43. Queenstown, Cromwell, Butcher’s Dam

This blog starts the same day as the last one ends. By the time we reached Queenstown we were over the fords and potholes of the Nevis Valley and back to our usual selves – though Kevin says he went on to suffer from PTSD.

In Queenstown we met up with a friend and ate an icecream or two, then drove back to Cromwell where we were in the middle of a week-long stay. In the dark we photographed the fruit (without including ourselves) after seeing a continual stream of tourists in the daytime taking selfies with it every time we passed. Must be something in it…

We visited Bannockburn where wine grapes are grown and the temperatures can soar above 40 degrees celcius in summer and well below freezing in winter, before driving on to Butcher’s Dam to meet our cousins for a picnic day.

The Earnslaw cruising on Lake Wakatipu full of passengers, Queenstown.
Tourists on the beach, two of many including us!
Still in Queenstown – at Patagonia’s for icecream – nice even in the cold.
Photographing the famous Cromwell fruit after dark on arrival back from our trip to the Nevis Valley and Queenstown.
A water feature near the fruit – this was cool. Children must love having it there to play with!
Early morning over Lake Dunstan – a short walk from where we were staying in Cromwell.
In Bannockburn we found a fossil leaf on a scree by the Inlet.
Butcher’s Dam near Alexandra, looking gorgeous decked out in its autumn colours.
There are walking and moutain biking trails in the hills behind Butcher’s Dam, up towards Flat Tops.
Being in a Central Otago basin the annual temperature where we are parked ranges between 39 degrees celcius in summer and -15 degrees celcius in winter. Brr.
Lots of birds live here at Butcher’s Dam including native grebes, shags and scaups; and the black swan stops in on it’s migratory flights. There are also mallard ducks, Australian coots and Canadian geese.
The lake is kept stocked with rainbow trout for recreational fishing.
Lichen is a plant that’s half fungus, half algae, and each half lives in symbiosis with the other. One species, grimmia pulvinata, grows around here but I couldn’t see it – it’s best seen when it’s raining.
There are several other species of native insects and plants growing nearby that are very rare – some grow nowhere else on the planet. Conservation efforts are promoting their protection and growth, and people are asked to stay on formed tracks and trails. There are a lot of non native plants such as pines, poplars, thyme, briar and gorse, so conservation efforts are also monitoring this to enable natives to grow successfully in spite of them.
Like the Sutton Salt Lake which I blogged a few weeks ago, the low rainfall of this area means salt weathering out of the schist stays on or near the surface of the ground; hence there are a few salt tolerant plants to be found around here that you normally only find by the sea or on Stewart Island – would love to go looking one day!
While our youngest cousins were keen for some downtime on their tablets, us older ones gathered together to watch Janette practising her flying skills on her new drone, ready to use in taking aerial photos. There was an eye lifting moment or two when it was hovering out over the lake but Janette worked out how to bring it back. The landing was near, not in, a large cowpat, so overall she made it look pretty easy – I know who to go to for lessons if I ever want a drone of my own!
The dam gets dry arms in summer so we could cross this part without getting our feet wet. This gave us a shortcut to the track that leads around the dam.
This schist hut was used to store explosives when the dam was being built.
The dam wall.
Upstream from the wall of the dam – not much water flowing! Apparently that’s very normal here where there’s only about 300mm of annual rainfall. The stream does run, but more so in the winter months.
Water being a precious commodity all through Central Otago meant that in places flumes were fixed high up around the sides of rocky mountains to transport water from far places to towns. These were designed by 1800’s engineers who fixed the flumes in place by hanging themselves over the edges of mountains on ropes.
On the other side of the dam, looking back towards the parking area.
These colourful fossilised soils (red, yellow, orange and white) were uncovered by goldminers digging and panning for gold in the late 1800’s. The soils are over 20 million years old and were formed in a warm, moist climate.
Behind these trees hides an old, disused farm that once belonged to Li Bo who arrived in NZ from China in the late 1800’s. He was one of the first people to plant fruit trees in Central Otago and some of his apricot trees are still in place producing fruit.

We had a scrummy lunch and dinner, eating twice on the same pile of food! Thanks for a great day everyone!

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