Once an area bustling with activity during and after the
Central Otago gold rush, the Nine Mile historic reserve in
the Lindis Valley is now an idyllic riverside camping and
picnic spot steeped in heritage. Lucy Ibbotson visited the
reserve on Boxing Day.
A short drive north of Tarras, 6km off State Highway 8 along
the narrow, gravel Old Faithfull Rd, is a large expanse of
reserve land administered by the Department of Conservation
(Doc) which includes the recently-restored ruins of the
Lindis Pass Hotel.
For Cromwell-based vineyard workers Simona Mala, Kristian
Kalousek, Zuzanna Banacka and Martin Chmel, all in their 20s
and from the Czech Republic, the quietness of the area, the
historic remains and the picturesque setting were the selling
points in selecting the free ''basic'' Doc campsite for their
two-night Christmas getaway. While the camping ground has no
facilities, the Lindis River was nearby and offered a
refreshing alternative to a shower, the campers said.
The Czechs had the place largely to themselves, apart from a
couple of families who stopped by on Christmas Day and
Barbara Carston and Clarissa Bochel, who settled for a short
time nearby on deck chairs set up in the shade of the trees
beside the car park. Ms Carston, of Cromwell, said she and
her friend often ventured into the outdoors to find ''a quiet
spot'' for a catch-up over coffee and a picnic lunch.
''We're always gallivanting somewhere to find new places ...
off the beaten track,'' Mrs Bochel said. Despite living in
the Bendigo/Tarras area for 30 years, it was Mrs Bochel's
first trip to the old Lindis Hotel historic site, but she was
impressed by what she saw.
''I love the Tarras/Lindis Pass area. It's got a lot to
offer; it's got a lot of history.''
In a bid by Doc to preserve the site's historic features,
visitors are reminded no camping is permitted within 20m of
the ruins and no historic artefacts can be removed from the
Stabilisation and repair of the hotel was completed on behalf
of Doc at the end of 2011 by St Bathans heritage stonemason
Keith Hinds, who recapped stone walls at the hotel alongside
subcontractor Stewart Mason, of Invercargill. They had
already carried out extensive restoration work at the hotel
site in 2007, but the traditional lime mortar mix they used
was not suited to the harsh Central Otago climate, so the
walls were recapped using a more modern cement-based mix.
Doc information boards at the campsite explain the hotel
began as a store set up during the first gold rush of 1861.
By 1873 a permanent building had been constructed on the
site. The hotel provided almost continuous service of some
kind for more than 70 years including, lodgings, general
store, post office and school. The building was gradually
enlarged over the years and became a residence before being
abandoned in 1951.
For history buffs, the hotel is not the only point of
interest. Old gold workings can be viewed nearby, along with
the remains of the concrete hut built by the last miner to
work in the area, Wattie Thompson, near the now derelict
Lindis River bridge. The on-site information boards explain
how after returning from World War 2, Wattie dug for gold in
nearby Camp Creek. In 1971, a flash flood swept down the
creek, depositing large quantities of stone and gravel and
burying the creekbed Wattie had cleared.
''Too dispirited to start again, he moved on,'' the board
says. Information is also provided on the history of the
Lindis gold rush in 1861, which failed within months. Word
spread when roadmaker Samuel McIntyre, a veteran of the
Californian goldfields, recognised the similarity between the
two regions. By April, an estimated 300 miners were present,
although a report in July noted the Lindis was deserted. The
remoteness of the area, extreme climate and comparative
richness of the new strike at Gabriel's Gully at Lawrence
encouraged the miners to move on.
A renewed interest during the Depression years of the 1930s
saw up to 30 unemployed workers living in a tent camp on the
terrace above Camp Creek, attracted by a government subsidy.
In return for 30 shillings a week, the miners were allowed to
keep a proportion of any gold found. The scheme ended in
1935. The remote Nine Mile Historic Reserve, also know as the
Lindis Pass Historic Hotel camp site, offers plenty for
people who enjoy the great outdoors, including mountain
biking, fishing and hiking.
The Lindis Peak walking track is signposted at the start of
Old Faithfull Rd and the view from the summit (1226m) is one
of the most extensive in Central Otago, providing a vista
over the St Bathans Range to the east and numerous peaks of
the Main Divide. The track is a public access easement and is
closed for lambing each year, between early October and early
Nine Mile historic reserve camp site
: From SH8 take Old Faithfull Rd opposite Timburn Rd
(about 10 minutes' drive north of Tarras). Narrow and steep in
places, the road is not suitable for large camper vans
Number of camp sites:
: Water from stream
: Fishing, trekking, mountain biking, historic