Thursday, March 1, 2012

Gold and Ghosts, Part 3

After a comfortable nights sleep - frequently disturbed by a very noisy mouse, I arose from my sleeping bag at Bullendale hut, put on my semi-dry socks and boots, and prepped for a day of walking and taking pictures.

Bullendale Hut

Bullendale Hut

The hut was too low in the valley for a spectacular sunrise shot, so I satisfied myself with a few exteriors before heading down to the river and the remains of the Phoenix mine. Below is a stitched panorama showing the peak of Mt Aurum on the right.

Bullendale Hut

The zoom on my little G12 wasn't enough to capture the goat I saw down on the valley floor, so you'll have to suffice with the skull below. Some of the 20 or so people who stay here overnight each year are hunters.

Bullendale Hut

The fork in the stream below was the site of the Phoenix mine and a stamping battery. The site was abandoned nearly a century ago, but the ruins that remain are still impressive.

Bullendale gold mining relics

IMG_3323.jpg Bullendale gold mining relics Bullendale gold mining relics

The staggering thing is that people hauled all this stuff here on horseback. Tons of heavy iron equipment and supplies, just to get at the gold in the quartz reefs. If you know your latin, you'll know that Mt Aurum was named for the gold the area yielded. The miners even built a hydro electric scheme here to run the rock crusher or stamping battery as its called, and you can see the remains of the pipes they used to haul the water, suspended high above the stream, for much of its length.

Pipeline To Nowhere

The ruined machinery is one thing, but what I really liked was the old bedstead I found on the site of the vanished settlement. It put such a human face on it all.

Bullendale track

After an hour or so exploring, it was time to back down the river, stopping to take a few pics of the terrain. Not exactly chocolate box landscapes, but beautifully rugged all the same. Here's the view back up the valley, from the half way point above the river:

  Bullendale track

 And here's the way back out:

  Bullendale track

Not far from the end of the track, there's an old dam - part of the hydroelectric scheme the miners built.

Bullendale track

I tried getting a good shot looking over the edge, but it wasn't easy - or particularly safe to get something that really captured the scene .

Bullendale track

Finally, I made it back to my vehicle, parked near the Skippers cemetery. There I saw the most poignant thing of all, the grave of two miners, I presume father and son, who died in a mine collapse.

Bullendale workers

It made me think again of the hard living people made here - baking hot in summer, freezing in winter, and many miles of precarious road to travel to and from the nearest settlement, which would have been Arrowtown or  Queenstown. All for gold.

My little adventure over, it was time to drive back to Dunedin, back to my family and back to the job of earning some gold of my own - and maybe thinking about my next back country getaway.

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