Thurs 16 February 2017
- Km today: 25
- Today Km: 438
Clutha Gold Trail
Someone was a sloth getting up this morning. It was really cold during the night so I had added another layer in the early morning and anything exposed to the air was damp. I knew that the possum trapers were leaving at 0730 but even so by the time I had done the morning rituals and packed it was 0900. I crossed the one way wooden bridge to join the trail. My tent had been close to the road so all during the night I could hear vehicles stopping at the lights that control traffic across the bridge, then I would hear them rumble across like it was a wooden xylophone.
The trail today follows the Clutha river unlike yesterday’s walk through the countryside. The river is high and running swiftly due to the run off from the recent rain. One can appreciate how massive the catchment must be into the Clutha from the shear volume of water that is now flowing downstream. It is not recommended that you swim in the river right now for good reason. An obvious difference from most NZ rivers is the colour. It is a turquoise blue and very clear. It looks very inviting. I amble along the rail embankment which is flat and follows the contours of the river. Willows line the bank. Every now and then cuttings have been made into the rock to keep the line on track. Being made by hand only enough has been dug for the train to clear safely. When you have to put your own back into it and there is still miles of work to do I can understand why. Signage boards along the way explain about a Chinese gold mining settlement where each year they would build a wing dam to trap gold bearing sediment. Each year it would be swept away so they would build again. Further along they tell about the kanaka, totata and kowhai trees. And about the birds, there is a black backed gull nookery on a little Island in the middle of the river – that is unexpected.
A top dressing plane is flying all day during my walk. Taking off, sowing, landing, refilling and doing it over and over again. That’s a lot of fertiliser. I can see the airstrip way in front of me on a high flat ridge but as I walk off the kms during the day I circle the airstrip by 120 degrees until the plane is behind me and to the left side.
It has got hot. I am glad for my buff which protects my neck from the sun and smother other exposed flesh in sunblock. There is some shade under trees and behind embankments so I don’t need too much water. I am hankering for some fruit however but trees are non existent. I thought it would be a veritable bounty of fruit on the trail, an orchard of deliciousness. Didn’t the school children in the past throw their pips out the train windows, to now have them grown into trees feeding hungry cyclists and walkers? Obviously they were too well brought up, damn them as I’m only spotting mistletoe and willow, neither good for a meal. I do come across an apple tree, the fruit small at this time of the year but I don’t care – it’s crunchy and sweet. When I get to the Tallaburn bridge there is a car coming across from the other side. I haven’t seen anyone all morning, I get to a narrow bridge and there is a car, go figure that aye. Russell and his wife Edith are from Mosgiel. She is riding the trail and he is supposed to be fishing but she is too fast. I set off across the bridge when a lady of certain age approaches on a bike and I say Are you Edith? No I’m Betty she says. Oh. Then another one rides up and yes this time it is Edith. Russell walks back across the bridge and we all have a natter and some pics. Moments like these put bounce in my step and I continue happily.
I was approaching Craig Flat when I hit the motherboard – a plum tree with red fruit hanging from every branch. They were delicious. I had just enough to satisfy and there were plenty more for others coming past. Further along there was a big grove of plum trees but they were behind a fence on private property.
At Horseshoe Bend there are two historical sites to visit. One is the Lonely Graves – William Rigney had come across the body of another and convinced the local authorities he needed a decent burial. On the tombstone was written ‘Someone’s darling lies buried here’. Years later when the Mr Rigney died he was buried alongside and his epitaph says ‘who buried someone’s darling’. I missed seeing the graves. I don’t know where the sign was indicating them from the trail. Every other sign was so obvious. Secondly it is the location of a bridge built across the river to allow kids to go to school and stock from the Beaumont Station to cross. It is the only surviving bridge of its type on the river.
I arrived in Millers Flat around 1500. It is small, quiet but very tidy. The homes have immaculate gardens in full bloom. It is a short walk to the holiday park where I receive a warm welcome from the proprietors Marise and John. I set up the tent and put things in the sun to dry. There is a community swimming pool a few doors down so I go for a refreshing dip. Later on I crossed the river bridge to the local pub for dinner. Nachos and a massive steak were accompanied with a beer yum. I got talking to Lucy the owner and it turned out that the local St John station manager lived in Millers Flat so before you can say ‘southern hospitality’ I was on Lucy’s phone speaking with Joanne and arranging to meet tomorrow. I was rapt.