Day 15: Buller Gorge

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March 28th 2011
Published: March 29th 2011
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 Video Playlist:

1: Buller River Flying Fox 11 secs
DOC helicopterDOC helicopterDOC helicopter

Was preparing to take off with wood the DOC couple were building a hut for trampers.
Day 15 – Monday the 28th of March

So far we have ticked off 20 of the 101 Must Do’s for Kiwis, at least in the South Island anyhow, and all over the last 15 days.

Today we ticked off number 20... the Buller Gorge.

Thanks for being so patient waiting for the latest blog. We had written them, but simply had no time, nor service in order to post them. But now we are settled in the Abel Tasman town of Marahau, having a quiet wine and homemade meal and catching up on our honeymoon blog.

We awoke this morning in what was the former township of Lyell, now just a DOC site of grass, trees and walking tracks. So we decided to set off this morning to explore one of those walking tracks to find out about this so-called town that last night was impossible to find. Before we could get started though we encountered someone from DOC who advised that a helicopter would be landing right next to our camper to help him and his wife take some wood up to a walking track in the ranges. They were helping to build a hut
Lyell townshipLyell townshipLyell township

in the late 1800's
for trampers and of course there was no way for them to get the wood up the hill otherwise. So we decided to stick around and watch the chopper land, load and lift off. Was all a very exciting start to our morning... accompanied of course by every camper’s staple breakfast – bacon, sausages, baked beans (for Renee anyway) & eggs on toast.

With our sturdy walking boots yet again strapped on our feet, we set off to find what the Lyell signs called “The Battery”... Matt secretly hoping it had something to do with Metallica’s famous song of a similar name. Alas, no. But what we discovered was much more interesting. Steeps inclines around bush, fallen trees and through a forgotten graveyard (the last burial being in 1900) we eventually found ourselves at a crossroads (well a cross-mud-track-that-was-formerly-a-road) leading either back to the road, or off to the “Battery”. So off we went towards the battery.

We passed by a sign indicating that a hotel had existed where we stood... all we could see was a ridiculously steep hill, trees, bush and... a goat! This was deep NZ forest, how the heck could a hotel have ever
Lyell - as it is todayLyell - as it is todayLyell - as it is today

Viewed from the same point as the photo above. Nothing left of the township today!
been erected in such a place?!

We continued along and eventually reached the old gold mine site where there stood the remnants of the battery. Basically a huge stomping machine that crushed ore in to fine pieces in order for miners to extract gold from. There was not much left to see, but an info-board did provide some insight in to what existed previously. It is mind-boggling how quickly the earth can claim back what man once took from it.

We wended our way back to the DOC site via an alternate track and came across a number of signs that we missed in the dark upon arrival the previous night. Turns out we had literally been sleeping on Main St... or at least what once was called Main St, now simply a driveway up to the grassy knoll.

There is not a single trace of the town remaining and yet the town once was home six hotels, three stores, one drapery and ironmongery store, three butchers, one baker, two bootmakers, two agency offices, a blacksmith shop and a school. Later came a bank, policeman and other essential services.

Really hard to comprehend how such a
Graveyard of LyellGraveyard of LyellGraveyard of Lyell

The last person was buried here in 1900. If it wasn't signposted during our walk, you could easily stroll right past.
town of this size could simply disappear. Helps to know however that sadly the town was hit by many disasters including earthquakes and fires – once of which burnt down most of the town (18 buildings).

As a guy in this blog says “it really captured our imagination” – have a read of his blog here

Next on the agenda was a stop at NZ’s longest swing bridge. This one crosses the Buller River, which when in flood is the largest river in NZ in terms of water outflow. The last time it flooded was on 28th of December last year and photos show that it rose around 4 metres in height. Glad we weren’t there then!! Apparently normally a turquoise colour, we were once again denied the sight of beauty due to the recent heavy rain and storms. Instead the river was a murky brown.

