182. More Maniototo Attractions

We made  yet another excursion to Alexandra for the Friday market goat’s cheese and venison sausages, and this time I took some photos of the famous MacTavish’s miner’s hut near Ophir, now restored and privately owned. So lonely and isolated. Modern cars thunder up and down the nearby hill; I wonder what McTavish would have thought if he could stand in his doorway now.



We did not linger in Ophir this time but headed back home via the backroads north  of Omakau, part of the Dustan heritage trail, through newly-mown fields and acres of golden broom and gorse, some of it now changing colour.



They build strong letterboxes in Otago.


Matakanui at the foot of the Dunstan Ranges was once known as Tinkers “…. a name possibly derived from the tinsmiths who it is said abandoned their trade of repairing pots and pans and instead used them for washing gold. Another explanation is that when miners were asked how they were doing they responded “Just tinkering about”.”

The original school with its bell tower .



Most of the remaining buildings are mud brick, in various stages of disrepair.




Antlers mark the boundary of a nearby deer farm.



At Drybread there was even less to see, just part of the old hotel now used as a farm building. The legend goes that the name came after a wary prospector, when asked how he was doing, replied “Dry bread, seldom better”.


Disappointed that there was so little to see, we thought we’d visit the Drybread cemetery, some way off the road.


It looks rather highly populated…


. .. by sheep! So many in fact that we did not venture past the gate. We could see some quite recent graves as well as obviously old ones.


Back ‘home’ again, another lovely sunset ….


… and too early next morning, outside the bedroom door wanting to come in, were the dogs who’d already been let out for their early morning run.



Everywhere around us farmers were hay making, making interesting patterns in the fields.


We paid another visit to the Oturehua shop (Gilchrists General Store), it’s a wee bit  famous for its decor. Nevertheless it’s well stocked with modern groceries (not shown). It is also now a B&B, very convenient to the Rail Trail and opposite the Oturehua Tavern.





The nearby abandoned Golden Progress Mine 91868-1936), what remains of it, was also visited.


The entrance was down an avenue of ancient trees. img_4716



Not much remains.



Back home again the chooks decided they were tired of foraging and lined up hopefully outside the back door. Or were they trying to tell us something?


That evening, our last at the homesit, it was c-o-l-d. In the morning there was snow all over the distant ranges. But by that evening most of it had gone.


181. Around the Farmhouse

The broom flowering season in the Maniototo makes for some wonderful photos. Here are a few from around the farmhouse where we are homesitting for two weeks. I may have posted one or two already 🙂






The ruins of a rather substantial shed, close to the boundary fence, with the remains of a fireplace on the right. I seem to have a fixation on this shed, so photographic.




Dave trying his hand with a scythe. The chooks approved.


Bob the rescue sheepdog (found on the roadside with a shattered leg some years ago) is camera-shy.



I love exploring the garden …





In a few weeks’ time there will be roses absolutely everywhere.


180. Around the Maniototo

img_4390The sunrise promised a beautiful day and so it was, but with bad weather forecast it was time to go for a drive while the weather held. The Maniototo area of Central Otago is a wonderful place to explore, full of remnants of the old gold rush days.  The landscape is claimed to be unique: “Nowhere is there such a wide sprawling plain surrounded by rugged majestic mountains with rocky tors and outcrops interlacing the tawny alpine tussocks that flow golden in the afternoon sun. Five mountain ranges encompass the region…” (The writer obviously hadn’t been here during the broom flowering season).

We have both been here many times before but it is still a delight to revisit those places which captured my attention when first seen.

At the end of our road where it joins the highway is an old cottage with intricate stonework. The adze marks can still be clearly seen. The old fence – so perfect.



img_4399St. Bathan’s with its famed Blue Lake and moonscape-like terrain. Gold was discovered here in 1863 and just under 3,000 kilos recovered. People still live here.





Nowadays the Lake is a recreation area but only two other people were to be seen.


Fascinating weathered outcrops.



Cute cottages …img_4419img_4421img_4424

St. Bathan’s Domain is a good camping place. The other goalpost is on the other side of a fence! img_4425On the way back to the highway we paid a visit to Cambrians, a tiny village tucked into the mountains, with strong Welsh heritage. “The rivalry and sometimes bitter acrimony between the Protestant Welsh and their Catholic Irish counterparts in nearby St. Bathan’s was known as “the War of the Roses”.”




The schoolhouse was open this time and full of local heritage records and photos.



As always, old photos fascinated me. the intricate detail in the dresses and bouquets is amazing seeing this was a tiny little remote village.


