Waiting “Pans” Out

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29/01/08
Howdy hi folks. ProspectorSteve here, reporting in for another tale from New Zealand. Well, I only feel like a prospector as I’m in a ghost town / mining town at the moment. In fact, what I’m really in is my tent, in a bug-infested field on the site of what was once the main street of Lyell, a gold rush town. Nowadays, it’s a DOC (Department of Conservation) campsite, where you pay 6NZD in an honor box to camp overnight. There’s a tap, and an outhouse. Did I mention the bugs? The sandflies to be precise. Everyone warned me about this place, but I laughed it off. They weren’t kidding! My latest hobby has been to rack up the bodycount in the tent each time I open the tent. Needless to say, they are winning the war, and I’ve resigned myself to staying in my little nylon fortress rather than risk life and limb outdoors. Probably best anyway, as I’m not feeling well, and a good nights rest might help. However, I’ve gotten ahead of myself, read on for the day’s events, and check out the map for some fun pictures!

Early this morning, I left sun-drenched Glenhope for the mining town of Lyell, 84km away. To get there, I’d be passing through the Lower Buller Gorge, which has a rich history of both gold mining, as well as earthquake disasters. I’m really starting to get the rural sense of this trip, and things will probably stay that way for a lot of my time left here. Towns are small, and far apart, and amenities like power, phone and Internet getting scarcer to find. For tonight’s meal, I had to pick up stuff in Murchison, the halfway point. However, with no stove, my supper consisted of a cold pie, a big banana chocolate chip muffin, chips, an apple and banana, and some water. Gourmet, of course! I don’t mind, as long as I’m stuffing enough calories into my belly, it really doesn’t matter whether I eat warm or cold food, it’s so bloody hot all day it doesn’t matter.

Hot, yes, hot, it turns out that cycling in the middle of the mid-day heat in a gorge can be a rather dehydrating experience for a tired, semi-sick cyclist. Yup, today was a tough slog. Although the general trend was downwards, there was no shortage of little climbs all throughout the day to keep me busy and wear me down. When I finally got to the town of Murchison, I took a well-deserved rest and ate a nice meal, as well as strolled town and generally stayed out of the sun for about an hour. I knew Lyell held no real excitement, so I figured I’d take my time getting there.

Hmm, just the ticket, as along the gorge, there was a place with New Zealands longest swing bridge (suspension walking bridge), and some walks in the woods where you can pan for gold, as well as a flying fox. I decided I’d call in there, and kill a bit more time. Admission was 5NZD to take the bridge, and if you wanted to take the flying fox back across, it was 25 for regular style or 35 for “Supaman” style, where you jump and fly in a full body harness. I didn’t buy either ticket, but asked if I could get a discount. Well, the lady at the main entrance told me to go see Pete up in the tower and sweet-talk him in to a deal over there, away from the tourists prying ears.

I tell you, bartering and begging is far from dead in the world folks. I managed to charm my way into a 15NZD Supaman ride! Yup, less than half. Once again, I’ve proven a silver tongue can get you good deals on the road. Did I mention my t-shirt? In case I didn’t, I also smooth talked my way into a tech T-Shirt with New Zealand on it for only 25, down from 30 that they wanted at a big store. Try that at Wal-mart! Hee hee. Everyone loves a great deal, don’t they? I know I do! Impressed, aren’t you Kev?

Anywho, as I mentioned, this whole area was the site of New Zealands biggest gold rush back in the day, and as a result, many towns sprung up capitalizing. Shame about the fault lines though. Yup, in 1929, there was a huge earthquake that pretty much wiped out half the towns. By that time, most of the easy gold had been picked out of the rivers and ground, so most towns didn’t bother rebuilding. Lyell was one such town. At its peak, it boasted 6 hotels, and many shops, all precariously perched on a cliff. Now, there is virtually nothing left but a couple concrete pillars. Well, that and a cemetery and some other odds and sods, which I got to check out on a nature walk I took after my hasty in-tent supper. At least the bugs can’t keep up when you walk fast in the woods. It was a creepy kind of walk, with almost jungle-like foliage all around, and I was all alone at dusk. Kinda fun, but not much to write about. It was nice to stretch the legs though.

Well, I’m sleepy now, and since I have no power, the old battery is running down on charge. Okay, not really, I still have half a battery, plus a full other one, but I just don’t feel like typing anymore 😉 I enjoyed my mining day, even though I don’t feel too super, but I figured I’d get a bit run-down at some point. Hope you’re all doing well, and tune in next time for another exciting tale from ActiveSteve!

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