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Dunstan Trail

The Dunstan Gold rush started in 1862, when the American Hartley und Reilly discovered a rich gold vein at the banks of the River Clutha, slightly above Clyde.

The gold miners came from Dunedin, Gabriel's Gully (a goldfield close to Lawrence) and other part of Otago intent on finding their share of gold in the new gold field. The Dunstan Trail or Dunstan Road was the ideal connection for everybody who was in a hurry. The trail follows a nearly straight line from Dunedin to Dunstan, a distance of 175 km, and cross four mountain ranges, Lammermoor, Rock und Pillar, Rough Ridge and Raggedy Ranges.

The existence of the town Outram is due to the gold fields in Central. The travelers had to cross the River Taieri and here a ferry was situated. Later it was replaced by a bridge and a toll house. 1863 a flood washed away the bridge and the toll house. The today’s town of Outram was rebuilt on higher ground, a few yards from the river. I really liked that place. You have the Maungatua Mountains (a high plateau) in your back and the width of the Taieri Plains in front of you.

First there were many tracks from Outram across the high plateau but the more the tracks were used the more inns and stores settled on the track and slowly more and more miners took the same route. There is hardly anything left from the inns and stores but there are records of at least 10 licensed inn.

It took two to three week for a cartridge to carry the supply of food, wood and other freight from Dunedin to Dunstan and back. Ox-drawn carts needed longer - for comparison only. Today you need from Dunedin via Lawrence and Alexandra to Clyde Dam round about 2 hours by car. Many traders made more money than their customers, the gold miners. Dunedin grew quickly and became one of the richest towns in New Zealand if not the richest.

In November 1862 the company Cobb & Co. founded a constant coach line to Dunstan, starting at the Province Hotel at Stafford Street in Dunedin. The trip from Dunedin to Dunstan first took 3 day. But soon the travel time was reduced to one day (start at 4 am arrival in Dunstan at midnight). Stations were placed along the track for changing horses. As there was the danger of strong winds blowing the coaches over the top was taken off. People were delighted about that, they used the involuntary stops to walk around and warm up. Also it was much easier for the horses to pull the coach. Already in 1964 the route stands down because there was a better way via Palmerston and Ranfurly. But the deliveries from Dunedin to Dunstan still went over the Dunstan Trail.

If today you will follow the track of the goldminers, you start at Dunedin taken the Highway No 1 towards Mosgiel. From here you take the Highway No 87 to Outram. After you have passed Outram (nearly sea level) you climb up the hill to 400 m above sea level, the mountains creating this steep climb are called Mangatua. At Clarks Junction you turn left into the "Old Dunstan Road". Now you are on private land but the farmer is very tolerant and allows all people to enter his ground. So everyone can enter who wants to do the trail or testing his 4-wheel drive. The trail is just a sandy track and after 15 km it crosses a stream, called Deep Stream. Here ends the ground of Black Water Station and the ground belongs to another station. The tracks goes on, passing a fresh water reservoir and accompanied by a strong winds. After you have managed 30 km and if you are tired of riding on sandy tracks you can turn off to Ranfurly and follow the sealed roads back home. For the hardboiled drivers the trail goes on to Alexandra but this part of the trail is only convenient for real 4-wheel-drivers. The trail ends close to Moa Creek. Nearby Poolburn and Ida Valley are located. Famous as the land Rohan from the film "The Lord of the Rings". Apropos Lord of the Rings, all over Central you will find showplaces of the film.


View over Central

In the middle of nowhere - Dunstan Trail

The quality of the trails has probably not change during the last 150 years - it is still a sandy track

Water reservoir right in the middle of Central - yes, it looks like the land Rohan

Parts of "The Lord of the Rings" were filmed here

That is no wood. As there are no forests in Central Otago people have taken rocks, carved it and used it as corner stones for fences

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