Friday 17 March 2017

Cavalcade 2017 - Omakau, Part 1; The Approach


We've now in Ranfurly after an fabulous 12 days at Poolburn Dam. We had a great time relaxing and doing a little exploring (I won't mention the fishing). We left yesterday morning and had a great run down the Ida Valley to Ranfurly where we sweltered through the afternoon on what must have been the hottest day Central Otago has seen this summer. 

I know there are a few people out there waiting for the blog posts on the Cavalcade; I'll post a link to my Flickr Cavalcade album at the bottom of Part 2 if you'd like to see even more photos (I took plenty!). And don't forget to click on these photos to enlarge them, click your back arrow to get back to the blog.

We left our spot on the banks of the Manuherikia River Thursday afternoon and headed to the Omakau Racecourse where the local NZMCA Clutha Valley branch were in charge of organising the motorhome parking in the centre oval of the racecourse. 

This year was the 25th Goldfields Cavalcade, and riders, walkers and wagons had spent the week riding across some of Otago's high-country properties heading towards the finish at Omakau. Nine trails- 3 walking, 4 riding and 2 wagon- set out from various locations and were due to arrive at the racecourse for the grand parade on Saturday. Each year the Cavalcade finishes in a different town and this year was Omakau's first visit (next year it's Owaka in the Catlins).

I'd checked out the trail itineraries hoping to maybe locate one or two to photograph as they approached Omakau but unfortunately most of them were across private land and it would have been hard to locate them anyway, as there weren't any times. Obviously. 

One trail started at Lake Ohau, one at Kurow, one in the Lindis Valley and one at the Stix in the Maniototo. The 'Heavy Wagon' trail was crossing the Dunstan Mountains on the Thomson Gorge Track and setting up camp at the base of the track, just up the road from the racecourse. 

I knew where that was, we'd crossed the track in the ute 18 months ago, so I headed up to the track later in the afternoon. Unfortunately they had already arrived! Bugger.

I knew another trail was due to pass through the historic town of St Bathans on Friday morning so the next morning we headed off, taking the back road past the end of Thomsons Track just in case....the wagons were on the move! 

This stage coach will be very familiar to many, it's usual parking spot is outside the Otira Hotel in Arthurs Pass.

No kidding...

I have a little confession to make, I'm not sure but these wagons might have been sent on a wild goose chase. I'd read that they were going to visit Matakanui on Friday (aka Tinkers- check that link for an awesome old settlement). 

When the first riders, on horses, came around the corner from Thomsons Track, they stopped and looked around and called out to me, who had just climbed out of the ute to take photos. "Which way?". I turned my hands up in a gesture of  'God knows' and then pointed up the road towards Matakanui, saying 'Maybe that way?' (based on what I'd read) and expecting them to ask more questions. Instead they cantered off, up the Matakanui road. 

And everyone else followed... (Omakau is down that road behind).

Later in the day, I saw the heavy wagons camped at the racecourse. Which got me wondering, perhaps they were in fact, headed to the racecourse. Oh well, they got to do a little tiki-tour on the way. 

A couple of the trails stopped for a night at Drybread, in the farm yard right next door to the old Drybread school which is now one of the farm buildings.

We carried on towards St Bathans, meeting a dejected looking guy standing beside his horse and light wagon, as we turned onto the St Bathans road. We stopped to talk to him and he told us he'd detoured, his horse was pulling and his shoulder was giving him gyp. He'd been down to the pub at Becks on the main road but it was closed. He told us he'd now take the direct route towards the racecourse and we left him to it.

We carried on up the road and around the next corner we found one of the rider trails heading towards us, of the trails that had just passed through St Bathans! Late again.

We pulled over and waited for them to pass...

We called out pleasantries to each other and I found out that this was one of the longer stretches of seal that they'd ridden. 

They were heading onto a farm station shortly and then along the bottom of the Dunstan Mountains to Drybread.

They were stretched out like Brown's cows...

...enjoying the cooler temperatures...

...after a stinking hot day, yesterday. 

We carried onto St Bathans, although now I knew we'd missed both trails passing through the settlement- I'd seen photos the day before of the first trail. It would have been great to photograph the riders outside the historic old buildings but we had to make do with their squashed calling cards instead. Poo-ew!!

This is once again familiar territory, we stayed for a few days at the DOC camp at St Bathans during winter and had the whole place to ourselves- actually a bit like today, not a soul in sight...wait some people on the lake edge and a tent in the willows. The Blue Lake, aka the Glory Hole, actually looked blue today instead of the emerald green it was on our last visit. But with a breeze rippling the surface, it was nowhere near as stunning.

We headed back towards the main road and home to Omakau, stopping to take a photo of the historic White Horse Hotel at Becks. I wanted a better photo of the hotel than I had, the last one was taken on a dull day. And what should we spy tied up in the paddock next door to the new White Horse Hotel? The horse that pulled. His master making the most of a bad situation. Medicinal of course.

Back at the racecourse the numbers of RVs had increased tenfold...

To be continued...The Grand Parade


  1. I recently traversed the Thomsons Gorge track in my truck camper . I think the people with the horse and dray set that went over there were nuts :) I bet they had a great day .

    1. Yes, I was surprised they managed to get across it too, all those gates and a few rugged patches, would have been great to part of the convoy though. Although we saw the stage coach marooned at the garage at Omakau over a couple of days, I suspect something happened to it along the way.

  2. I'll bet the publican of the Otira Hotel, Lester Rountree was there, he's fairly hard to miss.
    What a great event and a bygone age glimpsed at. Have just gotta get down to central, hopefully this Autumn. Currently at Womad in NP.

    J & C

    1. Check out the photo link in the Part 2, to see if you can spot him Jimu. I'd also say he'd want to be a part of the Cavalcade, it would be a major event and a good test for man, machine & animal! We may just catch up if you do make it to Central.


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