Cavalcade 2020

Another Cavalcade.  Shirl and I, along with friends Val and Geoff, joined the Rides of March Cavalcade in 2002. This time, and 18 years later, with walks of 16 to 25 km per day I thought it might be a bit too much for me.  These cavalcades were made up of a number of groups; horses, wagons, trampers and even bike riders, travelling over several days, old gold mining trails in Central Otago. 

Christchurch graffiti.

Anyway, Karla and I left Richmond at 9am for Christchurch and arrived at a Christchurch motor camp around 4pm. The next day, a rest day, we walked into the city centre  to have a look at what changes there had been since the large earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 The old damaged cathedral looked all forlorn but at least they have made a long delayed start to rebuilding it after all these years. A cardboard cathedral has been built as a temporary measure so we went along and had a look at that too. I guess there is more to it than cardboard but as there was a service being held, we had to contend ourselves with the outside view. We came back to our cabin via the new memorial to all who lost their lives during the earthquake of 2011. 

The next morning we called into the Christchurch airport to pickup Jane, a fellow nurse and friend of Karla’s. Then we were on our way to Oamaru to stay the night,  arriving there mid afternoon in time for a wander around those magnificent old buildings.  Even so, a number of the old buildings have craft shops so it took some time for the ladies to explore them all. Or it seemed that way!

The choir boys have finished at the cardboard cathedral in Christchurch.

We left Oamaru for Patearoa the next morning, which was the meeting place for the start of the Otago Goldfields Heritage Trust 25th Cavalcade 2020. Where’s Patearoa? Drive down south from Oamaru until Palmerston is reached then turn right and inland and head for Ranfurly. Once here, turn left southwards for about 15 to 20 km to arrive in the small village of Patearoa. But it has a domain with an old closed down school nearby.
Upon arriving it seemed to be a little disorganised but gradually things were sorted out. There were no greetings, no introductions and then we were hit with an additional cost for transport to our first night at Ida Station in the late afternoon. Someone said that we weren’t allowed to take a tent and only one pack each but we stuffed our tent in anyway and it was just as well. The roll call by handing out name tags and a badge took some time and this was quite disorganised also. Finally the fifty or so of us all were taken in a couple of vans to the station after several trips. 

The general idea was that all were to sleep in the Ida Station woolshed. Now the wool part doesn’t last very long after the sheep are shorn but  the sheep droppings under the batten grating floor sure do. We were to sleep on the battens just above those droppings. They did have some sheets that were spread out on the floor though. Just like anything, one does get used to smells. I wandered around outside looking for a spot to pitch the tent in between cow patties. No one was around to say where we could do this but soon others started pitching theirs nearby so up ours went too. 

The cavalcade has horses and riders, horse draw wagons, bike riders, runners and trampers. The tramp that we joined was the easier one and called Silver Boots on the Dunstan. We were to follow one of the old goldminers trails called the Dunstan Trail for four days.  All of the different groups travelled different trails but all finally met up at the Patearoa Domain on the same day.

Make way for the stock.

The guys organising the meals were right on the ball and throughout the coming days too. The whole works of breakfast, lunch and dinner each day was really good. 

Falling old stock yards.

I know Canada geese can be a pest but I love watching then flying  their way in V formation and how they descend. Several wings of them flew bye and they seemed to be landing about a kilometre away. Perhaps  onto a pond? I tried to take a photo but they were flying too low or I was too late. Canada geese seem to mostly fly in V formation with one side of the V longer than the other.  Why is one side always longer? The only conclusion I figured out, is that the longer side have more geese in it. 

From Ida Station to the Poolburn Dam. We started walking the next morning along a country backroad stopping at the old Moa Hotel for morning tea. Along the way we passed a rounded hill which reminded me of the burial ‘barrows’ in England. It got me thinking of why are wheel barrows called barrows? Maybe if the wheelbarrow is loaded up it looks like a real barrow? The things one ponders tramping along! The old hotel still had some beds inside but it seems like the local Station runs tours over their property so maybe accommodation for their clients? It even had a wishing well!  Was this a good or bad omen?  

TV1 news (12 seconds in).

Trudging on along and upwards, a couple of local ‘cowboys’ drove some cattle by and then we had a TV1 cameraman and reporter taking photos and later they joined us for lunch. It was hot. No shade to be found except in the shade of vehicle tyres. They say everyone has their 15 minutes of fame but mine was hardly 10 seconds. In the video clip on the TV1 news that night, showed me striding out in front with some others.  It was very hot going on the Dunstan Trail until the Poolburn Dam lake came into view. At least it looked cooler. A few more ups and downs along the road and then the sleeping/cooking/meal tents came into view at 4.15pm. Our campsite for the night. They did have a couple of larger tents for the trampers to sleep in but they were very crowded – and there seemed to be a pecking order who was allowed to sleep where. Thank goodness for our tent! 

Some had a swim in the lake, others explored nearby the lake, built during the Great Depression for irrigation. This is an exposed, windswept, tussock and rock landscape. So much so that this was the setting for the city of Rohan in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, so you can get the idea. Beautiful and wild country. Except for the wind. Someone said that we walked 19km this day.

