Making sense of my photography hobby in retirement

Central Otago

Rest Home

Rest Home, Cardrona Pub, Central Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

On the high road between Queenstown and Wanaka over the Crown Range is the small settlement of Cardrona.  To reach Cardrona from Queenstown one has to drive through two sets of switchbacks to reach the summit before descending through the Cardrona Valley to the village. For first-time drivers on this section of road, it is quite an experience.  There are several lookout points along the road that give great views back towards Queenstown and Lake Whakatipu, and across the valley to the Remarkables (a jagged mountain range that is a feature of the evening view from Bob’s Peak in Queenstown).

Cardrona has a pub that is a mecca for skiers after a hard day at the nearby Cardrona Ski Resort. Established in 1863 and still bearing its original wooden facade, this character pub once featured in a TV commercial for a well-known Southland beer. While some gather in the bar to drink their apres ski beers, many migrate to the garden to sit at picnic tables or huddle around the outdoor open fireplace to recount their day and enjoy a gluhwein or two.

On the far side of the garden an old blue Model T Ford truck rests at home in a tumble-down shed.  It looks the part in these surroundings, which are rather laid-back. It all adds to the character of what a visit to the Cardrona Pub is all about.


Daisies at the Lower Reaches

Imagine for a moment the letter “S”. Now stretch it horizontally until the connection between the upper and lower arms of the S is almost vertical. and then rotate it 90 degrees to the left.  It now looks a bit like a fork of lightning. Are you still with me?  That is the distinctive shape of Lake Whakatipu in Central Otago’s “Lakes” region. Imagine then that the popular tourist town of Queenstown is near the corner of the zigzag before the vertical drop.

This image was taken near the southern end of that vertical drop.

Kingston Arm, Lake Whakatipu, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

The southern arm of Lake Whakatipu “below” Queenstown is known as the Kingston Arm, named after the small town that used to be the terminus for the railway line from Dunedin. Kingston is also the place where the famous lake steamer TSS Earnslaw was brought in parts, assembled and launched .  The Wikipedia account of this remarkable story is shown below:

“At the beginning of the twentieth century, New Zealand Railways awarded 21,000 pounds to John McGregor and Co shipbuilders of Dunedin to build a steamship for Lake Wakatipu. TheEarnslaw was named after Mount Earnslaw, a 2889 metre peak at the head of Lake Wakatipu. She was to be 48 metres long, the biggest boat on the lake. Transporting the Earnslaw was no easy task. When construction was finally completed she was dismantled. All the quarter inch steel hull plates were numbered for reconstruction much like a jig-saw puzzle. Then the parts were loaded on to a goods train and transported across the South Island from Dunedin to Kingston at the southern end of Lake Wakatipu.

Six months later, after being rebuilt, on 24 February 1912, the TSS Earnslaw was launched and fired up for her maiden voyage to Queenstown, with the Minister of Marine as captain.”

She then became a valuable vessel for the New Zealand Railways (NZR) and was known as the “Lady of the Lake”.

But that’s another story.

It was late in the afternoon as we approached the lake from the southern end.  After stopping briefly at Kingston to look at the “Kingston Flyer” steam train (sadly mothballed at the time),  made famous in the 1980s in a TV chocolate advertisement, we recommenced our journey to Queenstown. Just as the lake came into view we were presented with this field of daisies between the brown seeding Dock weeds. It was the contrast between the white of the daisies and the green and brown of the pasture that first caught the eye.  The slopes of Mt Dick fall to the lake on the left of the image, and in the distance the Remarkables drop to the lake on the right.  Queenstown is around the corner to the left at the far end of the view.

Rain Forrest

After dropping our intrepid walkers at the start of their rain-soaking three day walk of the Routeburn Track, we decided to have a walk of our own before setting out on the journey to Te Anau. At the end of  a small gravel road near the Routeburn Shelter there is a swing bridge that marks the entrance to the Sylvan Lakes Track.  The rain was steady, but light as we set out across the bridge. Already swollen from the overnight rain, the river below the bridge heaved its way over boulders in the river bed in a tumultuous journey towards Lake Wkakatipu.

