Friday, 27 June 2014

The Vanished World- Fossils & Elephant Rocks

We left Waitaki on a tiki-tour, heading inland on SH83 & running alongside the Waitaki River towards Duntroon. We wanted to check out another NZMCA site for next time we were through this way. This site is at Awamoko and looks like it was a former school or local sports reserve. It’s a large site with plenty of parking although not many would be able to pull onto the grass at the moment, it was boggy & very wet.  The park is a little off the usual routes into the interior but would be handy if planning on driving Dansys Pass or heading to the McKenzie Basin & Mt Cook from the coast near Oamaru. One to keep for a future time.

Next stop was Duntroon, another sleepy little settlement with a spruced up hotel at the heart of the village, very similar to many small country towns that we have come across on our travels.

The Vanished World Fossil Centre is also located in Duntroon, just along the road from the hotel. North Otago & the surrounding Waitaki District are renowned for their striking geological formations & landforms along with the amazing amount of fossils found in the area. 25 million years ago the land around Duntroon, now 400 metres above sea level, was the ocean floor. Extinct marine animals died & left their bones which were fossilised over time.

The Fossil Centre was closed but luckily one of the members (it’s a Society) was doing some work out the back and was more than happy to pass on information & leaflets so we could follow some of the trail.  We took the back road out of Duntroon headed for our first stop, Earthquakes. That’s right, a place called Earthquakes. It was so named because it was once thought the large house size boulders in the valley we are heading to must have been dislodged by earthquakes but in reality, were split away when the land slumped thousands of years ago.

Snow on St Mary’s Range

We found the first site, located in amongst  rolling farmland, parked the ute and climbed up the track to a small valley with large limestone rocks that were scattered about like giant marbles.

I’ve even included my little black stick man to in the photo below to give you an indication of the size of the rocks. Behind the metal screen was the fossilised remains of a baleen whale, it’s such a shame that if the fossils weren’t protected they would have been dug out long ago and dispersed around NZ & the world. It is likely that there are many more bones of this particular whale located within the rock and other fossils around the site.

Just a few kilometres further on from Earthquake are the Elephant Rocks, an amazing collection of weathered limestone rocks in the middle of a sheep paddock.

We could definitely pick out the Elephants along with various other animal forms.

There’s my little stick man again……

And what a surprise to find this little collection of buildings around the corner at the far end of the rocks, something not everybody that visited would see unless the walked to the far end.

I recalled reading that the rocks were used in scenes from “The Chronicles of Narnia” but in fact this set was built for a film “Kingdom Come” which didn’t go ahead because of bankruptcy, hence the reason they are still here; no money to dismantle them. The Rocks have also been used in filming  “The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe”

My stick man thought he might ride the eagle he spotted here. Does he realise how silly he looks? But what a good sport for allowing me to share this with you.,,,,,(even thought he hasn't seen it yet ;)

We found the rocks very interesting and being off the usual tourist route I’m sure not too many people know about them or would visit them.

Next stop & just a couple of kilometres down the road was the Anatini Whale Fossil site, with another Barleen Whale similar to the one at Earthquakes. This valley was also used in The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe.

A short walk across private farmland led us to a small valley with lots of unusual limestone formations & rocks. A climb up a path led to the whale fossil which was under a scratched perspex cover this time and very hard to see.

We were hoping for a sheltered spot where we could have lunch but the ground was muddy & covered in cow pats so we decided on a rocky ledge beside the fossil & overlooking the valley dotted with cattle and a river off in the distance.

This was in the middle of the paddock below, we have no idea what it is, or was, but I’m sure it wasn’t from a movie set even though it looks a little like a Star Wars dalek.

My little black stick man with red lunch bag; heading back to the car to escape the bitter cold wind. The day started out blue & sunny but was fast deteriorating.

We’d had enough of fossil sites & weird rock formations by now so headed off in the direction of Oamaru via Ngapara, where we stopped so I could shoot this abandoned Lodge, built in 1891.

Ngapara would have all of 10 houses clustered together in a cold shady valley along with this Lodge & the following historic flour mill. There really are some grand old abandoned buildings out in the countryside, it’s such a shame that their glory days are long over.

In a weird coincidence, Ngapara (which I’d never heard of until this road trip) was in the news just a couple of days ago, and not good news either. A local sheep farmer had lost over 200 sheep that had been shot dead over two nights by an unknown person or people.

The historic Ngapara Flour Mill, built in 1897


And a then there are the not so grand abandoned homes; seen in a paddock in Ngapara

 ....and on the road near Ngapara



  1. This is certainly a very interesting place to visit - we enjoyed our visit there a couple of years ago. Stayed at the NZMCA park too.

    1. It's great when you find out of the way places isn't it? Glad I'm still jogging memories Jenny :)

  2. You certainly find em!......nice to see the emergence of " Stickman"..... Hope he likes the publicity?

    1. Haha Jimu! Stickman was not a happy chappy but he came round, he had no choice ;)

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