Saturday, 31 March 2012

AJ Hackett Bungy Jumping

We were politely asked to vacate the parking area at Kingston before 9am as they were expecting a lot of visitors for todays celebratory proceedings. They were planning three return trips to Fairlight using 7 carriages double headed by both Ab778 and Ab795. What a spectacle that would be where the road and rail run parallel for a couple of kilometres.

The road around Lake Wakatipu.The road around Lake Wakatipu.

I had a few hours to kill before Dot arrived back at Queenstown Airport so along with the others we all called into a new shopping complex at Frankton just around the corner from Queenstown Airport. We found a large area at the rear of the car park where we could all park while visiting the supermarket and shops. Once we were all stocked up the others headed away and I just had to sit it out. The time wasn’t wasted as I was able to catch up with some computer work.

The Remarkables from Frankton.The Remarkables from Frankton.

I eventually got a text message to say that Dot had landed, so I headed off around to the airport to pick her up before heading of to catch up with the others. Along the way we took a diversion into Arrowtown where Dot found things totally different to what she remembered from a previous visit years ago.

Kawarau Gorge.Kawarau Gorge.Goldfields Mining centre.Goldfields Mining centre.

At Kawarau we called into the site of the old 1880’s road bridge where they now have a Bungy Jumping business. The bridge was closed in 1963 being unable to cope with the increased weights of modern transport. The bridge is gazetted by the Historic Places Trust as a historic site and AJ Hackett took out a short lease for his entrepreneurial Bungy Jump. This turned out to be so popular that 24 years later it is still operating. In 1990 the Department of Conservation with some financial backing from AJ Hackett Bungy restored the bridge for future generations.

The new road bridge over the Kawarau River.The new road bridge over the Kawarau River.The 1880 model Kawarau road bridge over the river.The 1880 model Kawarau road bridge over the river.The jump over the participants are lowered to the rescue boat below.The jump over the participants are lowered to the rescue boat below.A pole is extended for the girls to grab hold of to be pulled into the boat.A pole is extended for the girls to grab hold of to be pulled into the boat.

Our next port of call was to be Locharburn which turned out to be on a farm. Robin rang to say that it was off the road up a dirt track and he would meet us at the gate. Well the dirt track wasn’t a problem what he hadn’t mentioned was a couple of hilly sections to get to the final destination.

IMG_6450Hard going but we did it.

As we turned off the road the first part was OK and we could see where other vehicles had gone off the track due to some deep ruts. We followed the diversion and then came across a short steep downhill run which wasn’t too bad until we turned a corner at the bottom. Here we found the next section was uphill and quite a bit steeper and longer. Ah well, first gear in manual mode and we crawled our way to the top with just a couple of small skids. One good thing to come out of this stop over was fresh mushrooms in the morning.

Locharburn POP.

Friday, 30 March 2012

The Kingston Flyer.

After yesterdays epic journey todays little foray pails into insignificance. The railway line to Kingston was bought into being by the Great Northern Railway as the first privately owned railway in NZ. It ran from Invercargill to Kingston and was opened in 1878.

Ab778 brings home the train while Ab795 simmers in the coaling siding.Ab778 brings home the train while Ab795 simmers in the coaling siding.Firebox and boiler of Ab778.Firebox and boiler of Ab778.

Two years later the Waimea Plains railway opened another private line from Dunedin to Kingston to service the Goldfields of Wakatipu and the growing rural community along the way. Along with the Paddle steamers plying Lake Wakatipu between Kingston and Queenstown, Kingston became a very busy railway terminus and shipping town connecting the paddle steamers and railway for excursion trips from Invercargill to Queenstown.

Views around Kingston, Lake Wakatipu.Views around Kingston, Lake Wakatipu.Views around Kingston, Lake Wakatipu.

The train got the nickname of the Kingston Flyer when American Rogers locomotives were introduced to improve the service. Speeds of up to 60mph were obtained which would have been unheard of at the turn of the century. Once a road had been built to Queenstown in 1936 passenger numbers dropped until the line was eventually closed due to drop off in freight tonnage.

Ab778 simmering away while awaiting the green flag.Ab778 simmering away while awaiting the green flag.Built in 1898, this 5 compartment 1st class "Birdcage" carriage is reputedly the only one in existence.Built in 1898, this 5 compartment 1st class "Birdcage" carriage is reputedly the only one in existence.Outside corridor of the 1898 "Birdcage" carriage.Outside corridor of the 1898 "Birdcage" carriage.

