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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 76

A Trip Through Central Otago

A Trip Through Central Otago.

One fine morning in July Jim and I left Dunedin, to see some of the now famous Otago dredges, by the 9.5 train for Lawrence, where we arrived in time for lunch. From Lawrence we had to coach, and coaching at any time has its little disadvantages : in summer it is all dust and jolts, in winter it is mud—thick, oily, green mud—and the jolting strains every muscle in your body. We did not see much of the surrounding country, as we had to travel in the body of the coach, cramped up on hard seats, bumping our heads at every jolt. Our companions like ourselves were depressed by the journey, but on our producing a flask one of them, a tall, gaunt Scot, brightened up considerably after a nip, in spite of the fact that a jolt caused him to apply most of the whisky to his eyes. We stopped at Roxburgh, where we spent the night, arriving at 9 o'clock—cramped, sore, cold, and hungry. We were jolly glad to see a good hot dinner waiting for us. After a smoke in front of a small, miserable fire, in which they burn lignite of the vilest description, we "turned in," hoping to get a good night's rest: but, alas ! the beds were hard, dirty, and damp, and——; it was a freezing night, and, to add to our troubles, a Scotch concert began in the next room. The songs had 28 verses and a chorus; the tune—well, we understand now why the old cow died, poor brute! The page 90 concert finished at 12 p.m., and we were called to catch [unclear: a] the coach as 3.30 on a freezing and pitch dark morning. This time we got a [unclear: bo]; seat, and, though bitterly cold, we were fully recompensed by the [unclear: view] after daylight. It was a weird drive in the darkness, and at first [unclear: ever] the horses were mere blurs.

At 8 o'clock we arrived at Bald Hill Flat, and never was flat [unclear: better] named—bare trees, bare rocks, and mud or stone houses. This [unclear: place] is said to be rich in gold, several reefs being worked on the hills to [unclear: th] left of the road, towards the Old Man Range. Strange to say, on [unclear: thi] bleak flat is one of the finest fruit gardens in Central Otago. [unclear: W] arrived at Alexandra at 10 a.m., numb with cold and very [unclear: hungry] here we expected a roaring fire and steaming breakfast. We went [unclear: t]——hotel, and wandered from room to room looking for a fire at [unclear: which] to thow. But there were only two small pocket stoves, and both out, [unclear: o] nearly so, whereat we grumbled a little. Upon this the landlady [unclear: beca] very hostile, and said she thought we were very cool; so we were, [unclear: very] She then advised us to take a good walk, which we did after a [unclear: doubtful] looking and semi-cold breakfast. The only way we could keep [unclear: wa] indoors was to light a candle and sit round its ruddy blaze, a [unclear: proce] which requires a gigantic imagination and plenty of time. [unclear: After] breakfast we went on board the dredge. As every body knows all [unclear: abo] a dredge nowadays, we do not intend to describe any. The first [unclear: thin] that struck us was the manners of the dredge hands. Ongoing [unclear: aboa] we politely asked if smoking was allowed. "I don't give a——if [unclear: you] do or not. You can burn the——old tub if you like," was [unclear: th] pleasant reply. We smoked. In the afternoon we went to see [unclear: th] Earnscleughs No. 1 and No. 2. The latter is a fine specimen of [unclear: th] grinding, groaning, gold-getting machines.

Music at Alexandra is of a very high class, and we were [unclear: fortun] enough to hear their brass band, which consisted of one cornet [unclear: wit] only one note, a penny whistle or two, and ten kerosene tins filled [unclear: wit] stones. The last named are played by being violently shaken; [unclear: th] stones are the keys, the tin the sounding board. The [unclear: frequency] the note varies directly as the number of stones and the [unclear: shak] Another musical treat was the hotel gramaphone, the strains of [unclear: whi] woke us in the morning and lulled us to sleep at night. [unclear: But] proceed. After a very cold journey we arrived at Cromwell, where [unclear: w] saw the famous Hartley and Riley dredge getting gold by the [unclear: bucketf]. The dredgemaster very kindly spent an hour showing us all [unclear: th] interesting points about a dredge. In the evening we sat round a [unclear: re] fire, and got warm. The coal here unless handled by an expert will [unclear: n] burn; if you poke it it goes out, but if kicked by an expert it [unclear: bur] brilliantly. At Cromwell we also enjoyed the luxury of a hot [unclear: bath] the only bath, I believe, in Central Otago. The only thing they [unclear: wa] here is gold. On the following day we walked over to see the [unclear: Ranfu] page 91 Dredge, which has the name and appearance of being the best kept dredge on the river. Next day we continued our journey to Queens-town. The road follows the Kawarau Gorge, and as it was under snow, it was a very cold drive, especially near Arrow town. Here we toasted our toes in front of a huge wood fire while the horses were changed. We proceeded on our journey to Queenstown by moonlight, which with the snow added to the grandeur of the scenery, especially where the Remarkables come into view. We arrived at Queenstown at 9 o'clock. The lake looked like a huge mirror : it was so still and cold. After a splendid supper we went to bed. Next morning (it rained hard and froze on the ground) we washed with a piece of ice in one hand and soap in the other, and this is not a method which allows of much comfort, as the ice is rather hard, though it gives a fine polish to one's face. As it rained hardall day, we stayed indoors listening to tales from far back of the cold. One man assured us that he could not put out his candle one night, as the flame was frozen hard; so we congratulated ourselves on being in front of a good fire. We spent a delightful week here, having splendid skating both at Queenstown and Frankton, where the lake was frozen. But all good things come to an end, so do holidays. After a perishing journey home we arrived safe, and congratulating ourselves on our trip.

We Two.