After another unhurried morning at the hotel, we wandered a bit more through Queenstown before deciding to head out to Dunedin, on the east coast. It was raining and a bit chilly when we left and I wondered what sort of scenery was on offer for the next few hours. I had spent a fair amount of time agonising over which road to take – as you can see above, either route is much the same length. I honestly couldn’t make up my mind. I scoured Trip Advisor, I read message boards and I still could not figure it out. As I got to Alexandra, where you have to decide one way or the other, I still wasn’t sure. I ended up taking the one that headed north a bit – it seemed to have more towns along the way and I was comforted by that. I don’t like to take chances on things when you’re travelling with two small children!
Speaking of which, we had to turn Pepper’s car seat around to forward-facing for the last couple of days of the trip, she was getting quite distraught at nap time when she couldn’t see or be near me. Once we turned her around and she realised she wasn’t alone, we barely heard a peep from her. Except when she sang to herself and gave us the biggest grins a six-month-old baby can give. NAW.
Our first detour from the main highway was to Ophir (it was meant to be Clyde, but we missed the turnoff), a town of only 50. It is tiny, a handful of buildings along the main street and a couple of houses. And this incredible 1870s bridge that is along the gravel track into town.
We had a quick beer/juice/breastfeed (depending on which family member you were) at the art deco Blacks Hotel before stopping along the main drag to take some photos of the original buildings from the gold rush era, carefully preserved and very much loved.
The Post and Telegraph Office is a Category 1 historic place and is registered with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. It was teeny-tiny. I desperately wanted to go inside but I didn’t think anything was open!
We didn’t stay long, the clouds still threatened overhead and we still had quite a long drive to Dunedin. But not before I told Veggie Dad he needed to take yet another detour to yet another historic township, this time the slightly-bigger Naseby.
Homeboy was incredibly patient with my pathological need to photograph every old building in existence.
Anyway, Naseby was pricelessly gorgeous, with just about every house in sight was a different little gingerbread cottage. The 19th century stone buildings that made up the central township were amazing to see. The Black Forest surrounds the town and makes it feel unbelievably secluded, especially when you’re driving through it. Again, the town itself had such a time-capsule feel. It was so quiet. This was the only person I saw in the whole town. Veggie Dad randomly drove down the road to the cemetery, I think he was wondering if we had time to make a black metal filmclip with him as the long-haired, goblet-clutching, growling frontman in amongst the tombs. It certainly was incredibly atmospheric, the cemetery was even more secluded in a patch of deep forest, with the mist rolling in over the tops of the trees and blanketing everything in serious eerieness.
It’s so amazing to think that more than a hundred years ago this town so far away from anywhere was a thriving community of thousands. They lived, worked and died here and filled the cemetery over the years. Now there are about 100 people who live in the town and I don’t think anyone gets buried here any more. These graves are all sort of stuck in time.
Some clever person took a bunch of old mining paraphernalia from the era and made some very cool art outside their home. It is not unusual in these areas to see a random abandoned old miner’s wagon where you least expect it, and I saw a few stone miner’s huts in the hills along the highway. Everything is just left as it was all those years ago.
We didn’t stay long in Naseby, rather we left the way we came and stopped a little bit further down the road in Ranfurly for a toasted sandwich and a loo break. I got caught up in one of the antique stores there and thought for a good fifteen minutes about whether I could fit a wrought-iron child’s chair in my already over-stuffed suitcase. The answer was no. I was devastated.
The rest of the drive was spent quietly as the girls were asleep, so there was plenty of time to look out over the sheep farms and beautiful scenery. There are so many dilapidated wooden sheds and buildings in gorgeous rustic settings, I honestly could have stopped the car every five minutes to take photos. I read later that a lot of the properties were abandoned in the great depression – people literally just walked off their farmland, never to return. Nobody has either fixed the buildings nor torn them down, and they serve as a reminder that there were once pioneering people who worked hard on the land to make a living, often building these kinds of structures themselves. It’s quite sad to see them in such a state of disrepair. I find it all so very fascinating… in case you couldn’t tell!
The clouds got lower and lower and the rain beat a steady beat almost all the way to Dunedin. Where one road terrified me probably more than any road ever has before!
More photos of Day 4 are here.
Day five is here.
*NB – this was a self-funded trip.