As we entered the rain forest the rain began to get heavier. The ground underfoot was already soaked with water and the track had become an endless series of puddles connected by islands of slightly higher ground.  It was no use trying to keep your boots dry – may as well splash on regardless.

Rain Forrest 1, lake Sylvan Track, Glenorchy, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

A walk in a rain forest, in the rain, is magical.  Overhead the green canopy glistens and the moss on the ground is almost luminescent against the fallen and decaying leaves on the forest floor. Wetness turns the tree trunks almost black, speckled with green lichens clinging to their bark.

Rain Forrest 2, Lake Sylvan Track, Glenorchy, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Scattered across the forest floor are branches that have fallen as a result of past storms, now decaying and acting as host to more lichens and mosses.

Rain Forrest 3, Lake Sylvan Track, Glenorchy, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Thunder was starting to clap overhead and the rain became even heavier.  Camera gear was getting wet. The temperature was dropping.  It was time to retreat and head back to Glenorchy and a nice cup of hot coffee and a bite to eat.

(Click on images for a larger view.)

The End of the Lake

There has been a drama on television in New Zealand recently called “The End of the Lake”.  It has been a collaborative effort by a local production company and the BBC and is centered on Glenorchy, a small township at the western end of Lake Whakatipu.  For those who have visited New Zealand, you will probably know the lake better as the place where Queenstown is situated.

Lake Whakatipu is surrounded by spectacular mountains, and Queenstown is the place known best because as the center of all of the tourist activity in the area. Many however, like to leave the hustle and bustle of Queenstown behind for a while and take the 46 km drive to Glenorchy.  The road follows the eastern shore of the lake, weaving in and out of numerous small bays, and at various viewpoints offers spectacular vistas of mountain scenery in all directions.

End of Lake, Whakatipu, Queenstown, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

On the occasion when this image was captured we were driving our eldest son and his wife to the start of the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand’s designated “Great Walks”.  As we approached Glenorchy it was clear that we were heading into wet weather as the clouds at the end of the lake were low and rain could be seen in the valleys.  By the time we reached the Routeburn Shelter at the start of the track it was raining steadily with very wetting large drops of water falling from the sky, although the light through the clouds was still warm, not the usual oppressive grey.

Little did the two walkers know what they had let themselves in for. On their first day’s walk they had to cross flooded streams and cope with heavy drenching rain.  Not long after arriving at  the Routburn Falls Hut for the first night winds reached gale force and heavy rain was driving down the valley, horizontally! The rain continued for the following days and was still falling lightly when we met them at the Lake Howden Hut, after we walked in from “The Divide” at the end of the track two days later. We had driven back to Queenstown and on to Lake Te Anau for a two night stay, before driving to “the Divide” on the road to Milford Sound. Click on image for a larger view.

Unconsecrated Ground

The story of Chinese immigration into New Zealand at the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is not a happy one, as witnessed by a Government Apology in 2002 by the then Prime Minister Helen Clark.  Chinese immigrant stories, especially around the goldfields of Central Otago, went generally untold and therefore unnoticed by the general population until well into the twentieth century.  From 1977 – 1987  the New Zealand Historic Places Trust commissioned an archaeological study of Chinese gold mining sites along the Clutha River near Cromwell before it was dammed and flooded, and in 1993 Chinese physician Dr James Ng produced Volume 1 of his four volume definitive work “Windows on a Chinese Past”. These two documents brought many of  the issues and hardships that faced the hard working Chinese settlers into public view.