On the way back to the highway we saw a pink pond with 3 happy ducks, duck-diving in perfect co-ordination, you could almost hear the music.



Typical Maniototo country.


Feeling peckish we decided to visit the Hayes’ Engineering Works cafe before proceeding further. The food was as good as ever.

Taking the back roads we headed through Ophir for Moa Creek and the Poolburn Lake and Dam.

We missed most of Moa Creek but here is the hotel. A local farming property has restored many old huts and now offers them for backpacker accommodation.


Then up and up on the famed Dunstan’s Track through awesome country dotted with huge weatherbeaten stones, the ground covered with yellow dandelions and a wild grass with reddish seed pods which transformed whole stretches into pools of blood red as seen through my polaroids.


img_4485It was quite different to how I remembered it when I first met Dave and we toured NZ mostly by motorbike but in the final week with his 4WD truck. We did the Dunstan Track and Thompson’s then and I will always remember feeling I was on top of the world, in brilliant sunshine, then suddenly descending through cloud to the dismal rainy lowland.

Finally we reached Poolburn Lake. There are a number of baches (holiday homes) still dotted around but any further building is forbidden. The Lake was pretty full judging from the level at the dam.


There’s a bach hidden among the rocks – what a view.



It’s harsh country in winter. Even the rough rocky outcrops wore jackets of thick moss.


img_4488Returning home ….. we had a way to go.



We surprised this lady riding home with her two ex-racehorses. A little chat and we were off again to a great welcome from the dogs and chooks.




179. A Homesit in Otago

Our latest homesit at Oturehua, Central Otago is already proving memorable. Our charges are three dogs each with a distinct personality, an aged cat and three chooks. After some initial snarling Penny and Aliyah another foxie are friends and delight to chase the gentle sheepdog Ben all over the yard.



TJ the ancient cocker spaniel prefers to follow me around when not sleeping or gazing at me soulfully (now I really know what that word means). Charlie the cat is of course the boss of the lot!


The rooster is a new addition, very bedraggled looking with no tail feathers but seems happy with his harem of two very fat hens who mostly lay two eggs per day. It is an absolute delight watching all the animals interact.


We are in a comfortable oldish farmhouse down a long drive, part modernised, with a huge deep blue Rayburn wood-fuel cooker dominating the kitchen. Neither of us are familiar with this type of cooker (the one Dave’s mother had was coal-fired) and also being the latest version it has all sorts of bells and whistles, aka levers, dials, etc. (note the plurals).



Our bedroom has THE most glorious views and catches the morning sun. Currently it is broom flowering time and a huge swathe of bright yellow dominates the landscape.  Over to the other side some snow can be seen on the mountain tops.


img_4155Yes it’s a wee bit chilly particularly in the mornings!

Two other memorable things happened recently. We had a hideous puncture on our first trip to the Oturehua township, the tyre was a write-off and a new one had to be ordered. The other thing was my cochlear implant went missing for two days. We turned the bedroom and ute upside down and inside out then it was finally discovered in the living room, sitting smugly on top of a book on a bookshelf in plain view, at least if you just moved a chair a little!

Dave has been feeling energetic and eager to try out the big lawnmower and also a huge scythe, so we have been literally making hay for the past two days. The grass around the house was very long as the owner was waiting for the daffodils to die down. Dave needed a bit of a rest afterwards – well deserved.


Today we took off for Alexandra, about 50 km away, intending to do some shopping. We collected the new tyre at Omakau on the way. The historical store in Oturehua stocks most basic things but it is nice to visit a big supermarket once in a while. I must remember to take a photo of the store’s interior; it is well known to many photographers.

After managing to escape from the house with all dogs bar Penny (who always travels with us) safely inside the gate, we turned out of the front gates to encounter the next obstacle.. ….

img_4178Arriving in Alexandra the first thing we saw  was a Friday Street Market, so instead of going to the supermarket what did we do….?



We must have spent almost $100 on several goat cheeses, fig and olive tapenade, Dunstan wine, hand-made lamb and thyme sausages, special smoked bacon and a huge pot of manuka honey.  After tasting most of them too. There was just room left for a spot of lunch at the charming little heritage cafe in the main street.

We returned ‘home’ via Ophir and a back road through very productive, newly-mown and ploughed country, something not seen so often from the highway in this particular part of Otago. We’ve been to Ophir before so didn’t stop except I insisted on taking photos of this olde world cottage hospital covered in the deepest red roses.  Beautiful.