We paid our fee to walk across the bridge, which then allowed us the opportunity to do some of the walks on the other side. Our fee also included a flying fox back across the Buller River. Both of us being a little bit scared of heights thought it all might challenge our fears a little. The walk across the bridge saw Matt bouncing and swaying the bridge because he thought it funny when Renee would stop walking out of fright... Renee, obviously, did not find this amusing! After crossing the bridge we continued on to the 15 minute loop track that gave a history of the area and how the 1929 Murchison Earthquake affected the area. The 7.8 magnitude quake had FOUR separate epicentre that all imploded at once. The earth in places was pushed 4.5 metres straight up out of the ground. Rocks tumbled from the mountains and landed in the river, damming it and temporarily forming a lake. The lake eventually formed back in to a river but now with some very interesting rapids caused by the large chunks of rock the mountains had gifted it.

Whilst on our walk we came across the Buller Jetboat and figured we’d stop to have a watch. The driver happened by and put on quite the sales pitch “You’ve been on the Shotover? Well then, you get a discount! How about children’s prices? It’s a 40 minute ride up and down the river.” $50 each!! Shotover was $119!!! Quite the deal, we thought. So, on we jumped expecting another fun ride – the Shotover was nowhere near the “scary” that Matt had built it up to be in his head. Off we took. Less than a few minutes in we both looked at each other with huge grins on our face... well, maybe Matt’s was more one of fear, but it said it all – our driver was one loose cannon. He took the boat on spins, slid it sideways through the water, whipped us dangerously around rock outcrops, got us completely sopping wet in the rapids and then stopped to talk about some rock overhang (which we were parked underneath) that he says was unstable (much like him we think) and could fall with the slight bit of vibration (VRRRMMMMMM goes the engine!!). Hahaha, talk about the thrill of a lifetime. Easily 100 times better than the Shotover, which it turns out was a bit of a pedestrian pace in comparison. The river itself made the ride all the more interesting simply due to its nature. The rapids certainly made for some bumpy riding, but definitely much, much, much more thrilling!

We wended our way back along
Flying FoxFlying FoxFlying Fox

Us at the end, taken by the photographer.
the walkway to the flying fox back to the other side. Finding our legs was a little bit of a challenge after the wicked jet-boat ride we’d just experienced. We went for a tandem flying fox option, thinking it’d be fun to do it together. It was. We do have a great video clip of the flying fox in which Renee is seen to be screaming very loudly... view video above.

Next was a long drive up to the Abel Tasman National Park township of Marahau for an overnight stop. 10 minutes in to our drive we had to make a mandatory stop. The highlight of our entire honeymoon... a bridge named in our honour! O’Sullivan’s Bridge is a sturdy looking one-way structure. Sounds like my kinda bridge!!

After a very windy two hour drive, we settled in at our campsite and logged in (Yay! Internet connection... no phone reception though) to finally be able to upload all our blogs. Plan was to spend the next day kayaking the Abel Tasman and looking at the local wildlife, and with internet access we were now able to check our bank balance.... doh!!! Those wishing well funds just weren’t enough
Our BridgeOur BridgeOur Bridge

O'Sullivan handy of them to name this after us!
to cover this outing and everything else we have yet to do. So unfortunately we had to sacrifice the kayaking and prioritise our last few days here in the South Island. Will have to make an extra special trip on another occasion though as it looked spectacular.

Additional photos below
Photos: 20, Displayed: 20



Old mining battery

A part of the old battery machine.
Where the Hotel once stoodWhere the Hotel once stood
Where the Hotel once stood

was here only 120 years ago... scary thought! Now not even a frame left! The forest has reclaimed the land completely
Us infront of Lyell RiverUs infront of Lyell River
Us infront of Lyell River

After our walk through the bush and old Lyell mining township.
The swingbridgeThe swingbridge
The swingbridge

Taken from the river.
Cheeky little FantailCheeky little Fantail
Cheeky little Fantail

Have been trying to capture a good pic of a Fantail all over the south Island but they're all far too quick, not this one. He was very cheeky and showing off in front of us and jumping all over our camera.

30th March 2011

vidio and kiosk
Hi guys love the video of you two on the flying fox and we checked out and loved the video kiosk photo's, the expressions on peoples faces are just great hehe luv ya mum
1st April 2011

yo need more blogs
Ok you two having a great time how about some more info and photo's, blog,blog,blog guy's or no dinner Sunday......

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