The Alaskan, Californian, Australian and then New Zealand gold rushes of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries attracted fortune seekers from all over the world, with many moving from one boom to the next as hopes of hitting pay dirt diminished. Among those numbers were peasant men from China seeking another means of supporting their families. Because few spoke English they tended to cluster together and there was only a minimum of interaction with other miners. They were generally no more of less successful in their search for gold than any others however. At best they were tolerated, but when times toughened and the gold ran out they were ostracised. As a result of intense lobbying to politicians by “European” settlers the Government introduced a Poll Tax of £10 at the border for new Chinese immigrants, which was increased to £100 in 1896. It was for this and other discriminatory laws that the Government apologied in 2002.

Chinese miners were represented in many of the early gold fields in Central Otago, the best known and documented site being at Arrowtown near Queenstown. So also it was the case at Naseby and nearby Blacks.  But what happened to them when they died?

Luey Mee Hok, Naseby, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Luey Mee Hok

In some settlements  grave sites were established by the Chinese communities themselves, but in others such as Naseby they were buried at the local cemetery – sort of. Being non-Christian, and considered by many therefore to be heathen, they were interred in unconsecrated ground outside the boundary of the normal cemetery.  Such was the fate of Luey Mee Hok in 1907, whose grave can be found under the trees with other members of his Chinese fraternity.  Its a sad reflection of former less tolerant times.

Bentley Surprise in Naseby

We have visited Naseby a number of times over the years, the most recent time just two years ago. We were therefore not expecting anything out of the ordinary when we came off the end of the Danseys Pass Road and into the old gold mining town.  Imagine then the surprise at finding three vintage Bentley Open Tourers parked outside the Black Forest Cafe as we turned into the main street!

Bentley, Naseby, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Nearly every schoolboy of my era in the British Commonwealth knew of the reputation of these cars during the 1920s and 30s – it was legendary.  There were some three thousand Bentley cars of this style built between 1922 and the early years of the 1930s with various engine sizes ranging between 3 litres and 8 litres.  By far the most popular was the 4 1/2 litre model built between 1928 and 1931. The great claim to fame for these cars was winning the Le Mans 24 hour race in France in  1924, 1927, 1928, 1929 and 1930.

Bentley, Naseby, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013So there they were, a 4.0 litre, 4.5 litre and 3 litre model parked beside the only cafe in town.  And magnificent they were too.  Why were they in Naseby?  They were part of a Bentley Owners 2013 New Zealand Tour. That morning the cars had left Dunedin and had made their way to Naseby en-route to Mt Cook.  Not being the types to take the easy road, they had chosen to travel over Danseys Pass in the opposite direction from which we had just come.

Bentley, Naseby, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Bentley, Naseby, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Shortly after our arrival they departed with a chorus of gutsy engines and and a flurry of leaves as they headed into rain and colder temperatures in the Kakanui Mountains.

Bentley, Naseby, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Curiously, across the street is an antiques shop whose owner has a small collection of cars from the 1930-1950 era.

Danseys Pass

Crossing the Danseys Pass between the Waitaki Valley in North Otago and the Maniatoto Basin in Central Otago has been on our list of things to do again since we last made the crossing in the early 1980s.  That time we crossed from west to east.  It was memorable for several reasons, one being the nature of the road, and the other being the accommodation we used (more about that later).

Our east-west journey over Danseys Pass in February began at the small village of Duntroon in the Waitaki Valley.  For the first 12 km the road was sealed, but from that point onwards it turned to gravel for the rest of the journey over the Kakanui Mountains all the way to Naseby some 30 km further on.

At about 6 km into the journey, on a side road, are the Elephant Rocks.

Elephant Rocks, Duntroon, Canterbury, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Over 24 million years ago this whole area was under the sea. Whales and other marine life sunk into the soft sand which then rose to the surface during the last few million years. The result is an area of fossils and dramatic limestone outcrops which have been weathered into unusual shapes. This area is favored by climbers and is taken as a side-visit by people touring in the area.

