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Christmas 2009 and New Year 2010

Christmas time is a strange thing here. Not that there are no Christmas cookies and cakes or no special Christmas sweets in the supermarket shelves. That's just like in Germany/Europe. But instead of becoming darker and darker each day it stays light every day a bit longer so there will be no real Christmas feeling at all. There are also no real Christmas trees here. Some Douglas fir are in the forest but nobody takes then for a Christmas tree. Most trees are made of plastic or, if a natural tree is wanted, the Kiwi takes a pine. After a few days it looks like a teariness tree with the tips of the branches hanging down. The tips are very soft because it is spring/early summer here. This year we actually didn't wanted a tree. But then I went outside and cut some branches of a poplar. I put them in a bucket (red plastic but covered with aluminium foil filled with many wee stones) and tied them together with a red ribbon. Together with some ornaments it looked like a (strange) Christmas tree. But I put no lights into the branches. At 9 pm it is still light so the "candles" in the tree do not really show........

Christmas Eve is just a normal working day. And there are no gifts on Christmas Eve, gifts are brought by Santa over night. Usually the parcels are under the tree already days before Christmas. And putting up the tree at the first Advent days is what they like best here. The first day of Christmas John picked up his Mum from the rest home for lunch. She lives in a rest home for people who suffer from dementia. In a "normal" rest home they could not handle her. It seems to me that the nurses in this rest home are really know what they are doing and good qualified for the job. John’s mother feels much better in this rest home. After the meal John took her back. She wanted to see the film "The sound of music". That's the story of the Trapp family. For everybody who does not know who they are. They are a old fashion version of the Kelly family. In the late afternoon we went to visit Barry and his family. Barry is a friend of John who helps him a lot. Especially for this event I had baked German Christmas cookies, it was eaten quite quickly (always a good sign). Later Louisa offered us supper in Kiwi style, Sandwich toast, Ham, Eggs and salad, tomatoes, salad, salad, salad......
You might be interested in the temperature here. While you are freezing and shivering because of the cold we have somewhere from 25 to 30 degrees. Far too hot for real New Zealanders. The feel good temperature for the average Kiwi is from 10 to 20 degrees. Every degree more is "bloody hot" and every degree less means "bloody cold". Maybe every Kiwi should spend some summers and winters in Europe............
Old Years Eve is a normal working day too. In exchange not only New Years Day is a public holiday, also the 2nd January is. And there is another rule I like. If the public holiday is a Saturday or Sunday the following Monday is a day off. So the Monday after Christmas was a holiday, also the Monday after New Year, which made two weekends with 4 working free days each. These days are usually used for caravan holidays. On New Years Day John and I went to another friend of John. His name is, what a surprise, John Nielson. John is a collection name here for every man above 40, with the names Dave, John, Mike and Greg you have got close to 80% of all male names in NZ. John and his wife Marina (she is from the Philippines, John called her Irene) own a holiday home in Cromwell. This time we did not took the shortest way (we know every sheep, stone, bush, dimp, hump on that way!) rather we went via Middlemarch, Ranfurly, Moa Creek (Ida Valley, better know as Land of Rohan out of Lord of the rings), Ophir, the town with the coldest temperature ever in NZ (-21°) and Clyde to Cromwell. Central Otago is so dry that there will be dust storms. The wind and the warmth together caused a very interesting and beautiful cloud formation.

Furthermore it was very windy, some farmer surely had to asked his neighbours if they have seen his padock. The clouds have lost same water over night but diffently not enough. The wind tried to blew us from the road. We traveled with the Fiat converted in a saving version campervan, that means a mattress, blankets and our clothes. The crib of John N. and Irene has a kitchen, a living room, one bedroom and a bath. Guest have to bring there on beds or, if there is no other option, take a bed in the garage, where are some beds for unexpected guest.

The next day John N. took us on a trip to Nevis Valley. Before we could go to the road into the valley we had to let some sheep cross the road and go pass us.

These here are young Merino rams. The Merinos are spread widely in Central because they are quite unaspiring to their food (what does not mean they don't take herbs and other thing they find along the way). The growth and keeping of them is very easy, Merinos can live on poor grassland and don't need much water. Original they are from Spain, Sierra Nevada, where the condition are very similar to Central Otago.

The Nevis valley is between the Remarkables and the mountain range along the Clutha. Who ever wants to go into the valley has to climb over the hills. Here over the highest public road NZ has to offer.

Only translation for non English speaker necessary :-), attention to the last row!! how amazing.... I didn't expect that....:-)

John is having a look towards the Clutha and over Central Otago. What looks like tussock is a quite hard plant. The leave is extremly spiky and it is very easy to get hurt. In the old days the horse men wraped the legs of there horse with cloth to protect the horses from the plants.

Here a photo with the both Johns, I could do very well without climbing on that rock. It looks harmless on the front but at the back are a few higher steps, actually no problem but there is also a steep deep brae at the back.......

