Category Archives: Central Otago

Settling down at Lowburn

It has been a busy week with huge temperatures for Cromwell with us sitting amongst the trees at Lowburn.

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Our spot at Lowburn

Sunday finally arrived and this was the day Helen and her good friend Glenys were arriving in Queenstown, picking up a rental car and heading to Helen and Robs new house in Lowburn Valley.

The tenant had moved out and Helen was setting it up ready for Christmas.

Rafe in front of the house plugged in. The visitors area on the very left.

They have had a Barn built next to the house for their new Autotrail Tracker and bits and bobs, and on the side of that is a Motorhome Plug for their friends in their Motorhomes.. yippee, thats us !

Rafe in front of the new Barn

While we were waiting for Helen and Glenys to arrive, our friends in Cromwell, Ross and Karen who moved here 15 or so years ago, rang us earlier and said they’d pick us up from Lowburn Harbour to join them down at the Historic Precinct for a cup of coffee.  It was nice to see Ross and Karen at their home  and  after a short while, we walked down the road to the Precinct. It was nice to see all their friends, some we had met before and hadn’t seen for a while.

The Historic Precinct

After a couple of hours, Ross dropped us off back to Lowburn Harbour and while we were there, Helen and Glenys pulled up too ! A chance for Helen and Glenys to meet with Ross which was great.

The shops down at the Historic Precinct

We packed Rafe for a move and headed around to Helen and Robs new house in the valley only a few K’s away and settled Rafe down again. The guest area by the Barn area is still to be concreted so I set Rafe up with blocks to level up with.

Glenys and Fiona after a huge walk over on of the local hills
Helen glued to the phone organising furniture and things.

Over the next few days, we did a few trips around to check out Cromwell and Bannockburn including a trip with Fiona’s niece Jessa, who came over from Queenstown for the afternoon and we went wine tasting at Mt Difficulty. I knew the Mt Difficulty Chardonnay was amazing so just went for a glass rather than the tasting and I wasn’t disappointed!

One of the props at Mt Difficulty

After that we headed back to Lowburn for a late lunch.

Our special lunch after the wine tasting back at home with Jessa

Helen and Glenys only had four days here so on their last day after they had left and we’d said goodbye, Fiona and I decided to bike into Cromwell’s historic precinct from the Lowburn valley, about 18 k’s round trip. A bad call as the heat that day broke all the records and was 33C at 4pm. We were back by then but it was stinking hot!

Fiona on the bike ride on the way back to Lowburn alongside Lake Dunstan

We had a fun week with Helen, Glenys, Jessa and Ross and Karen and their friends. More to come.

The boat club down by the NZMCA park

It is Ross’s birthday at the end of the week and all our old boating friends that we used to spend Christmas with out in the Hauraki Gulf, over many years, are flying down to join in so it should be fun.

The Hoedown

Country music isn’t really our thing but I was really keen to check out the Hoedown so we decided to spend a night there and see what it was all about.

After spending a few days at Lowburn, we went into Cromwell town for supplies and while Fiona went for a walk, I popped in to see my old friend Ross who’s celebrating his 70th at the end of the week.
I haven’t seen Ross for several years so it was nice to see him and he had lots to talk about. He’s a writer and had some deadlines so after 20 minutes or so, I headed for the Hoedown.

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Parking was easy. There were two chaps with Hi Vis vests on directing the traffic into parks very efficiently and I slipped into a park where I could easily get out in case I had to pick up Fiona. She was walking to the racecourse from Cromwell, about 2k.

Inside the tent

We were aware that old Caravanning friends, Henny and Rory from Christchurch were going to the Hoedown and we thought this would be a great opportunity to catch up them as we had missed them a couple of times.

Under the mountains

The official statistic for the Motorhomes and Caravans was 140 on the Friday when we were there.

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A lot of Motorhomers and Caravanners and there was plenty of room for more!

The Bus corner

It was a very festive scene and everyone seemed to be enjoying the moment  I went for a walk around the park on the first day and it was a great scene.

The big Marquee

Later in the day, Rory called and we joined both Rory and Henny in their Leisureline Caravan for a few cups of coffee and a catchup. It was nice to see them again.

