Over the Mountains to Omakau

2017 Otago Goldfields Cavalcade Over the Mountains to Omakau – Walking Trail
Trail Boss : Steve Clark ph 03 445 0920 email : steveclark3177@gmail.com Duration : 6 days, Sunday 26 February 2017 to Saturday 4 March 2017
This year’s trail started on the Deep Gully track on Glenfoyle Station, traversed the Grandview Mountains to the Lindis Valley, crossed the Dunstan Mountains to Cambrian and followed the Rail Trail to Omakau and Ophir.  The total distance walked was 95km.
We met at the Omakau Racecourse on Sunday afternoon where we left our cars for the return home the following weekend.  Ali was flying into Queenstown that day and making her own way to Cromwell, while Susan was to be collected on Monday morning.
We were driven to Bannockburn to Steve & Anna’s home where we enjoyed their hospitality that evening.
An 8 o’çlock start was called for the following morning to ensure that we were on the trail by 9 o’clock. 
All went according to plan until Terry phoned to say that he had lost his car keys and asked to be picked up at Lowburn.  This necessitated a trip through Luggate and a southerly approach to the start of the trail.  Steve had never approached the start of the trail from the north and we had a false start as all lucerne paddocks looked the same. Backcountry Navigator came to the rescue and 10 minutes later and 400 metes further down the road we finally set off on the Deep Gully track.
The trail started with an easy grade as we by-passed a couple of lucerne paddocks on Glenfoyle Station before meeting the farm track and the zig zag up into the Grand View mountains.  This was followed by a long steady climb onto the ridgeline and an easy undulating ridge walk to Lindis Peak.  From the summit of Lindis Peak at 1,226m ASL, there were spectacular panoramic views of the Pisa Mountains, the Upper Clutha Valley and the peaks beyond and of the St Bathans Mountains and Dunstan Mountains to the east.

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From here it was all downhill to our overnight stop in a restored stone cottage on Nine Mile Station at Goodger Flat.

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Goodger Flat was the site of the first gold rush in Otago in April 1861, but was soon superceded by the discovery of gold in Gabriel’s Gully. 
The next morning we set off to explore the old Lindis Hotel and Wattie Thompson’s hut alongside the Lindis River.  Wattie was a WW2 returned serviceman who unsuccessfully worked the river for gold only to be defeated by a flood burying his claim under rocks and debris.
The trail then took us down Old Faithful Road to cross the Lindis River and SH8 to the 

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track up onto Geordie Hill.  A moderate steady climb to start followed by a series of undulations brought us to a ridge above the Shirlmar Station homestead.  With our overnight accommodation in sight the descent down the ridge was soon dealt to.  Soon after we arrived, Bruce Bennett, our overnight host arrived with the news that they had problems with the water supply to the shearers’ quarters and that the water had been turned off.  Very thoughtfully he brought 6 litres of ice cold bottled water with him, which to seven hot and parched trampers tasted even better than the pride of the south.
Our third day was a modest 15km of easy terrain to the Richmond hut on Cluden Station.  It was another hot sunny day and we burrowed in under matagouri bushes to find some shade in which to eat our lunches.
Richmond hut is a quaint 4 bunk stone hut re-roofed by the guys from Cluden Station, 91which together with a tent provided a great overnight stop.  Located alongside the Cluden Stream it also provided the opportunity for a cooling swim.
Unfortunately Janet’s knee which had troubled her yesterday flared up today and we had to arrange an evacuation.  Susan’s husband Ben willingly gave up his evening to drive into Richmond Hut to collect Janet and return her to Bannockburn.  A huge thank you to Ben for assisting us in this way.  After carrying a satellite phone for four years on the Cavalcade, it was great to have it when needed  to call in assistance.
The biggest challenge of the trail faced us on Thursday morning, the crossing of the Dunstan Mountains to Cambrian.  To avoid the heat of the day we set off at 7 o’clock and after 3 hours of steep farm tracks arrived at Cluden Pass.  As it turned out the weather was cloudy with a cool breeze so our early start wasn’t entirely neccessary.
87After a well deserved rest it was onto Dunstan Peak a further 3.4km and 300m in elevation.  By now a cold wind was blowing and for a change we were looking for shelter from the wind rather than from the sun to eat our lunch.
From Dunstan Peak it was all downhill following the boundary of the Lauder Basin Conservaton Area.  The gradient was relatively easy except for the final descent into Shepherd’s Creek where we battled a steep slope amongst matagouri.  The water in Shepherds’ Creek was cold and ideal for cooling off.  Steve dunked his head several times to cool off, but Ali went one better by plunging in fully clothed.
The trail now followed a water race through Cambrian Hills Station to Sailor’s Creek and 88then by road to the old school in Cambrian.  This had been a very long day taking 9h 40m to cover 20.6km, but there was a great sense of achievement at reaching Cambrian.
The school had closed in 1956 and re-located to Becks.  In 2006 it was brought back to its original site and restored.  With its school desks, photos and mining and community memorabilia it made a fascinating overnight stop.
Bob, one of 8 permanent residents in Cambrian, had arranged a concert that evening by Lux NOMAD, a wonderful duo playing electric ukeleles and singing their owns songs.  We were joined by a number of locals and visitors who provided us with dessert to ensure that we had a fantastic end to a challenging but enjoyable day.
The final day on the trail started with a journey by car over Blackstone Hill to Auripo 92where we joined the Otago Central Rail Trail.  Lunch at the Stationside Cafe in Lauder provided a welcome break to trail food and was taken at a very leisurely pace.  Too soon we had to face the final 10km down the Rail Trail to Omakau and Ophir.  By this time the nor’westerly wind had really picked up and we were all glad not to be on the top of the Dunstan Mountains as Bill’s horse trail was.
We managed to get through Omakau without being sidetracked, but Black’s Hotel at Ophir was one temptation too many.  However, the cold beer was very welcome and very soon we were at our destina tion and discarding our packs and boots.
Once again Anna provided us with a superb meal and a fitting end to our trail.
Following a leisurely breakfast on Saturday morning we were on the road again, this time to the Daniel O’Çonnell bridge.  This is an excellent example of the type of suspension bridge that bridged many of Central Otago’s rivers in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  After a longer than expected coffee break at the Muddy Creek Cafe it was a mad dash up Racecourse Road to get to the racecourse in time for the  Grand Parade.
Our trail led the Parade around the racecourse and at the completion of the Parade, there was a formal acknowledgement of Fleur Sullivan, who first floated the idea of a Cavalcade and of Roberta Laraman who was co-ordinator for the Cavalcade for 17 years.  Thanks were also given to all of the trail bosses past and present and to their support staff and also to all of the landowners without whose support we wouldn’t have a Cavalcade.  Certificates were presented to the seven Cavalcaders who had participated in all 25 Cavalcades.
Congratulation too, to Janet who completed her 10th Cavalcade and received her 10 Cavalcades badge from Terry on Saturday morning.

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