On the day we journeyed over the Danseys Pass road it was raining.  In order to get the above image I had to crouch behind a small umbrella to prevent the driving rain from soaking my camera.  The rain persisted until we reached the summit and began our descent.

Danseys Pass Road narrows to almost a single lane not long after leaving the seal.  For a while it follows the valley before rising on a twisting road through steep tussock covered hills.

Danseys Pass, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Danseys Pass, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Close to the summit at 935 metres the rain became heavier …

Danseys Pass, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

… and so too did our encounters with free-roaming sheep that often blocked our way.

Danseys Pass, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

The summit is reached at the 23 km mark and the road then descends steeply through Upper Kyeburn to the Maniatoto Basin.

Not far from Upper Kyeburn and the Danseys Pass Coaching Inn, still surrounded by steep hills is a lavender farm and gift shop.  It was a surprising find in the middle of a high country sheep farming area, well off the normal tourist route.

Lavender Farm, Danseys Pass, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Lavender Farm, Danseys Pass, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Our destination for the day was the old coaching inn at Upper Kyburn. We had last stayed at the Danseys Pass Coaching Inn some 30 years ago.  On that occasion it was also cold and raining.  At that time one could fairly describe the inn as eclectic and in need of some TLC (tender loving care).  One of the more unusual features then was that the road took a sharpish turn right at the corner of the inn.  If one had a bedroom on that corner (as two of our sons did), it was rather disconcerting at night as felt as if cars approaching from up the hill would crash into the room before passing the front of the hotel to continue down the hill.  Fortunately that feature has now been corrected.

Danseys Pass Coaching Inn, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Danseys Pass Inn has had a major makeover since we last stayed and it now operates as a boutique get-away hotel and a place to hold small conferences and functions.  One of the nice things is that it has all been done in keeping with old character of the place and it makes for a pleasant overnight experience.  A feature of the large lounge is a big open fireplace.  This was very welcome as it was cold and wet outside, with the temperature dropping to 4 degrees C overnight (in the middle of summer!). The lawn you see in the foreground is where the road used to be.

Danseys Pass – the settlement – is located approximately halfway between the pass and Duntroon on the eastern side. Confusingly, however, the historic Danseys Pass Coaching Inn is located on the western side, at the locality known as Upper Kyeburn.

The next day we traveled on to Naseby, and then Wanaka.

Lake Hayes

Lake Hayes, Central Otago

Its a four hour drive from Queenstown in the Southern Lakes District of Central Otago to Dunedin.  The road from Queenstown passes Lake Hayes on the way to the Cromwell Gorge and Lake Dunstan.  After the events of the day before (see yesterday’s post) it was necessary to leave the lakes and mountains to travel to Dunedin Hospital to visit my wife and plan the journey home to Auckland.

The morning was beautiful, just like the one the previous day.  Lake Hayes was unruffled by any breezes and I just had to stop to take some photographs.  I was uncertain as to when we would visit the area again. After nearly four months of rest and physiotherapy since the accident Valerie is now walking – albeit slowly – and we plan to travel back to Wanaka and Queenstown in early February to complete our holiday,  and hopefully see reflections like this again.

Morning View

Roys Peak, Wanaka, Central Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Morning View – Roys Peak, Wanaka, Central Otago

The morning that lead to the events described in the post Life can change in a split second  began with this view from our motel of Roys Peak across Lake Wanaka. It was a lovely crisp morning with a clear blue sky which remained that way all through the day.  What had started as a promising season for snow was ruined by rain after the initial dump, and no really cold southerly fronts had arrived to replenish the Southern Lakes ski fields.  Only light falls of 1-5 cm had maintained the relatively thin snow covering.  There was enough snow to ski on, but not as much as one would normally expect in a good snow year.  In good years the snow would have been well down on Roys Peak (1,578 metres).  Little did we know that morning how the day would unfold.