This sandy track is the road into the Nevis Valley. The mountains with the snow on top are the Remarkables, it is part of the Lake District. A big ski field for the tourist in Queenstown is in this mountains.

Down in the valley an old bidge across the Nevis river welcomes the visitor.

This bridge was built in 1904 and since then was not replaced by a new one, there where only done repairs if necessary.

Here a picture of the Nevis river. Underneath the tree have some camper there kingdom for the holidays. In NZ it is free to camp where ever you like (except in the cities), of course you need the permission of the owner on privat land. There is a rule called the Queens right. That means there is a stripe of land along the coast line (3 m from high tide?) that belongs to everybody and everyone can camp here or do whatever he like (no, not really everything!). I am not sure if it is the same for rivers and lakes. So you can find a lot of camper along the rivers, lakes and at the beach during the holidays. The building in the background is a shed for the sheep shearing. It belongs to the Nevis Station. The big farms are called Stations here and they are much bigger then in Germany or Europe. The whole Nevis Valley belongs to the Nevis Station.

Soon we arrived at the first ruin

 This is a hotel that was build close to the bridge.

At all ruins in the valley you will find this boards with information about the life in the valley and what kind of building it was. There is also information about the building of the bridge

This ruins are the rest of Nevis Town. Nevis was founded when gold was dicovered in this valley around 1900 .


At the end of the 19th century a kind of bucket dredger was use. They dug the whole valley to find gold and put the underground on the top. Fortunately the nature recovered from this disaster but now there is new danger. The government plans to build a hydro dam at the end of the Nevis River so the whole valley will be flooded and that would be a shame.


It is possible to drive through the whole valley and at the other end you will come out of the 
mountains close to Garston in Southland. But therefore you need an off-road vehicle because there are some fords to cross. On our way back we left the car and climbed up the hill to have a better view over the valley. Here the view to the south.


This is the view to the north towards Cromwell. By the way, the steep brae is the back of the hill with the rock...

On the way back to Cromwell I took this photo. Cromwell is the town you can see just in front of the lake, still 1000 m deeper then the place I am standing.


The way back down hill is nothing for people with weak nerves. At some place is the curve right next to a steep hill side (if you don't get the corner you will have a free flight) and John N. is not the best car driver. Instead of changing into a lower gear before the curve he drove the whole time only in the 3rd gear and therefore used the break constantly. When we finally reach the ground level the break smelled/told a story about heavy use......

We also passed another curio. A reservation for beetles. An area just as big as a football place. The beetles live under the ground and seem to exist only in the area around Cromwell and Bannockburn. The countryside around Bannockburn is famous for that sheep and goats grassed the whole country empty and destroyed it. I can only confirm that. The soil is that poor that there is no grass anymore. Only plants like they are known in the Alps are still growing. Only the farmers who have enough money can irregate the land and put fertiliser to have some grass. How they make grape and fruits grow here is a miracle to me.
In the evening, when the temperature was back to normal, John N. took us for another ride, this time into the other direction. The destination was an old gold mine. Here the miners dug heavy, for a change underground so that there are real mines. 

This place is called Welsh town. It was a gold miner's town like there are a lot in Central Otago. Now here only live rabbits, but they feel very comfortable here - it should be called Rabbits Paradise.....


This building was the local pub, just a bit away from the other houses, there ist a very high chance that it also was the local home for the ladies of the night.

Towns like WelshTown grew very fast at the begin of the last century. When there was no more gold to find the miner went on to the next place and the houses slowly fall into disrepair. Today the geologists are still searching for the main vein of gold in central. Until today they found gold in the rivers (Clutha, Nevis) and at some places in Central close to the surface like Macraes Flat where gold is mined today. They removed the whole hill, where there was a hill is now a lake. And at the side of the road it is going on the same.....

This flower came to Central during the last years. The sheep don't take then as feed but the bees seem to like them quite well. It looks nearly like a Forget-me-not but just similar, the flowers are more on a panicle. The leave is the same but the stripe is hard and it has soft "fur" but they are spinier. But they are very nice to look at...

John Nielson also took us up to Thomsen Gully. It is a place on the way to Lindis Pass. Here is an old stemmer still standing. In the old days it was used to breakup the stones before the mercury were put to it so it was possible to get the gold out of the stone.

Actually very nice but I simply had enough of gravel roads............

The next day John and I drove back home. In the night it started to rain and John had not closed the door of the van completely so his pillow became wet (we had that before, same mistake - same result :-)). First we drove into the "wrong" direction to go over the Lindis Pass into the McKenzie basin. From there we went to see the biggest hydro dam in New Zealand at Omarama (Lake Benmore).


 This dam is mainly made from soil because there are many earthquake here and it is simply not possible to make the dam real safe just with concrete.


This are the overflow gutter if the lake is to full, although it was very dry the last weeks and month it was amazingly filled.

In the late afternoon we finally reach Dunedin and home.

Music: A bunch of thyme Celtic Sunray (Melody:Trad; Arr. Sunray)

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