A Maniototo Road Trip

What do you do in the middle-of-nowhere with nowhere to go? We’ll be honest, we’re struggling to find an activity of the day between Ranfurly and Alexandra as we are about to embark on a journey across the Maniototo District. So we talk to a local! Paul, the owner of the Ranfurly Holiday Park, gives us a tip that we can get some great views from the Hamilton Cemetery… Ok, that sounds a bit grim, but we can’t resist a good view, so it looks like we are visiting a grave yard this morning. Wahoo!

One more thing before we leave Ranfurly, “Is it a gravel road to Hamilton Cemetery?” Robin asks Paul.

“Noooo, I don’t think so,” Paul replies. We think you know where we are going from here.

Google Maps, you suck!

We’ve made this mistake with Google Maps before; the app finding the fastest route to a destination rather than the easiest. Back in Makoura on the North Island, we ended up on a treacherous slippery single gravel track on the side of a mountain in our huge crappy campervan. Today, it takes us on a totally unnecessary gravel road expedition. To start with, the gravel roads are pretty well-maintained – nothing to b*tch about. Then we are literally faced with a 4×4 track: just two lines of road for your wheels and some muddy puddles. Ok, back up, back up! We manage to find somewhere to turn on the road and almost call it a bad idea to come to Hamilton Cemetery…

But, as we are about to enter the tiny township of Waipiata, we spot a tourist sign for Hamilton Cemetery leading up a single sealed road! Well, that will do! Despite travelling on a tiny bit of gravel road anyway (it can’t be avoided), we actually make it to this freakin’ grave yard.

Best friends for life! Best friends for life!
Yes, we like to hang out in grave yards, and what? Yes, we like to hang out in grave yards, and what?
Why have a grave stone when you can have a memorial bell with a view Why have a grave stone when you can have a memorial bell with a view
Visit to the post office: tick! Visit to the post office: tick!

Calves at the cemetery

On the trail between the road and the cemetery, our attention is taken by a heard of cute-as-hell calves! We slowly approach the calves that are all huddled together in the next field. At first, they don’t seem too keen to be stroked by us. But when we go to leave, they all come straight to the fence and follow us everywhere we go! And, yes, they now all want a good “pat” on the head – pun intended and proudly provided.

Maniototo Views

So what about these views we were here to see? Oh yes, we have to say, these people have a grand resting place atop this hill with views of the flat farming plains stretching out the mountains of the Southern Alps in the distance!  We have an amazing view of the Maniototo area right here!

The mailman’s mistake

We don’t leave the cemetery without having a bit of a look around this historic resting place for Maniototo’s first European settlers. Most of the gravestones come from the 1800’s and one mystery in particular grabs our attention. One grave stone engraving reads how a guy died while delivering the mail. Death by mail delivery?! We know people say that paper cuts can’t kill you, but this guy begs to differ!

Views, graves and calves: check! Now we are moving our Maniototo road trip to Alexandra!

Isn’t that the prettiest darn post office you ever did see?!

The town of Ophir

We are making our way through the landscape we admired from Hamilton Cemetery – wide plains of pastoral land with not much going on other than the odd small settlement. However, one of those settlements is one of the most authentic towns from the gold mining era – Ophir.

Ophir has many of its original buildings from the 1800s still standing and even the bridge we cross to leave the town is old as f*ck. We literally drive over wooden planks with raised sections for the wheels to leave the town. (But don’t worry, it actually is a bridge structure). But before all that, we go check out the prettiest and most-photographed building of the town, the Ophir Post Office. The small and cute building with a red roof and cream stone window frames looks like something out of a movie or a fairy tale. The colourful structure built in 1886 looks too well-maintained to be true, and that’s probably because it is still a working post office!

Token tourist photos taken, we cross the old bridge and continue on our final leg to Alexandra.

Robin takes on the Shaky Bridge Robin takes on the Shaky Bridge
This must make the days at work for the vineyard pickers feel like its going so much slower This must make the days at work for the vineyard pickers feel like its going so much slower
Wow! So THIS is what the clock sees everyday! Wow! So THIS is what the clock sees everyday!

The Clock on the hill

Alexandra is a complete contrast to the area we have just been travelling in. The town is pretty buzzing alongside the big blue Clutha River and the smaller Manuherikia River. We even get to do some shopping at New World!

On the hillside looking over the town is “The Clock on the Hill” – our final activity on the Maniototo Road Trip. Not only can you tell the time from the huge white hands moving around the rocky hillside, but you can walk right up to the structure and see Alexandra from the clock’s perspective.

Shaking our way to the clock

Getting to the clock involves crossing “Shaky Bridge” a historic suspension bridge that was once used for horse and carts. Today, it has been narrowed somewhat to just let walkers and cyclists through. Damn, we can’t take our horse and cart today.

On the other side of the bridge is a pretty cool view over a vineyard up to the clock! We ask the owner to see if we can have a look around the vineyard and get some photos here.

Another epic viewpoint

Next, we are climbing up the steep but short walk to, what should be called, The Clock on a Rock. We scramble up rugged and dry rocks to get right up to the clock face. Being this close to the clock, we can see time moving alarmingly fast! Eek! But, if we forget about that aspect and just look at the views, we just don’t care. The town of Alexandra is spread before us, with views of the vineyard, the town, the rivers and out towards the surrounding mountains. Now, THIS is a view!

Our Maniototo road trip day ends at the Alexandra Holiday Park situated just alongside the Manuherikia River. Tomorrow, we are going to be seeing more of these rivers on a bike trail between Clyde and Alexandra! Join us then!

Laura and Robin

Awesome views from Alexandra's Clock on the Hill
Awesome views from Alexandra's Clock on the Hill Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

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Comments
  1. I am glad you enjoyed your time in Central Otago. Regarding the poor postman in the Hamilton’s Cemetery, I suspect he may be the chap who actually froze to death while his horse and cart plodded through a particularly nasty frosty morning. Regards.

    Comment avatar Tim Cadogan
    05/09/2017 at 10:34 am
    1. Damn! It looks like being a postman was not for the faint -hearted back in the days :s

      Comment avatar Robin
      05/09/2017 at 10:40 am
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