Old Maori Road
A shortcut used by locals driving between Luggate and Cromwell in Central Otago, New Zealand is the Old Maori Road. As it crosses the river plain between the Pisa Range and the hills behind Bendigo you get an appreciation of the difficulties that early settlers must have experienced when they first came to the area in the 1800s. It can get very hot and dry here in the summer and cold with snow in the winter.
Today the river valleys and surrounding hills are grazed by sheep which brought prosperity to the area after the departure of the early prospectors in the Bendigo Goldfields. Recently though, grape vines have been planted in the dry gravelly soil as the area has grown in reputation for the Pinot Noir wine that is produced. Some wineries, such as Quartz Reef and Aurora, take their names from old gold mines.
Looking northwest from the Old Maori Road there is a distant view of the Lammermoor Range.
Of Golden Times
The name Bendigo conjures up images of goldmining in the mid to late 1860s in both Victoria, Australia and Central Otago, New Zealand. Bendigo in Central Otago is reached via a loop road some 20 km from Cromwell. Little remains of the once thriving mining settlement where the road crosses a river ford except the ruins of a lone stone cottage beside the new gold of “Central”, grapevines for the developing wine industry.
From Bendigo a narrow gravel single-track road winds up the hill to Logantown, and then Welshtown where some of the best ruins of miners’ stone cottages can be found. Here, above the river valley below, it must have been bitterly cold in winter as southerly winds, driven from the Antarctic, brought snow to these isolated villages.
From Welshtown there are views to the Pisa Range in the west and the Lammermoor Range in the northeast.
Black Swans over Pisa Range
Black Swans over the Pisa Range near Cromwell in Central Otago, South Island of New Zealand. This image was taken during a non-skiing day on a recent holiday to Wanaka. As we were eating lunch beside one of the arms of Lake Dunstan a flight of black swans took off from the lake’s edge and climbed to altitude, forming the classic “V” formation. I think this black & white rendition does best justice to the image. If you look carefully you will see some swans silhouetted in the snowline.
Mitchell’s Cottage – Fruitlands, Central Otago
The stonefruit growing area of Fruitlands lies on State Highway 8 between Lawrence and Alexandra, but before any fruit was grown in the area men came here looking for gold.
Very quickly the diggers discovered Central Otago’s rigorous climate and the need for good shelter. Mitchell’s Cottage utilised the traditional building materials favoured by the diggers, some of whom came from the Shetland Islands. One such was John Mitchell, who had been a gold digger in the Shotover Valley near Queenstown before seeking his fortune here at Bald Hill Flat, as the area was once known. He first erected a corrugated iron cottage on the site, then over the following years he and his brother Andrew used skills learned from their stonemason father in the Shetland Islands to construct the present stone dwelling. The cottage foundation was once a massive rock tor which was quarried for building stone for the cottage and surrounding stone walls. John Mitchell and his wife Jessie raised 10 children, most of whom were brought up in this remote home.
In 1980 the cottage and its grounds were acquired as a historic reserve. The building has been restored in the style of the turn of the century.
In the foreground of the above image is a sun-dial platform chipped by John Mitchell from a solid block of schist.
Peeling, Faded & Abandoned
The town of Lawrence in Central Otago has a colourful history that stretches back to when gold was discovered in nearby Gabriel’s Gully by Gabriel Read in 1861. Today it is a small rural town on State Highway 8 from Dunedin to Queenstown.
Glimpses of glories past can be seen in the heritage buildings dotted around the town, from the two grand white churches on the ridge overlooking the main road, to the derelict old convent school opposite the Gothic-style St Patrick’s Catholic Church on Colonsay Street.
The old convent school is showing its age. Unpainted and unused for years, this old lady has a bent back and a tattered petticoat. There are plans to restore the building by its overseas owners, but in the meantime it broods over the town waiting to be returned to its former glory.
Other parts of the town are also a bit ragged at the edges, but the locals are proud of their heritage and the main street presents a pleasant view to motorists at they journey onward to their destinations. Lawrence boasts free broadband internet available to all visitors to entice them to stop to visit the local cafes and craft shops.