Through Central Otago gold country

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February 27th 2006
Published: March 26th 2006
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After completing my last written travelblog entry, waving at the webcam pointing to the statue of Robert Burns, and strolling the market stalls lining the streets of the Octogan, I left Dunedin on a sunny late February afternoon for a long journey to the West Coast. I drove south initially on State Highway 1, past Mosgiel to join State Highway 8 at the intersection at Clarkesville. The road runs through scattered gold-rush towns, where, from the 1860's to the end of the century, gold was panned from the streambeds, dredged from the deeper rivers, and eventually mined and blasted from the land. I was drawn to an area called Gabriels Gully, named after Gabriel Read, an Australian who was the first to kick off the gold rush in 1861 by unearthing flakes of the precious metal beside the Tuapeka River, south of Lawrence. Within weeks of the first find all had left Dunedin and thousands were camping out on the Tuapeka Goldfield excited at the prospect of finding gold. The mining continued for the best part of forty years and although the immediate area surrounding the goldfields is now quite barren and the towns deserted back in Dunedin the benefits from the economy boom can still be seen with a range of grand civic buildings. The sunset from Gabriel's Gully was spectacular.
Continuing North on State Highway 8, following the meandering course of the Clutha River, passing through rugged hill country and sheltered plains there was little reason to stop other than at a couple of roadside stalls selling cheap fruit from the orchards and corn-on-the-cob, my favourite!
On such a beautiful sunny day the views across the Clyde Dam and Lake Dunstan were great, although I quickly made my way to the next biggest town of Wanaka for lunch and, as I picked up a map of the local area from the information centre bumped into one of the german girls, Adina, that I had been working with in Kaikoura! Small world.
I could have spent all afternoon in Wanaka chilling out in the trendy cafes overlooking the lake, but left the town, crossing the Clutha River to Lake Hawea, and ventured into the forest of Mount Aspiring National Park. By the time I reached Fox Glacier on the West Coast it was dark.

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