On Thursday 6th February we went for another ‘adventure’ with Rodger and Lisa… This time they were taking us over the highest road in NZ.
After the little town of Bannockburn we turned onto the unsealed road which snakes up over the mountains. For years this road was the only route from Cromwell to Queenstown. Even today it’s about a 4 hour drive (compared with about 50 minutes on the main road) and is only passable with a 4 wheel drive. There are numerous fords and gaping holes in the road to negotiate, which mean extreme care is needed.
There were great views as we climbed some 1300 metres to Duffers Saddle and chose a picnic spot near the highest point. The 360 degree vista was spectacular with the snow clad Southern Alps visible in the distance.
We crossed the Nevis valley where European farmers had found gold in the mid-19th century. It hadn’t lasted long and living out here was an incredibly tough life.
A short distance from Duffers Saddle we took a slight detour to find the ‘Young Australian Waterwheel’ It was dragged up the mountain in the late 19th century to drive the battery used to pound the gold out of the rock.
Today only one family lives at the Ben Nevis station so it still feels very remote. There are the remains of numerous stone buildings from the gold mining days including a cemetery, settlement buildings and a woolshed.
The route rises over the Hector Mountains and descends to the town of Garston just south of Lake Wakatipu.