By the time we were ready to leave Clyde the weather had cleared & we were back to a beautiful sunny autumn day again. We have been very lucky with the weather since leaving Invercargill back in January (after having nearly 5 weeks of wind & rain there over summer). We’ve had the odd day of heavy rain but mostly just a little overcast & drizzly for a couple of days & then back to lovely sunshine. It is getting cold though, especially in the mornings and usually after an overcast day when it’s snowed up on the ranges. You can see there’s a layer of snow up on Old Man Range behind the 5th wheeler in the photos below.
On the main highway at Fruitlands, between Alexandra & Roxburgh, there was a historic stone cottage that I had wanted to have a look at. Except it wasn’t on the main road it was up a narrow gravel side road. We always approach narrow side roads with caution because we never know if there will be an opportunity to turn around. I’m not sure why, but David was quite confident we’d be ok when he turned into the road. I didn’t hold out much hope, there was nowhere on the flat & then the road started to climb steadily towards the range. On a sharp corner we met a guy coming down, he pulled into a spare space on the verge with eyes the size of saucers when he saw us. David wound down his window to ask him if there was a turning point anywhere up there. He laughed & said yes there was but he wasn’t sure whether we’d be able to turn & “man that is huge!”. No problems said David. And it wasn’t. Try doing this with the same size (9mtr) caravan.
Mitchell Cottage was built by gold miner Andrew Mitchell for his brother, wife & their 10 children. He began the project in 1880 but didn’t complete the job until 1904 (I bet because he had to keep adding rooms). The cottage is a Catergory 1 Historic place and is one of the best surviving examples of a stonemason’s craft in NZ (which Mitchell learnt from his father in the Shetland Islands) The cottage stands amongst large schist tors overlooking the beautiful Fruitlands Valley. Andrew even carved into one schist rock, a large sundial.
Mitchell Cottage isn’t the only old dwelling in the area. There are many abandoned and derelict cottages dotted around the landscape including this former rabbiter’s sod cottage on the main road.
The landscape is pretty impressive between Alexandra & Roxburgh, not only is the land covered in giant schist rock formations but the steep rocky gorge walls of the Clutha River are solid schist too. This is the top of Lake Roxburgh, which is, once again the dammed Clutha River. You can also see the recently opened (Oct 2013) 44km Roxburgh Gorge Cycle Trail weaving its way along the cliffs.This cycle trail runs from Alex to the Roxburgh Dam & includes a 12km jet boat ride in the middle (I guess the walls are too steep for the track) If I was so inclined this would be the one cycle trail I would definitely do. The scenery is AMAZING & the jet boat ride would seal the deal!
We left the main road and crossed over the deserted Roxburgh Dam wall. “No Stopping” signs didn’t prevent me from leaping out of our slowly rolling rig to take a photo or two.
Further down the Clutha and not far past the bridge back to the Roxburgh township we located our next camp site, Pinders Pond with its beautiful reflections.
And in keeping with all the gold mining history we’ve been encountering lately, Pinders Pond was an old hydraulic elevation pond (dredge hole) used in the second gold rush period in this area. At the Gold Rush peak there were up to 30 dredges working the Clutha from where the dam now is down to Millers Flat, a distance of only 25kms.
The pond which is just a few steps from the Clutha River, is now a popular picnic & swimming spot, although I didn’t like the look of the tree & weed debris I could see in the depths. Pinders Pond is also a popular free camping area where, as long as you are self contained, you can stay for up to 4 nights. We stayed for three and had the place to ourselves for two of those nights.
Once we had set up camp we drove into Roxburgh to check the town out. Roxburgh is famous in NZ for it’s fruit growing; hot dry summers & crisp cold winters are perfect for growing fruit especially apricots & cherries although apples & pears are also grown in abundance too.
My all time favourite canned fruit is Roxdale Apricots, and when I heard the factory was going to stop canning locally grown apricots in Roxburgh back in the early 2000s, I bought about a dozen cans of apricots to ease the pain of losing that distinctively sweet apricot flavour forever. After slowly working my way through eleven of the cans I kept hold of the last can for another few years, not wanting to end the era. I finally opened that can just before we shifted out of the house in 2011 (when I was packing up the pantry). It had long expired & the tin had started to break down inside so while I had a quick sip of that unmistakable sweet Roxdale apricot syrup & a nibble of a slightly discoloured apricot half I wasn’t game to eat the whole can. I even took a photo of the occasion for posterity!
The main road in and out of Roxburgh is lined with fruit orchards and dozens of old ramshackle & quaint roadside stalls which I know in summer would be packed with delicious fruit for sale. There were still a few stalls selling apples & pears. I wanted a photo of the orchard colours, the rows of trees were in the last stages of losing their autumn colour and when I couldn’t find the ideal spot to get an expanse of colour, David suggested we drive up the range behind and see if we could look down on the town at some point along the road.
The road was actually a dirt 4WD track called “The Bullock Track” that followed an old pack track up through private land to the Old Man Range behind the town. The views were stunning but unfortunately the weather was closing in again and the sun had left the valley floor. This is looking towards the Roxburgh Dam.
As we were winding our way up the track, I suddenly spotted a set of antlers silhouetted against the light. This wasn’t a deer paddock (which has high fences), it was planted out in stock feed, so we’re pretty sure he wasn’t a farmed deer. The roar had probably brought him down from the range to try his luck with the girls in town. At least he had a decent food supply but I’m not sure how he was going to get out over the netting & barbwire fence. He was very alert and had moved out of the thicket below a rock overhang where I’d first spotted just his antlers above the scrub. He moved off out of sight not long after I took these. David wanted me to climb over the barb wire fence and creep up on him to take some close ups. I decided I didn’t like the look of those antler spikes (nor the barbwire spikes)!
As we climbed higher the town and the orchards came into view, unfortunately the light was fading and I couldn’t pick up the colours too well. But you can still see the many squares of orchard colour nestled along the river terraces.
Never mind, the next day I managed to get some good close up orchards shots.
Finally we were just about above the town, the views down the Teviot Valley were spectacular and across to the high country farmland on the other side, high country that we’d get to see close up in a few days time.
It was about now that the cloud rolled in and it began to rain. Also, the track had become deeply rutted in places, spongy & wet, with muddy bogs here & there so we decided this “shiny” had gone far enough and turned around and headed for home. We were amazed when we caught up to a “people mover” on the way down, they hadn’t quite made it up to where we had but had travelled a fair distance. It was a local family & they were collecting mushrooms!
We stopped on the way down to see if we could spot the deer again & sure enough he gave himself away, this time a side view of those antlers and now we can see that he is a Fallow deer. Amazing to think that without the antlers he would be invisible to passing traffic. I just hope a hunter doesn’t spot him.
We arrived back at the Pond, pleased to see “Out There” parked up safe & sound and waiting for us after another great afternoon exploring.