Since we drove along the Rakaia and Rangitata Rivers and took ourselves through a few shallow fords, Kevin has made up a new joke which he is telling absolutely everyone he comes across. It’s: what do you get when you cross a ford with an isuzu? (our vehicle is an isuzu). The answer? Wet tyres!
We drove around to see some of the places recommended by the Rail Trail, being St Bathans, Falls Dam, Hyde Engineering and the old Globe Progress Mine.
St Bathan’s was once a thriving township, but is now nearly deserted. There’s still a hotel where you can eat though!
A house built of the schist that’s a feature of the Central Otago environment. This house is no longer used, but is on display for people like us to see.
The village grew because of rich goldfields – this piece of ground was mined and sluiced until it cut so deep it turned into a lake – Blue Lake. They say there’s still gold around that’s mined casually by a few people, but no one knows quite how much. On the other side of the ridge is a mirror image of this scene, also man made, known as Grey Lake.
The Blue Lake is lovely with it’s quartz conglomerate and greywacke cliffs – all carved out by goldminers – and there’s a track that goes all the way around it.
This is where the children of the mining families went to school.
Major wash out! – and not too long ago it seems, leaving a cracked and buckled bridge.
It’s been replaced by this culvert.
We drove up a shingled, narrow and at times steep road to Falls Dam. This one actually wasn’t recommended by the Rail Trail, but we saw it on the map and wanted to see what a Central Otago Dam looks like. Unlike the Canterbury dams which exist to produce power, this one is used only for irrigation of farmland.
A glimpse of the dam – the stored water is all sitting above the highest embankment.
Looking out over the stored water from the highest embankment.
I had been telling Kevin how stunning the Ida Dam was with it’s smooth reflective surface, so of course when we got there it was not playing the game with a coldish breeze ruffling it’s surface. Oh well, he just had to imagine it.
Onwards to Hyde Engineering where we ate lunch in the cafe then on top of that paid $15 each to see the museum which, we agreed later, was worth it, though once would likely be enough!
The engineering ingenuity of Ernest Hayes saw him create pollard cutters (for cutting up baked slabs of poison, bran and flour for rabbit control), and tools and other parts for fencing. By far the most long lasting of his inventions was the wire strainer, used to tighten fencing wire while fixing it to fencing posts. They are still in use today. Ernest was the husband of Hannah Hayes, who left their many children in the care of the oldest, Ernestine, to bike all around the countryside promoting and selling Ernest’s inventions.
Part of the workshop showing the forge.
More of the workshop.
The barn…when the younger children of Hannah and Earnest were growing up, they shifted themselves into the loft of this barn, as the house was too small for everyone. No doubt in winter it was warmer in the loft anyway!
The dairy where milk was strained and cream and butter made. There were real old churns and a strainer in the next room to this one.
Some real cob at last – we’ve been checking different old buildings for this quite a bit. This is the stuff that would have been mixed up by horses like the one I photographed in the museum in Naseby. It would have been dried into bricks, used to build with, then coated in plaster made of smooth wet mud.
The original family home.
The newer and bigger house that the Hayes built after some of their children were grown up.
Our last visit for the day, to the disused gold mining Globe Progress site. Another great little house made of schist.
Wonder what was stored in here?
A view from the top of the mine area. You can see the little house, the shed and the boiler from here.
Near the top of the hill is a popperhead which was used to lower and raise men (just men went down back then) and equipment into and out of the mine.
This is the shaft beneath the popperhead – yikes!
This is a different shaft about 50 metres from the one under the popperhead, so maybe it was a ventilation shaft. It’s well covered over with warning signs to look out for your children in case there are other uncovered shafts around. Seeing how this one is grown over, you can get a picture of how the odd hunter in modern times disappears and is never seen again – some say they fall into old mines such as these. Ugh. Walking back out we saw where the pub used to sit near the road. Guess there was nothing else to do in this remote spot for the miners but socialise with your workmates and drink.