This Combined Local Alcohol Policy (the policy) has been developed in recognition of the significant harm that the excessive consumption of alcohol has in our communities.
The policy is in line with the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 (the act), to ensure that alcohol is sold and supplied in a safe and responsible manner and to ensure that the harm arising in individuals and communities, as a consequence of alcohol consumption, is minimised.”https://icc.govt.nz/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/2020-03-31-Operative-Combined-Local-Alcohol-Policy-2019.pdf
As this isn’t something we’ve come across before, I can only assume they’ve had a problem in Invercargill with excessive consumption? Does anyone know?
A Spot of Shopping For A Change
The city felt rather spread out in what seemed to be a jumble of roads and junctions. We found it hard to know which one was the ‘Main Street’. There were several long roads with shops on either side – it felt a little overwhelming having not been in a big city for many weeks!
I loved the abundance of murals and Art Deco buildings. Though sadly, some don’t seem to have respected the history and placed garish signs outside. I must’ve been wearing an invisible badge saying, “attack me verbally today”, as walking past the museum, another aggressive woman shouted out loudly to me, “That’s the museum you know in case you didn’t!” Oh, goodness me. Is there something devious in the air down south that women are inhaling?
We finalised our shopping list for our fast approaching Rakiura Track walk, whilst we had access to so many outlets, then headed to our camp spot of the night. Barry loves the NZMCA mobile App and discovered they had a new camp that opened in December 2020. I guess that’s why a paper copy isn’t so great – at least with the App, they can keep it updated.
It was quite a popular spot – unsurprisingly as there’s not much to choose from there.
Bluff To Oban In Masks
Our next and final stop before the ferry was Bluff. We parked up (stupidly in the paid area, rather than the free one, despite being warned by people!) and checked into the ferry before exploring a little.
Bluff is another historic town. Whalers and sealers came in the late nineteenth century and married local Maori women. Many of their descendants still live in the town.
I love how they’ve turned the world upside down so they’re at the ‘Top of the World’. Good on you! Bluff is famous for its oysters – the season for which started on 1st March. In the small museum, they showcase clothing made from oyster bags. And of course, Fred and Myrtle’s Paua House is located here. It’s now privately owned, and no longer full of paua as far as anyone knows! The museum has a couple of rooms in memory of the famous pair and their love of paua for which I can relate to.
As New Zealand is in Level One for COVID prevention, we had to don our masks for the public transport ferry. It’s the first time we’ve had to wear masks for a while, so we’re definitely not complaining.
Crossing The Foveaux Strait
The ferry crossing of Foveaux Strait is famous as a stomach-churning experience. We were fortunate the sea on Saturday 27th February was mostly calm, so our crossing was smooth. We spotted Sooty Shearwaters (whose young are known affectionately as ‘Mutton Birds’) and Albatrosses on the way. A small appetiser of things to come.
We arrived at a murky grey Oban, the capital and only ‘settlement’, and walked the short way to Stewart Island Backpackers. Our comfortable accommodation for two nights before the Great Walk.
Here it is again lucky people! Just click ion the first image and the show will start …