Central Otago 4WD Trip – 2 – 8 December
Trip Leaders: Keith Walter and Ken Hay of Southern Skies Overland Tours

Day 1: by Meg Errington
We began the day in the Wrinkly Ram for the trip briefing from our Southern Skies Overland Tour leader, Ken Hay. Then we were off to the Lindis Pass on a gloomy, drizzly and overcast day. But never daunted, the group had their cameras out making the most of it. We then carried on to Bendigo Historic Reserve where we looked at the old mine ruins and the most amazing flowering manuka I have ever seen. After this we made our way over Thompsons Gorge road with a couple of river crossings and down into the Maniototo.
A photography trip to Central Otago wouldn’t be right if we didn’t visit Saint Bathans to see the wonderful rock formations. It wasn’t the best for photography – too many clouds and too much wind for reflections, but still beautiful. Following this we headed to our base for the next 5 nights at the Ranfurly Motor Camp.


Day 2: by Jane Coulter

 This was to be our most intrepid day, starting at 7am, and having reduced from eight to five vehicles, we travelled through Naseby and up onto the Mt Buster road.  We followed the Little Kyeburn track stopping for our first photos at a couple of small (presumably musterers) huts.  Onward through velvety hills up to the Kyeburn Diggings, which was once New Zealand’s highest altitude gold mine, but now a vast area of white quartz gravel, eroded into towering pinnacles.  The sun appeared at just the right time and the light was amazing.  We stopped as many times as we could but were mindful of the enormous distances we had to cover before the end of the day. There were landscape opportunities everywhere.  After several river crossings, we stopped at Tailings Hut, Guffy Creek, where Dave and Jacqui had a wheel cleared of stones.  Leaving there we dealt with some serious ruts in the road, before zig-zagging up to the high plateau above the rambling gorge.

Stopping at Ida Hut for lunch, we photographed the buildings and the crystal clear stream.  Group photo time at Buster Hut which sits at around 1200m in a vast tussocked landscaped.  Travelling further on up the tussock gave way to gravels and enormous cushion plants hugging the ground.  Then for the descent, high wind, loose gravel, low ratio, and a flat tyre.  These combined, are not for the faint hearted, as Ken our very capable leader proved, as he ran up the slope to help the fourth vehicle.  Finally ready to descend, we carefully made our way down to arrive back at camp precisely 12 hours later, exhausted but exhilarated by the magnificent day we’d had.

JaneCoulter: Day 2


Day 3: by Jocy Wood

Day three got off to a leisurely start after the huge day the day before, and to enable some vital car repairs.

We spent a leisurely morning visiting various historic buildings in the locality.  Some were still functional others abandoned.  Lunch was spent at a nearby reservoir with a very photogenic hide.  The weather turned in the early afternoon, giving way to some very moody photography and then the rest of the afternoon was spent independently exploring or visiting cafes.

Jocy Wood: Day 3


Day 4: by Barry Dench

After last nights rain, as expected we had a wet clay track once we turned off Old Dunstan Road 2 onto Long Valley Ridge Road and thence the  track dropping down through the Serpentine Scenic Reserve to the historic Serpentine Church, our lunch stop.

Compared to the steep grades and sharp bends on the Hawdun Range, notwithstanding some deep wheel ruts and wet spots, it was a relatively easy grade trip in and out. That can’t be said for the track heading east to Linnburn Runs Road- from all reports it’s rugged going. The 3rd access starts at Deep Creek / Lake Onslow Roads to the south.

Kens handout summarises the history of early mining activity and you can imagine the hardship these people endured. Even today, with milder winters, this is a bleak place to be once the southerly hits. The wooden plaque tells the story of the 1st service etc.  It was a delight to visit the church in its appealing tussock hills setting and tick that one off my bucket list.  Shellie Evans blog provides interesting comments- see link below.

https://tikitouringnz.blogspot.com/2016/04/seeking-out-serpentine-part-1.html and https://tikitouringnz.blogspot.com/2016/04/seeking-out-serpentine-part-2.html

A visit to Poolburn Reservoir is a must.  The lake, the rocks, the huts, the open space.  Photo opportunities all around you and if here for sunrise and sunsets another of our special places.  From here we headed back to Ranfurly.  Another enjoyable day and lots of photos were taken.

Barry Dench: Day 4


Day 5: by Bob Wright

Early start his morning – departed the campground at 0615 and drove direct to Paerau with six vehicles in convoy arriving about 0715 to commence the climb up the Old Dunstan Road.  Unfortunately the track to the Rock and Pillar region proved unsuitable for our vehicles as it was too rutted by previous users and the rain on Monday made it too slippery, so we missed the chance to explore the area.  It was suggested to name the turn off as “Disappointment Corner”.

Our plan now wrecked, we cruised the Old Dunstan Road towards Middlemarch taking the opportunity make stops to photograph the landscape as the light changed as well as the occasional wetland.  A brief stop at the Loganburn Dam to record the visit and further stops for a derelict farm house and other points of interest arriving at the Kissing Gate Café for morning tea.  After a brief discussion it was decided to proceed to Nenthorn for lunch via Moonlight Road.  This gave us an opportunity to visit a well-preserved schist farm house and various farm implements.  A quick call to a local farmer resulted in getting permission a visit to a lovely cottage with vertical schist fencing as well as a derelict implement shed that also had a vertical schist animal pens. 

On to capture the remnants of a stone building and Conical Hill arriving at Nenthorn about 1.30 and had lunch.  Some explored the old gold goldfield and a schist building while others did some Macro work on the fauna in the area and were lucky enough to find a sun orchid in the process of opening.  Tasks completed most returned to Ranfurly with a stop at Hyde and other points of interest.  The crew in another vehicle took the opportunity to capture David’s tree at McRaes.  Everyone journeyed to the Waipiata hotel for a group evening meal and prizegiving at which Jackie was awarded for her driving skills in very trying conditions (a manual Mitsubishi Ute) and the Highlander award went to Mark for his repeated infractions.  Thanks extended to Keith and Ken for guiding us to places that we would normally have missed.