Keeping Cool

After a cuppa in the morning with them both, we headed back to the side of the lake at Lowburn.

Rafe’s track to the Hoedown

The Kawerau Gorge Gold Diggings

We’ve always wanted to check out the Gold Diggings Museum on the side of the Kawerau Gorge.

Rafe in the carpark in Kawerau Gorge

After parking Rafe in their huge carpark, Fiona and I crossed their bridge across the Kawerau river and checked in for a guided tour of the Gold mining area there.

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The bank

The whole gorge was a really intensive gold mining area. The cost is $25 per person whether you go guided or unguided. Why would you not take the tour thought I for the same price ?

One of the old traction engines in the field

The tour guide Bruce was great. A fantastic sense of humour and knew everything there was to know about the area and Goldmining. There were 8 on our tour and after explaining the history and some interesting facts on the geology and seeing some nice pieces of Gold, we were off.

On the way to the Stamper Battery

The first thing we were to see was a full working water powered stamper battery. Amazing that water has that much power and these were put togthether with some pretty rudimentary tools.

The Water powered Stamper Battery

Bruce also showed us the sluicer in action again from gravity fed water. Amazing the power and pressure.

Bruce showing us the sluicer

After this, we could have a go at panning for Gold. No nuggets were found by us this day 🙂 but it was fun having a go !

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After this, we headed off on the track to look at the Chinese mining village up on the hill. Amazing that they lived in these conditions for months at a time and it must have been cold in winter.

Chinese miners huts

We also saw some tunnels, some mines and a water powered air compressor for breaking up rocks.

The Chinese village

As we walked back down towards the carpark we saw a building all set up as a bank for the Goldminers.

A great setup and we really enjoyed learning about the Gold and the history of the area.

Rafe’s track to the Gold Diggings

On the edge of the lake

There aren’t too many motorhomers who don’t know about Lowburn Reserve on the side of Lake Dunstan and how nice it is. It is just north of Cromwell on the main road through to Wanaka.

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Our View

Leaving Omakau, Fiona decided she hadn’t had enough riding so she started off on the bike towards Alexandra while I went to the Omakau dump station and did the filling and emptying and then headed off to Alex.

About an hour or so later, I met Fiona at the old Station carpark on the bike trail and we had lunch.

Jeff and Sheryl’s Bus
In front of Jeff and Sheryl

With the sun shining and the forecast for fine weather well into the distance, we thought Lowburn would get be a good spot to stay. We had about 3 days before Helen and Glenys arrived from Auckland to get Helen and Rob’s house ready for their retirement sometime late next year.

Nice !

On our first night here, I bumped into Jeff and Sheryl who I had met in Kaiteriteri who was waiting for the Hoedown to start at the racecourse.

Mountains behind

Every night we met someone new which was great. Mostly friendly South Islanders.

Rafe tucked in

We have stayed here years ago when we had our little caravan wee Rafe.

Clean loos too

Its a great spot and its free. A fantastic place to stay.

Rafe’s track to Lowburn

The dusty track from Lauder

While we were in Tekapo with our neighbours, Ray and Margaret who have been living in their bus for the last 4 ½ years or so, we found out that we had probably missed the best part of the Rail Trail while we were in Ranfurly. We had a few days up our sleeve before catching up with Helen in Lowburn so we decided to spend another couple of nights at one of our favorite stops in Central Otago, the Omakau Hotel.

The Omakau Hotel is well setup for Motorhomes with a whole set of Ensuite cabins and concreted Motorhome parks out behind the Hotel. See my previous blog on this.

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We were travelling from the NZMCA park in Cromwell so it wasn’t that far.

Getting ready at Omakau behind the Hotel

We used the time to have a good tidy up. Vacuuming and washing Rafe inside and out! The only problem is that the fresh water in these parts has a high level of calcium which dries on as water spots.. ugly! At least it was clean 🙂

At Omakau

The next morning, we up early and set off on the bikes to Lauder on the bike trail. The first bit to Lauder was slightly uphill but barely noticeable. There were a couple of bridges but it was largely a dead straight track across open fields most of the way to Lauder.