The Government Railway restored the service between Lumsden and Kingston as a tourist venture in 1971 but by 1979 this was becoming a financial burden and was closed. Over the years the train has had a some what chequered career under various owners in different locations until 2002 when it again passed into private ownership. The track bed to Lumsden has long been removed so the railway now covers 14km from Kingston to Fairlight.

Time to replenish the water and coal after a days work and drop the fire.Time to replenish the water and coal after a days work and drop the fire.Turning Ab778 by hand.Turning Ab778 by hand.

Most New Zealanders would remember the train some 20 or so years ago when it featured in the TV advert for Cadbury Crunchie bars. This coming week-end is going to be some sort of anniversary and rumour has that the train may well get held up by horse riding bandits once more. 

Gagged but not bound.Gagged but not bound.Fairlight station.Fairlight station.

Naturally being a train buff a ride on this famous train was a must. Travelling in vintage carriages which date back as far as 1878 with a coal fired pacific class 4-6-2 locomotive built in 1925 has to be something to be remembered.

Our camp site at the Kingston Flyer.Our camp site at the Kingston Flyer.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Manapouri A Day to Remember.

Beautiful cloud formation over Lake Manapouri.Beautiful cloud formation over Lake Manapouri.

This day started cool and misty as we left the camp to take the 10 minute drive down to the departure wharf to catch the trip boat across Lake Manapouri. We checked in early and there was only a handful of us but as the time drew closer to departure several coach loads arrived swelling our numbers. One coach had travelled all the way from Queenstown making for a very long day for those passengers.

The view slowly improves.The view slowly improves.With no rain for several days this waterfall was only a patch on it's usual self.With no rain for several days this waterfall was only a patch on it's usual self.

As we set sail we were assured by the commentator on board that the very low cloud would lift and we would be in for a brilliant day. How right he was, it was really one out of the box. For those that don’t know New Zealand, Lake Manapouri is in the Fiordland National Park which is basically how early settlers to NZ would have seen the country. Prime Beech forests or Podacarp forests of Totara and Rimu trees standing tall and straight for decades or even centuries.

Underground tailraces take the water straight down to the turbines 1.5km below.Underground tailraces take the water straight down to the turbines 1.5km below.Manapouri power stations transmission house. All that is visible above ground.Manapouri power stations transmission house. All that is visible above ground.

Reaching the Manapouri Power Station all you see above ground is the power house where the power is pumped into the National Grid to the Tiwai Aluminium smelter  at Bluff. Dis-embarking from the boat we entered the visitor centre where everything was explained about the National Park and the power station. From here we boarded a bus to travel over the 22km long Wilmot Pass to Doubtful Sound. This road took 2 years to construct due to the constant wet conditions with flooding and heavy snow. The driver told us of an incident a few years ago where the convoy of buses got over the hill to Doubtful Sound but due to heavy rain the river ford crossings became impassable and everybody had to be air lifted out by helicopter. That would have been some experience for those who had never flown in a helicopter before.

This waterfall had 4 levels.This waterfall had 4 levels.First sighting of Doubtful Sounds.First sighting of Doubtful Sounds.

Down at the wharf there was barely enough room for the 3 buses in todays convoy to get turned around and await our return. The views from the next cruise boat was even more breath taking as we headed out through the Sounds which are actually Fiords. The name Sounds came about from the names written on early navigators charts.

This river has been known to cover the Wilmot Pass road by a metre closing the road.This river has been known to cover the Wilmot Pass road by a metre closing the road.With sheer rock cliffs this is the only means of mooring in Doubtful Sound.With sheer rock cliffs this is the only means of mooring in Doubtful Sound.

Travelling through the various arms we were lucky enough to spotted a Little Blue Penguin. some Yellow Tufted penguins and two different pods of Dolphins. The first pod was a cow and calf swimming close to the cliff face and the second pod put on a spectacular display by leaping clean out of the water and doing somersaults. As the weather conditions were holding favourably the skipper informed us to find somewhere to sit or hold on tight as he was going to leave the safety of the Sounds and head out to the entrance where we would be in open sea and the swell could be a bit heavy. Two days previously he had not been able to attempt this as the sea was far too rough.

This is the overnight cruise ship in Doubtful Sound where you spent 24hrs in the Fiordland wilds.This is the overnight cruise ship in Doubtful Sound where you spent 24hrs in the Fiordland wilds.Wilmot Pass Road graded at 1 in 5.Wilmot Pass Road graded at 1 in 5.

