22.5. The Pigroot Route and a Lightning Strike

Oops, I forgot to blog this one in order, so it has to be numbered in a half!

From Oamaru, via Palmerston, we reached Ranfurly (where we would stop for several days to bike the Rail Trail), by driving on the Pigroot road which runs through and over the Horse Range. After having seen a lot of hydro dams in past weeks we are now going right away from that, leaving Canterbury and heading into Central Otago and gold mining country instead, with it’s mine tailings and kilometres and kilometres of water races once used to transport water to mining areas! Geographically close, but two completely different geological, environmental and social histories.

In Central Otago, there is now only one working gold mine left which is Macrae’s. It’s further south from where we are on a different road, but we hope to travel that way before leaving this area. Other than that, much of the gold mining was done in the 1800’s and early 1900’s, so is past history.

Back to the Pigroot, this route saw a lot of activity by the early Europeans as it was a main way into gold country. Between about 1865 and 1895 it was used to transport people and gear to support the frenzy of gold mining and was no walk-in-the-park with steep uphills and downhills and lots of mud. It took several days to travel, and horses that found the going too tough and died were pushed over the banks as burial. As soon as the railway was built it quickly became the more popular way to travel and transport goods.

We stayed one night in a freedom camping area at Dunback, where we had a nice walk down the road past a limestone bluff and along a creek.
It looks as though this truck is on permanent rest time although it’s still in nice condition!
This road wall at Dunback is beautifully built from local stone.
The stunningly beautiful Pigroot Road…
…well worth the drive just for the scenery!
In Ranfurly we went into the information centre. They had a film playing about the local area that was in this room, set up to look like a train carriage. Cool!

We drove in to Naseby which is a short drive from Ranfurly. Naseby is famous for it’s year-round ice rink, used for curling. It was late in the day by the time we got there, so we were too late to visit. Someone we talked with later said they visited when it was open but it was sold out. I guess the best way is to book your tickets online – we’ll do it that way next time we’re passing through as it would be fun to have a go.

Behind Naseby lay this dam, built by hand. There were a lot of holiday makers camping, picnicking and swimming.
Around the dam are a lot of walking and biking tracks. We learned that this water race is Naseby’s only source of water, and it’s carried all the way from St Bathans, a distance of about 25 kilometres. I wonder if it ever freezes over in winter? We saw two or three fish swimming and thought they might be small trout.
Yikes! I was asked not to take photos in the museum here, but too late, I had already got one of this horse trampling mud and straw in a circular trench dug into the ground, ready to make into bricks which were then used to build with – I wonder if pubs and hotels were the first to be built!
Maori once inhabited the interior of Central Otago, through the warmer months of each year, to hunt moa and weka, fish, and mine flint. It was also a route through to the pounamu or greenstone fields beyond Lake Wakatipu. This heavy rock, rich in iron and magnesium, was transported on the backs of the early miners through rough and rugged country and used for knapping many different tools. The tools were used both locally and traded further afield – pounamu tools and artefacts have been found all over NZ.
We learned there was once a school of mines in Naseby. Miners asked Professor Black from Otago University in Dunedin to give talks. Over time, Professor Black travelled all around the Central Otago goldfields giving lectures.
There’s a bit of museum outside as well as the inside ones, in the nearby park, showing goldmining relics.
The park contains a variety of non-native trees – some of the early miners, homesick, planted trees from their respective home countries including spruces, pines, cypresses and sequioas.
Wow, the proprietors of both the museum and the information centre told us about a lightning storm just a few short days before – actually at the same time we were experiencing stormy weather in Oamaru. They said it was scary, and it struck this giant redwood (sequoia) and gouged it the length of the trunk, top to bottom. They also said it was lucky there was rain with it or it might have set fires burning as it’s been so dry here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s