|Dunedin to Naseby (Ranfurly), March 4, 2008
After checking out of the motel we went for a clock-wise drive around the Otago Peninsula, the road running just above the shoreline out to the Aquarium, scenery across the water that leads into Dunedin Harbour. We turned off onto Allans Beach Road which went steeply up over the central spine of the island then dropped down to Hoopers Inlet, very scenic on the Hoopers Inlet side with sheep grazing on steep green hills with the crashing surf in the distance. We climbed back up the slope to the ridge and followed along the Highcliff Road back to towards Dunedin. The wind was howling a gale, hard enough to make holding the camera stead very difficult when we tried to take photos.
We didn't drive back into Dunedin, instead continued out to the South Motorway and Mosgiel where we turned onto Highway 87 and continued on toward Middlemarch, Ranfurly and eventually Naseby, our destination. The highway followed a wide valley westward initially then turned up into the treeless hills where the highway felt like it was on top of the world. This is sheep and cattle country, grazing land as far as you can see, and you can see for miles in all directions. The rolling hills are scarred by rocky bits, some standing rock, some more flat on the ground but mottling the grazing areas all around. This cleared as we got closer to Middlemarch, a small village of maybe a hundred people. Back in 2000 we attended an orienteering event in this area, on a sheep station, with the kind of terrain we saw as we approached Middlemarch. There are long views here much as on the Saskatchewan prairie. It was nice and calm which made the day very pleasant. The Rail Trail passes through town and cyclists on this popular trail bring business to this otherwise dying town. It is also the end point of one of the Taieri Gorge Railway scenic tours.
From Middlemarch we carried on up a wide valley with scenic hills on either side, the Rock and Pillar Range to the left as we drove along, then climbed over the range and carried on to Ranfurly, a town of about 840 people which is also on the Rail Trail and has developed quite a tourist business as a result of it. From here we turned northwest towards Naseby, 600 feet higher in elevation, with their sign reading '2000 feet above worry level' and surrounded by the managed Naseby Forest. We'll stay here until after orienteering this weekend.
The Otago Central Rail Trail has been developed for walkers, cyclists and horseback riders and follows the former Otago Central branch railway line for 150km from Middlemarch to Clyde. The original line, completed in 1907, gave the small goldfield towns a reliable link to the big city, Dunedin. This part of the line from Middlemarch to Clyde was permanently closed in 1990 and the Department of Conservation looked after the building of the trail, taking up the tracks and resurfacing the track so it can be used year round. Because it was a former rail line, it has no steep hills making it walker and cyclist friendly and takes tourists over old rail bridges, viaducts and through tunnels. This area is quite remote and brings thousand of people here every year who probably wouldn't otherwise visit this area. It also allows for a service industry to be viable here and accommodation, restaurants and cafes, gift shops, cycling shops, and tour operators are visible in the small towns we passed through. This is a working example of what we hope the Trans Canada Trail will become.
The Taeiri Gorge Railway has a few day trips, one of them running from Dunedin to Middlemarch and used by many visitors who are following all or part of the Rail Trail either at the beginning or end of their trip. This is a popular tourist attraction, using 1920s heritage coaches which pass through narrow tunnels, deep gorges, winding tracks and viaduct crossings. This would be a most interesting trip.
Anyway, we finally arrived in Naseby, found the Ancient Briton Motel, first appearance is that of an old hotel in any Canadian town, but their accommodation is out back in more modern buildings, ours being a small stand-alone cottage with a kitchen/living area, separate bedroom and bathroom with shower and we are very comfortable here. The hotel is of historical significance related to gold mining and is really a very interesting old place. We had supper there last night, old wooden tables and chairs, high ceilings and old photos hanging on the walls, good for looking and reading while you wait for your meal to be served. June to August makes up Naseby's winter and depending on the year they have outdoor ice suitable for curling, skating and hockey for part of that time. Curling is an important winter sport here and the outdoor sport of Crampit Curling is now only played in New Zealand. You stand on the crampit and deliver your rock from a stationary position rather than the hack and slide of modern curling. The hotel has several pictures from outdoor bonspiels from the 1930s where 12 curling sheets were cleared on one of the ponds in the nearby area. Naseby has an indoor rink now that has 4 curling sheets and is open year round and is popular with visitors to the area. In fact, this weekend's orienteering is offering a chance for anyone who is interested to try curling. Other pictures and write-ups have to do with sheep and mustering which has played a big part in Naseby's history and still is important.
We had been for a walk around town in the afternoon and then, after supper, took a drive up to the cemetery to have a look around there. It dates back to the 1860s, I think, and has grave markers in varied states of disrepair. The most recent grave marker I saw was dated 2005, the second most recent 1997 or so. The cemetery is situated in the middle of a forest area, some of the unmarked graves may be in the trees. It was pretty cool so we didn't stay long. We drove up to the campground and swimming dam to have a quick look there too.
Once back in the room we turned on the electric wall heater to take the chill off then went to bed.