Well the swell was reasonable, probably about 1 metre but not sufficient to make it uncomfortable. We headed out to an island at the entrance to the sound were NZ Fur Seals live just about all year round. Behind the shelter of the island the boat was settled enough for people to get photographs but once we moved out of that shelter photography became impossible.

Going over the summit of Wilmot Pass at 670m above sea level.Going over the summit of Wilmot Pass at 670m above sea level.Wilmot Pass Road graded at 1 in 5.Wilmot Pass Road graded at 1 in 5.

In one sheltered cove the skipper turned off the engines and generator and asked everybody to keep perfectly quiet to be able to listen to the forest. It was most uncanny just listening to the few birds and the waterfalls. When early navigators first came here they reported that they could hear the bird song some distance out to sea but sadly with imported predators from early settlers this is no longer the case. However there is a constant war being raged against the Rats, Mice, Stoats and Weasels  by the Department of Conservation and eventually the bird life will recover.

Model of the whole power station.Model of the whole power station.All remote control from Twizel.All remote controlled  from Twizel.

Back at the wharf we re-boarded the buses to take us back over the Wilmot Pass which incidentally has a gradient of 1 in 5 in places and is unsealed. Arriving back at the Lake side of the mountain the driver stopped at the entrance to the tunnel which was to take us down 2km below the mountains. After receiving the go ahead from the control centre the gates opened and we set off down the circular roadway which does one and half full circles over a distance of one and a half kilometres. All hewn out of solid rock and never lined the tunnel hasn’t altered since it was built. At one point a safety steel cage had been built as the rock face was suspect but there has never been any movement there either.

Exit gate from the road tunnel.Exit gate from the road tunnel.

At the end of the tunnel the bus driver did a 4 point turn to turn the bus around. Previously buses with much poorer locks had been known to take a lot more swings at it before turning. Those drivers must have had good biceps after all that swinging on the steering wheel. A guide then took us a further 500 metre's down to a viewing platform above the generation floor where there are 7 generators at work.The power required by the Aluminium smelter takes probably 80% –90% of the generated power constantly as the smelter never stops.

IMG_6502

With just the bus ride back to the surface and the return trip across Lake Manapouri we felt that we had certainly had our monies worth and would recommend this adventure to everybody. Tonight I don’t think we will be staying up too late as we are all exhausted.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Manapouri and Te Anau.

After filling and emptying the various tanks on-board it was time to head off to the airport for Dot’s flight back to Wellington. I eventually set off for Manapouri at around 10am.

Good roads and very little traffic made for good timing even though I cruised at around 80-90KPH most of the time. I met the other two just on the outskirts of Manapouri. They hadn’t arrived much earlier than me but had been and booked the Lake Te Anau/Manapouri Power Station trip for 9am tomorrow morning.

Waiau River control dam below Manapouri.Waiau River control dam below Manapouri.

About 1km down the road we found the camp site which has just been newly developed with all the mod cons one could wish for.

Te Anau. A wedding chapel with a difference overlooking Lake Te Anau.A wedding chapel with a difference overlooking Lake Te Anau.

After lunch it was a quick trip into Te Anau which is all very clean and modern but pandering more to the overseas tourists rather than us home grown kind. Lots of accommodation which would be used for tourists in the summer and the ski-ing fraternity during the winter. Personally I wasn’t impressed.   

One of many scenic flights available around Lake Te Anau.One of many scenic flights available around Lake Te Anau.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Our return to Invercargill.

This morning the gang split up temporarily with Robin, Jenny, Geoff and Pauline heading out to the coast to Orepuki at a place called Monkey Island Road Reserve. The mind boggles over this one. We have headed back to the race course at Invercargill so that we are handy to the airport for Dot to catch her flight back to Wellington in the morning.

I will carry on through to Manapouri and Queenstown to meet up with the gang again and collect Dot from Queenstown airport on Saturday afternoon.

Leaving Winton we spotted a paddock covered in wheat sheaves which you don't see these days. I did hear mention recently about a Horse Show coming up very soon with all sorts of horse drawn farm machinery being put through their paces so perhaps that is what these sheaves are all about.

A rare sight these days. Wheat sheaves stacked up across the paddock.A rare sight these days. Wheat sheaves stacked up across the paddock.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Winton!

A small southland town known to have Minnie Dean, the only woman hanged in New Zealand, buried in the town cemetery. Originally an important railway junction until the line closed in 1968.  The Kingston line (including the Kingston Flyer)originally ran through the town until most of the line closed in 1982.

IMG_6429Only the three of us at the Winton Golf ClubIMG_6436What a wonderful sunset overlooking the Winton Golf Club tonight?

Planes, Trains and big boys.