Red Sky at Night

Red Sky at Night, Tarris Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Red Sky at Night – From the road to Wanaka

It was nearly dark.  As the sun set in the west a bright orange glow lit the clouds over the mountains. A chilly wind blew across the freshly plowed stony land.  Out of the car to quickly capture the image and then retreat once again to the warmth inside. Head on back to Wanaka to takeaway dinner and a bottle of wine with friends.

Threatening Clouds

Pisa Range at Sundown, Tarris, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Pisa Range at Sundown

A westerly front had been building all day and storm clouds had been building over the mountains.  The ominous nature of the weather to come was reflected in the clouds as the sun settled in the west.  Skiers hoped that the threatened weather change would come to nothing, and so it was as the next day brought only periods of thin high cloud over the southern ski fields and only moderate winds.

Western Sunset

Western Sunset, Wanaka, Central Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Western Sunset from the road between Tarris and Wanaka, Central Otago, New Zealand

On our return journey from Tarris to Wanaka in Central Otago the light faded quickly but as the sun sank in the west we were presented with this lovely orange sunset over the Harris Mountains and the Southern Alps.  This type of occasion keeps us coming back to Central Otago, with its snow-capped mountains in the winter and vast dry open plains in the summer.  The dark form on the left of the image is the Pisa Range. Click on the image for a larger view.

Country Road – Tarris

Country Road, Tarris, Central Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Country Road – Tarris, Central Otago, New Zealand

One of the small villages we had always wanted to visit when in Central Otago on our annual skiing holiday was Tarris.  This little settlement has become quite well known in recent times as a food and art and crafts centre.  We visited Tarris late in the afternoon just as the shops were closing for the day so had little time to browse.  About 1 km north of the village we detoured onto a smaller country road and were presented with this lovely view of the Hawkdun Range, known locally as “the Hawkduns”. The foreground is tinged yellow by the late afternoon sun.  Sheep are an important part of the Central Otago economy.

Life can change in a split second

Rescue Helicopter, Cardrona Resort Ski Field, Otrago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Lift Off

This isn’t the greatest photo, is was taken with my mobile phone to record an intermediate step in a day that started out great but  suddenly changed direction.  While dismounting a chairlift at Cardrona Resort skifield near Wanaka in Central Otago, New Zealand, my wife fell and badly fractured her left leg.  This required a 45 minute rescue helicopter ride to hospital in Dunedin.  On board was another skier from the Snow Park across the Cardrona Valley (you can see it in the distance) with a fracture on his right leg in the same place! Needless to say, this has caused a major rearrangement of our lives for the next few weeks as she recovers from a pinning operation and gets used to moving around on crutches. Our special thanks go to the Cardrona Ski Patrol and Westpac Helicopter crew from Dunedin, as well as the staff and doctors at Dunedin Hospital.

It all goes to show, it doesn’t matter what type of camera you have with you, even a humble mobile phone, you can still capture the moment.

Along the Mt Aspiring Road

Travelling back to Wanaka from the end of the road to the Mt Aspiring National Park we passed this sign. The view of the mountain from this point is not as spectacular as the one closer to Wanaka but the mountain tops were still in sunlight and the shadows were lengthening quickly. I had to get the shot before the light was gone. Wispy clouds above the peak add to the atmosphere.

Mt Aspiring sign, Mt Aspiring National Park, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2011

Mt Aspiring that way!

Further along the road towards Wanaka there is a small lake with boggy edges and patches of reeds. The clear blue sky and mountains coloured yellow by the evening sunlight were reflected in the water. I just had to stop to capture this image. Within a few minutes a breeze caused the water to ripple and the reflections were lost.

Reflections - Mt Aspiring National Park, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2011

Reflections - Mt Aspiring National Park

Where the Road Runs Out

This image reminds me of the first two lines of the hymn  “The Dolphin Song” by New Zealand hymn-writer Colin Gibson (WOV 672):

“Where the road runs out and the sign posts end

Where you come to the edge of today…”

End of Wanaka-Mt Aspiring Road, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2011

Where the road runs out and the sign posts end...