Arriving at Lauder

We stopped briefly at Lauder for a couple of sandwiches which we took with us and a glass of water.. the last of the big spenders !

Viaduct 1

From here is was a slight uphill grind up to the hills until we came to a curved viaduct crossing a river which was amazing. We stopped here for a look then headed onto some amazing tunnels which had to be walked through.

Real lord of the rings type of landscape

Both tunnels were reasonably short. We continued a slight climb through a really rocky Central Otago landscape to cross the main Viaduct.

The first Tunnel

From here we were on the edge of the Ida Valley and could pretty much see right down towards Ranfurly.

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Amazing view. Apparently this Viaduct took three years to build and the workers lived up here in the hills in little shacks. It must have been pretty unpleasant. There are some great signboards which give you the history as you go along.

Viaduct 2 took three years to build.

It was sandwich time before heading back to Lauder. We’d done the bits we missed !

Viaduct 2 with the Ida valley behind

The ride was great and it was nice to see the Tunnels and Viaducts that we had missed. We worked out that we did approximately 36k’s there and back.

On the way back to Tunnel 2

This was the easy bit. Feet up downhill really all the way back to Omakau. We stopped in at Lauder for a cuppa and something else to eat before heading back to Omakau.

In the tunnel

While we were in Lauder having a cup of coffee, I received a phone call from my old neighbour, Terry. He was on the road on his way to Alexandra and was keen to catch up.

Fiona nearly back at Lauder

We arranged to meet at Omakau and we had not long been back when he arrived armed with a bottle of Chardonnay and some cheese and biccies.

On the way back to Omakau

It was really nice to see Terry and we ended up having Tea at the Omakau Hotel which was great.

Art Deco on the Rail Trail

I used to joke with my old friend Gary who lived here, about Rantartica but over the 4 days we spent in the new NZMCA park here in Ranfurly, the temperature ranged during the day between 24 and 26 degrees every day. Beautiful blue skies with only one morning with a bit of drizzle.

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The NZMCA Park in Ranfurly

Stunning weather and a lovely town.

Rafe with the awning out in the heat of Ranfurly

The people are really friendly and the buildings are amazing.

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Around the time of the war, the town was struck badly by a string of suspicious fires where a significant number of iconic buildings were burnt to the ground.

Once the tea rooms, now a museum.

At the time, money was scarce and the cheapest and quickest way to replace them was to do the Art Deco style. The town is blessed with these lovely old buildings with some real class.

The famous Ranfurly pub

The drizzly day we had was when the town had its market day at the railway station and it was just great to see the whole town come out to play, even in the dreary weather. It was only shortlived and an hour two later, there was brilliant sunshine again.

The entrance to the park

We were originally only going to stay for two nights but its such a great place to stay so we stayed for four! The NZMCA park is right in the middle of town and is huge.

Looking down the road to Dunedin towards the St Bathans mountains

We’ll definitely be staying here again.

Rafe’s track to Ranfurly

A Bike ride to Wedderburn

We were staying at the NZMCA park at Ranfurly which is huge and virtually right in the middle of town. There is a dump station right next door along with recycling.

On our first night there, we met up again with David and Therese from Papamoa who we bumped into while we were looking at Ophir. It was nice to see them again.

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The NZMCA Park. Dave and Therese’s caravan on the left. Rafe on the right.

The next day saw an excellent day for weather, little wind, about 25C and we were ready to go. My old mate Gary who used to live here for a few years with his wife Chris, had recommended that we head up to Wedderburn as its only 9k’s and although its a slight uphil run all the way, we would love coming back after a beer at the Wedderburn pub 🙂

Starting off at Ranfurly Railway Station

Sounded like a great idea to me! Gary and Chris moved down here a few years ago and setup a B&B just on the outskirts of the town but have now moved to the warmer climes of Ruakaka to be closer to their adult children.

We left the Ranfurly Railway Station right on 10am and off we went. It was really easy riding for most of the way. The only impediment in some parts was watching places where there was extra gravel that could slip under the wheels but the surface generally was easy.

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There are a couple of huts along the way for a breather along with historical information. One has a loo slightly off in the trees but its there !