This morning Robin, Jenny and I were off and away to Mandeville to visit the Croydon Aircraft Co and Aviation Centre. This establishment is world renowned restorers of De Havilland aircraft and have a fine collection of their own which are all airworthy and can be hired for 10, 20 or 30 minute flights.

Fox MothFox Moth

Upon arrival Jenny settled into the cafe with a coffee and a good book while the boys headed over to the workshop hangar. Here they found up to 20 De Havilland airframes in various stages of completion. Wings and tail planes in various stages awaiting covering in cloth, lacquering or the final paint job once fitted to the fuselage.

Twin engine De Havilland Rapide under restoration.Twin engine De Havilland Rapide under restoration.

Gypsy engines in 4 and 6 cylinder versions adorned the engine bay and spare parts didn’t appear to be a problem with many cylinder sleeves, crank cases and crankshafts being readily available. There are 5 full time staff and many part time specialist’s on call dedicated to keeping NZ’s Aviation history alive and kicking.

De Havilland Tiger Moth in Mount Cook Airlines colours.De Havilland Tiger Moth in Mount Cook Airlines colours.

Back in the main Hangar were the fleet of airworthy flying machine's such as Gypsy Moths, a Fox Moth, Dragonfly, Dominic/Rapide as well as a glider and a couple of home build racer/stunt planes. Off in one corner was a swing wing De Havilland Puss Moth that had been shifted to make room in the Restoration hangar.  It will eventually go back to be completed as room allows.

De Havilland DH80A swing wing Puss Moth. Built 1931 and last flew in 1959 when it went into storage until 1983.De Havilland DH80A swing wing Puss Moth. Built 1931 and last flew in 1959 when it went into storage until 1983.

Outside this magnificent establishment stands an American Rogers locomotive NZ K class #92. This had been dumped in the Oreti river along with numerous other loco’s for shoring up the bridge abutments. Luckily, when recovered the boiler was found to be intact along with a large percentage of the cab. Initially saved by the Te Anau Vintage machinery club who started restoration, K92 was passed on to Colin Smith of the Croyden Aircraft Company who then set about bringing K92 back to life which has now been completed.

Another restored American Rogers loco recovered from a local river bed mostly intact.A restored American Rogers loco recovered from a local river bed mostly intact.

The next task has been to set up the Waimea Plains Railway Trust with the job of rebuilding this once private railway that started in 1880 from Gore to Lumsden.  They plan to rebuild part of the old Mandeville station goods yard with a line running out around the perimeter of the airfield. Track and vintage rolling stock have been acquired but the latter is awaiting funding for restoration to begin. The goods shed still remains on site in good condition along with the water tower which needs a new pedestal. Interested in helping the trust achieve their aims or becoming a member? Then contact them here  I’m sure they would love to hear from you.

Circa 1900 with bench seats along the sides.Circa 1900 with bench seats along the sides.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

What's to see in Gore?

The weather was not too kind to us as we toured around Gore sightseeing.  We visited the famous Hokonui Moonshine Museum where the descendants of the McCrea's from Scotland had a lovely business making whiskey.  Although they thought they were doing nothing wrong the powers that be had brought in Prohibition after a vote and this became illegal, leading to what became known as the 6 o'clock swill in New Zealand. (Drinking as much as you can after work before 6pm)

Gore, World Capital of Brown Trout.Gore, World Capital of Brown Trout.IMG_6425Capital of New Zealand’s Country MusicIMG_6426Enormous Sequoiadendron Tree in the centre of the gardens in Gore.Gore's town clock which is over 100 years old despite it's outward appearance.Gore's town clock which is over 100 years old despite it's outward appearance.Gore's 1906 Town Clock which was in storage from 1945 until 1988 when it was mounted in the new tower.Gore's 1906 Town Clock which was in storage from 1945 until 1988 when it was mounted in the new tower.Gore A & P Showgrounds.Gore A & P Showgrounds.Very impressive mural on an alleyway wall in Gore.Very impressive mural on an alleyway wall in Gore.A Hokonui moonshine still hidden in the bush.A Hokonui moonshine still hidden in the bush.The police about to bust a Hokonui moonshine still set up.The police about to bust a Hokonui moonshine still set up.A Hokonui Moonshine Whiskey Still out in the barn.A Hokonui Moonshine Whiskey Still out in the barn.Derek trying out a different type of transport at the Gore A & P Showgrounds.Derek trying out a different type of transport at the Gore A & P Showgrounds.IMG_6428Now what have we coming here? Yep it came too, not long after we were back home.