It was late in the afternoon when we arrived at the Raspberry Creek Shelter at the end of the public road from Wanaka to Mt Aspiring National Park.  A few cars were parked at the shelter.  Despite “No Camping” signs posted by the Department of Conservation,  a lone tent was  pitched beside the car park.

The grassy valley stretching before us was tinted with yellow highlights from the setting sun.  Returning day-walkers relaxed in their cars preparing for the drive back to Wanaka before darkness made the narrow rutted road beside the Matukituki River more difficult to navigate.

In the distance, nestled against the mountains that rise steeply behind, a small green shepherd’s hut accentuated the isolation of this remote corner of Central Otago.

Raspberry Creek shepherd's hut. Mt Aspiring National Park, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2011

A shepherd's hut nestles beneath steep mountains - A view from Raspberry Creek Shelter - Mt Aspiring National Park

Matukituki Valley

Late afternoon in the Matukituki Valley, 30 km from Wanaka.

Matukituki River Valley at Sunset, Mt Aspiring National Park, Central Otago, Copyright Chris Gregory 2011

Matukituki River

The Wanaka-Mt Aspiring Road to the Matukituki Valley beyond the Treble Cone ski field road is gravel and gets narrower the further you drive up the valley. Bridges across streams are replaced by fords and care must be taken on single-track sections of the road beside the Matukituki River. Climbers wishing to summit Mt Aspiring must leave their cars at the Department of Conservation shelter at the end of the road.

Matukituki River, Mt Aspiring National Park, South Island, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2011

Matukituki River at Sunset near the DOC shelter

The scenery becomes more spectacular as you drive further towards the head of the valley. We had a great time here after 4 days skiing at the nearby Cardrona ski field.

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.

Old Maori Road, Central Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2011

Old Maori Road looking towards the hills behind Bendigo

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.

Lammermoor Range, Cenral Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2011

Lammermoor Range from Old Maori Road

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.

Bendigo, Central Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2011

Bendigo Loop Road, Central Otago

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.

Welshtown, Central Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2011

Cottage at Welshtown with distant view to the Pisa Range

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 Pisa Range, Central Otago, New Zealand

V Formation

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.

Mitchell's Cottage - Fruitlands, Central Otago, New Zealand

Mitchell's Cottage - Fruitlands, Central Otago, New Zealand

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.

Mitchell's Cottage - Fruitlands, Central Otago, New Zealand

Reflections - Mitchell's Cottage Window

Mitchell's Cottage - Fruitlands, Central Otago, New Zealand

Threaded - Stone Fencepost, Mitchell's Cottage

Peeling, Faded & Abandoned

Old Convent - Lawrence, Central Otago, New Zealand

Old Convent - Lawrence, Central Otago, New Zealand

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.

Left in the Shadows, Faded and a bi ragged around the edges - Lawrence, Central Otago, New Zealand

Left in the Shadows, Faded and a bit ragged around the edges.

Auripo Road

In 1979 the New Zealand artist Grahame Sydney produced a painting of some letter boxes on a country corner in Central Otago entitled ‘Auripo Road”.  We came upon this corner by accident  32 years later in February while ferrying family members who were riding the Otago Central Rail Trail.  After delivering them to the site of the old Auripo Station our journey out to the main road between Omakau and Oturehua brought us to the very same junction.  A lot had changed in those 32 years.  The main road is now sealed.  The large wooden power pole at the corner has long since disappeared, as have some of the boxes. A modern concrete post and wire fence now delineates the farm boundary and a few trees have appeared on the distant horizon.  However, the essence of the original painted scene still remains.

This image was taken with a vague memory of the 1979 painting in the back of my mind.  A representation of the original Grahame Sydney painting can be found here.

Auripo Road - Central Otago, New Zealand