Meandering looking at gold mining history and more New Zealand high country

The weather has been so unsettled this summer break, and with this and my son’s part time job, we’ve not done the longer tramping trips I had in mind pre Christmas, however this means we just utilise the camper truck to good advantage and use local weather knowledge to minimise exposure to heavy rain and strong winds.

So a few days ago we travelled an old favourite of mine: the road from Cromwell to Garston, which essentially takes you from Central Otago’s dry golden climate, through serious winter snow high country to pastoral Southland province. The route follows the Nevis valley and involves about 24 river crossings – challenging, if not crazy for a car, but not too serious for a judicially driven four wheel drive.

First stop – to catch a fish…

An hour or two later we’re deep in gold mining history – this was once a gold dredge pond…


With a weather forecast predicting heavy rain I once again thought it wise to get the river crossing out of the way and camp on the saddle above Garston. This was the landscape we woke up amongst…

Before descending we spent a few hours wandering about exploring the unique New Zealand High Country landscape photography potential before the rain came in again. This first photo below is a Spaniard plant – sadly they proliferate where there has been too much burning off at the expense of snow tussock and soil values. They’re unpalatable and the ends of the leaves are like hypodermics…


This lone pine, a noxious weed in this landscape, intrigued me and sensing a photo I hounded it, but did not get the shot I’d hoped for, so interestingly I “let go” of the idea and wandered elsewhere, but coming back the same way I made this “grab shot”, and as is often the case when the mind is freed of labeling and preconceived ideas it turned out to be the one capturing the essence I had in mind…

A very youngNew Zealand Pipit, which I think maybe quite rare, but I’m not sure as they frequent the high snow tussock areas which by nature are very “open”, and I’ve never seen one this close ever before despite all the time I’ve spent in this environment. They can also be mistaken for the Skylark. I did get much closer for more photos, but I like this first one as it shows something of the nature of the bird’s environment…

On the descent, and heading post-haste to the tea rooms that I love to have a coffee at in Athol, the track goes past the old and historic Southland Ski Club hut…


I have a thing about the land forms of this part of Southland – maybe it’s the contrast to the flat land, or maybe it’s because being near The Nokomai there is a genetic link with my ancestors who were born there and frequented the area…

The rain caught up with us so we drove back via Queenstown and got home early to dryer climes. It was the day of the huge and growing annual Challenge Wanaka race, and as Mike a neighbour was one of the helper/organisers he had a drink station opposite the house. The race went on until midnight so we had quite different noises and energy in the neighbourhood for a few hours…

Note: Phil Lloyd commented on posts relating to the Nevis Valley and gold mining, and has since been in touch via email. Here is his story:

“I spent two summer holidays in the 1970’s with Lex Maclean and his parents working a goldmine just after the gorge in the upper Nevis. His parents were quite elderly even then and had moved to Milton after the population in the Nevis had dwindled away but they still came back to work the mine each summer.

I met up with Lex in Clyde last winter and he said they have no photos of those days, despite having many travellers call in and take photos.

I undertook to try to track down some of those photos but have had no luck so far.”

If you can help Phil please contact him:

+64 9 573 0421 or

About this Like Minds Blog Donald Lousley