Fiona heading for Wedderburn

I didn’t look at the watch when we arrived but it was lunchtime so after some water and a cup of coffee in the pub, we had lunch which was fantastic.

The Wedderburn Tavern

I think her name was Sheryl (not sure) but she and her husband are selling after running the pub for 17 years ! They are moving to a new lifestyle place North of Auckland so that’s a big change for them. They have done a great job with their Wedderburn Tavern. It looks fantastic.

Great Countryside

We set off on our bikes and with minimal pedalling, were back in Ranfurly in time to tidy up and to meet up with David and Therese for a drink at the end of the day. Its great riding and Gary hit the nail on the head for a ride from Ranfurly. Its a lot of fun and even for someone like me. We both found it easy on an ordinary bike.(Not electric!)

Val’s Park Over Property.

When we met Stan and Sara in the Catlins NZMCA park, Stan who is from Alexandra said, that we had to make sure we stayed at Vals POP.

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Rafe parked with power

Val and her husband Russell have been hosting NZMCA’rs since the early 1990’s and she is one of the earliest POP’s in the NZMCA bible. They’re both really nice people and their property is just superb with some power points and a complete Shower and Toilet setup setup in the corner.

In the next paddock

There is even a shed for happy hour on one side and it is beautifully quiet down a long right of way.

Part of the amazing garden

Pam and Bob from Dunedin were there in their Caravan and they’ve been helping with some of the gardening and maintenance. The gardens are spectacular.

Great driveway

We popped in to check in for a park briefly early in the afternoon and then went for a nosey around Clyde. Its a great wee town with a great cafe in the old BNZ building wher we had these amazing date cakes along with a cup of coffee.

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After a quick look at the Clyde Dam, we headed back as there were only three power points left at Vals and its first in, best dressed for $12 a night.

Clyde Dam

We joined in with the others there in the corner shed in the sun for a few drinks with cheese and biscuits as you do.

A great place to stay and we’re looking at heading back there to have a decent look around Alexandra and Clyde.

Rafe’s track to Vals

Simon and Kath’s Bus

We met Simon and Kath at the happy hour shed at Vals POP just outside Clyde. They’ve been there off and on since November last year while they work to finish off the bus before their travels start this summer. They originally came from Invercargill so know the area well.

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Simon and Kath

They bought the bus last October from a couple of chaps in Clyde and it sounds like they bought well. Its a 1998 Hino Blue Ribbon A Class probably coverted to a Motorhome in the 90’s in Christchurch. It is powered by a Volvo V8 diesel which is in great shape.

The living space

Simon had a background in Classic Cars and is very capable with a crescent spanner and a scewdriver and has lots of good plans, which include new wheel rims and finishing off the paintwork.

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The battery bank is all housed tidily in one locker on the side and looks impressive. All the hatches down the sides are all well kitted out with everything any Motorhomer could want with sliding drawers and lift up covers. Great Storage.

Galley

The inside furnishings are all leather and he has a couple of TV’s nicely positioned partly in a great drinks cabinet and one in the bedroom.

Some Tui’s next door

They’re really looking forward to getting away over summer in it once they’ve finished the new work. A lovely Motorhome with tons of room.

Lakeside

Pinders Pond would have to be one of the most beautiful parking spots in Central Otago. Its also free and is an easy 5k’s to Roxburgh by the most amazing bike trail right next to the Clutha river.

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Lots of space

After leaving the Gold Cottages campsite and saying goodbye to Lloyd and Kate, we headed down the road about 6k’s to Pinders Pond.

Is that a reflection ?

When we arrived, were a few Motorhomes and two Caravans there so we just plonked ourselves on the grass and had lunch.

Close to the bike trail

About an hour later, the place literally cleaned out and the Motorhomes all left and we moved back to a flatter spot closer to the Caravans.

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There is a bike trail which goes right up to the Roxburgh bridge and beyond one way and I think it goes to Millers Flat and beyond the other way. It is very easy riding and we were off. It took us about 20 minutes or so to get to Roxburgh so we celebrated with a cup of coffee in one of the cafe’s there before riding back.

Fiona nearly at Roxburgh
Roxburgh bridge

A lovely spot. Thanks to several people for recommending it.

Rafes Track to Pinders Pond