Allastair Meikle (1985 Yamaha XJ 600) and Roger Hogg (1995
Yamaha XT 600E) completed a trip around New Zealand's scenic South Island.
They chose the more interesting back routes, including three gravelled
Day One: Dunedin to Kurow (320 kms with side trip)
Allastair and I decided that this trip around New Zealand's picturesque
South Island would not be done on the main roads (sure you can see whales
at Kaikoura, penguins at Oamaru and albatross at Dunedin but we had seen
them) but we would instead explore the back country, the majestic mountains
with their untouched beauty.
We followed State Highway 1 north from Dunedin the 55 kms to Palmerston
before turning inland on Highway 85.
The 77 kms to Ranfurly passed all too quickly. This road is also called
the pig route because in the days of Central Otago's gold rush (1861-1870)
the stage coaches came this way and encountered wild pigs. The country
is still pretty wild and back over the first range of hills wild pigs
are still to be found. This is farming country but its steep and snow
covered hills in winter coupled with often long droughts in the summer
make farming a challenge. The road is good with plenty of nice bends to
allow our adrenaline to set and the heart to pump.
About 30 min towards Ranfurly my heart almost failed when a dog appeared
from nowhere and decided he would see just how slow my reactions were.
I grabbed for everything I could find and prepared for a bang and then
a (not so) good long slide down the road.
Fortunately he must have been able to read my mind (or perhaps he heard
what I said) and decided to retrace his steps. I slowed to let my heart
find its rightful position and also in the hope that Allastair might also
slow in case he got tuned up as well.
But no such luck, Ali came barrelling alongside to see what the trouble
was "Well if you haven't seen the dog, you're sure passed him now,
so let's go".
We called into Ranfurly to see the excellent information booth set up
in the old railway station. The railway doesn't go to Ranfurly anymore,
but that story you need to hear from them. A milkshake (my first since
I was a teenager some 35 years ago) refreshed us and after refuelling
we were off to St Bathans some 50 kms away to see the old gold mining
site and lake. About 10 kms of this was gravel road, something that I
am familiar with but not so happy when a grader is up ahead. My fully
laden bike ducked and dived through the thick loose metal (gravel).
From St Bathans we doubled back towards Ranfurly again and then turned
left to Naseby. This quaint little town also has a gold mining history
and more recently timber has provided a number of jobs. The shops are
old and filled with old relics of the past. It fills with visitors in
the summer as its temperature roars and in winter they come to ice skate
on the frozen ponds.
From Naseby we sort out the route over Dansy's Pass. We guess that it
is about 50 kms over the mountain range so as the day is drawing to a
close we decide to refuel again.
After a little while we came to a magnificent stone building. It's low,
stone, and it seems to curve with the flow of the hills under which it
sits, and it is right on the edge of the road. It imposes upon the traveller
and says "You can't possibly drive past me, I'm far too beautiful
to ignore, you had better come in and have a look around and of course
we eat and drink while we are there.
It's another relic of the golden age and last month (June 2000) some
floor renovations revealed a cache of gold nuggets that a former inhabitant
had hidden away to be retrieved at a latter date. I wonder why he never
went back for them, perhaps he got swept away in a flood or did he just
freeze to death in this isolated place?
The pass is a picture. The river winds down the steep valley, bouncing
off rocks as it goes. I glance over the edge and decide that this is as
close as I want to get.