Morning light on Poolburn Dam.

From Poolburn Dam to The Bend Station Through the night the wind roared and the next morning when one lady was packing up her tent, the wind caught it and just about blew it into the lake. I ran after it and managed to grab it before doing so. After breakfast it was back on the road, up and down – until lunchtime at 1pm. At least the rocks were a lot larger and provided some shade from the hot sun. We crossed the Maniatoto Range or was it Rough Ridge? And headed over to the Rock & Pillar Range foothills to arrive at The BendStation at 3.45pm to camp for the night. Into the woolshed for some for the night while others pitched their tents. Tea was in the woolshed too. There was a few raindrops on the tent roof early in the night. 

The open road, after Poolburn Dam.

From The Bend Station to Puketoi Station After breakfast and packing up we left about 9am to walk along the road until we turned off by a power house/dam to meet up with  some local schoolchildren, from St John’s School, who joined us until we stopped for lunch. Some of the children talked but most seemed a bit shy, however it was interesting to talk to some of the parents that accompanied them.  One was saying that they didn’t like very much the big corporates buying up land for diary farms as when they did, several farms were amalgamated thus reducing the local population which in turn meant less families with children resulting in school roles declining and so on down the chain. They did like foreign people coming in though, especially of different cultures, as this gave the school children an appreciation of other countries in the world. We were walking over farmland directly on the foothills of the Rock and Pillar Range turning up at an old woolshed for lunch at 11.45am. It was pretty hot so any little bit of shade was welcome. The woolshed itself was of interest with old remains of shearing stands, with a light above – a candle holder. The odd one with a candle still in place, covered with spider webs. Outside, some of the stock holding yards had stacked rocks (stone walls) falling down in parts. 

After lunch the children gathered up and went off back to school while we carried on over farmland along the foothills. It was up and down each of the many side valleys and climbing over the odd wire fence. At one of these crossings, a fallow deer hung by one leg that had been caught in the fence and had died. We all made it made it though, not even a scratch. In one of the valleys we spotted three fallow running for cover. The farms we walk over had sheep, cattle and horses too. Irrigated paddocks grew lucerne, or lupin(?) on the lower flattish slopes while grass was on the higher ground.  
Some of the walkers were feeling the strain of the heat and the long walk itself. The day before, one lady, with a Canadian accent, seemed to be struggling a little more so I went and accompanied her a little way. I suggested some trail tricks that she might like to apply. The next day we reached a shearing shed and waited for the stragglers while resting in the shade of the building.  The Canadian accent lady was feeling the strain so I went back and walked up the hill with her. As I approached she smiled and said that I was her saviour! So my suggestions did help and she called me ‘My Saviour’ thereafter! 

Shearing shed lighting. There’s a candle under those spider webs.

As we approached Patearoa, seen in the distance, we passed through an area of old gold mining by sluicing before reaching the Sowman Walkway then walking into the Patearoa domain itself close to 4pm. But we weren’t to stay the night here.

The End of the Trail. A bit of sorting out with all the walkers into vans and the taken along some country backroads to arrive at Puketoi Station, our resting place for the night. Tents up for the last time in a paddock by their woolshed.  A stiff wind came up and noticing a couple of windblown trees on the ground nearby, shifted our tent to be more into the open! The usual in the woolshed with people sorting themselves and sleeping bags spread out in the sheep pens inside. The main shearing floor area was clear in readiness for a get together after tea. And so it was. Each ‘trail walker’ was awarded a certificate of completion and then came the piping of the haggis ceremony, with guard and all.  The sword holder just about dropped the heavy sword on another’s foot but recovered in time. Not sure if the guard was for the haggis or bottle of whisky as the haggis was cut up and offered to all while the whisky, minus the guard’s toast each, was escorted away still fairly full. 

Lunch time. Karla decides what to select.

The Station had some old cob or stone buildings about, still in a reasonable state of repair too. Nearby were fences made up of gathered rock or stone and still in use it seemed. What was probably the old homestead, looked to be well maintained and lived in. 

So, I have been on another Otago Cavalcade, but err… by shanks’s pony! Had a bit of trouble keeping the damn thing moving too. Sometimes I felt like I was flogging a dead horse but I managed to hang on all the way.  
If only we had a Right to Roam in our country as because probably most of the area we walked through or over, was private land. Just to be able to wander between the rocks and tussock, watch the sun risers and sunsets, the wind and clouds, as one wished. 

In comparing the two cavalcades, the first was much better organised. With the first, we were all given upon arrival a little bag with name tags, information of the area, some apricots, plus even a small bottle of whisky! (I still have the full bottle too!) Upon completion, we received a certificate plus even a miners right in the Province of Otago for a year. It was good to meet up with one of the horse trail groups for lunch too. 

1 Comment

  1. Jenny Addison

    That’s is just an awesome trek Will! Don’t know if I could do it. My feet feel swollen and blistered in sympathy just reading your wonderful story! What beautiful country NZ is for sure.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *