Time’s moving on, and we have been moving too. After spending six nights at Mosgiel in Dunedin over Christmas, we stayed at Tuapeka Mouth, the Lignite Pit, and have finally made in down to the deep south in Invercargill for New Year. Alice, our cute little pet camel from the Ghan Railway in outback Australia, has been traveling with us. She is very quiet, and has been absolutely no trouble at all while we have been on the road. I expect she spends her time looking out the window hoping to find other camels, but she will have no luck here in New Zealand, unless we take her to the zoo!
Alice, our little camel
Stitching has almost been a non event lately, obviously I’ve been much too busy doing sight-seeing as we move around. And we certainly have seen some interesting sights. Such as this old historic sod house, built in the 1860s, just along the road from Milton. 100 years later, the old cottage was derelict and the South Otago Historical Society undertook restoration, with financial help from individuals and local businesses. The project was completed by May 1970 with living and bedroom furniture in place. I loved the old furnishing of the time and the vintage sewing machine.
Old sod cottage and furnishings
Tuapeka Mouth was an interesting place to stay out in the country, with the bonus being a ride on the historic punt. People and goods first crossed the Clutha River on rowing boats, and the community agitated for a punt to cross the river more safely. Built at the cost of 333 pounds, and was officially opened on 22nd February 1896. It was a huge success and carried 336 passengers and 255 horses in the first month of operation.
Terry operates the Tuapeka Mouth Ferry (The Punt), which is the only one of its kind in the southern hemisphere using the flow of the river to cross from one side to the other and back. To control the ferry, two heavy wire cables across the river (one upstream and one downstream) are permanently attached, and the craft is powered across the river solely by water current pressure against its rudders, attached to the rear of the pontoon hulls. This historic ferry generally crosses the 130 metre width of the river in about 4 minutes. And it is free for both cars and passengers!
Enjoying our ride on the punt
Our next stop was at the Lignite Pit and Café, which also has a small camping area on the property. Lignite is the lowest quality of coal, and lignite coal deposits were first worked in 1904, tunneling to start, then the mine progressed to open cast mining. A pump was necessary to deal with the oncoming water in the pit, but when mining became uneconomic, the business closed in 1971, the pump was turned off and water filled the pit.
Views of the former open cast mine, now a pretty lake
Transformation of the large ugly hole started in 2004, when the owners got in a digger and started to remove the rubbish from the flooded lignite pit. Seven years of hard work and love later, they have transformed the disused lignite pit into the nature friendly habitat is it today, a beautiful serene place, with plenty of water fowl in the lake, and resting on the banks. A group of young swans were making quite a racket as the busily flapped their wings on the lake, practicing their takeoff technique perhaps?
We spent a day exploring some of the Catlin area, and walked through farmland to get to Slope Point, which is the most southerly point on the South Island, and is 7kms further south than Bluff. THere were tourists everywhere, all waiting to have their photo taken at the sign.
At Slope Point
We traveled on to Curio Bay, the home of a petrified forest. At low tide petrified stumps and fallen trees can be viewed, due to a disaster which happened a mind boggling 180 million years old during the Jurassic period. The forest was killed suddenly by an eruption of volcanic ash, with the ash forming the hard sandstone beds in the cliff edges. Eventually the sandstone strata were cut back by sea action, to reveal the broken logs and stumps still in their original positions. Luckily our visit coincided with low tide. It is a bit hard to make them out, and you have to get quite close to see the woodgrain on the fallen logs.
Petrified stumps and logs at Curio Bay
And last but by no means least, do you know that New Zealand has it’s own tiny version of Niagara Falls. They were so named by a surveyor who had seen the mighty Niagara Falls and named these small falls after them as a joke. They are really just a trickle, and people come from far and wide to look and wonder – or perhaps to snigger!
Niagara Falls, New Zealand style
We couldn’t be traveling in the deep south without trying some world famous in New Zealand Southland Cheese Rolls, could we. These tasty little rolls are filled with oohey gooey melted cheese, and all South Island cooks think their own version is the best! I even make some myself at home, from time to time, and they really are rather tasty snacks.
Toasted Cheese Rolls for lunch