9 January 2018

Waipiata - North Otago

Normally we travel about an hour at the most between places we stay at, but this time it was almost two hours between stops. The reason ... Bernie's daughter Renee was holidaying in North Otago so we decided to spend a few days with her. Our destination was Waipiata, which is only 11kms from Ranfurly. 
At Palmerston we headed inland down State Highway 85, which is also known as 'The Pigroute'. Apparently it gained it's name after John Turnbull Thomson (who was surveying and exploring the Otago region) traveled through the area with his surveying party and came across many wild pigs who seemed unafraid of humans. A huge boar rubbed its nose against Turnball's horse and the name 'Pigroute' came about.
Bowker's Bridge is in this area, it's the last of the original arched stone bridges on the Old Coach Road to Central Otago.

I stopped to take a photo of a farm paddock, which I thought looked eye-catching, with the yellow rapeseed creating a cheerful contrast to the burnt brown background

Google Maps indicated we turn off along a gravel road to get to Waipiata, I knew Bernie wouldn't be keen to take the rig too far along an unsealed road so I contacted him and said I'd meet him in Ranfurly. We met there and asked a local man if there was a sealed road to Waipiata. There was, and better still, it was only a 10 minute drive.
Waipiata is an historic township on the Otago Central Rail Trail. The Waipiata Domain provides a spacious area for camping.

Entrance to Waipiata Domain
The tiny township of Waipiata developed around the Railway and is now a popular stopover for those cycling the Rail Trail.
One afternoon when it wasn't scorching hot, I walked around the town and took photos of some of the old buildings. The Presbyterian Church (below) was built from Waipiata bluestone (also known as Kokonga stone) and Oamaru stone. It's now used as a holiday home.

Below is the Anglican Church which is now also used as a holiday home, or crib as it's called in the southern parts of New Zealand. St Clement's Anglican Church was opened in 1902 and was built with money raised by the community.

The Waipiata Hotel opened in 1899 but was destroyed by fire in 1932. We had a couple of meals there and enjoyed looking at the old photos displayed on the walls. Many locals and visitors (including the Rail Trail cyclists) enjoy this country pub.

Further along the road is an unused factory, which in the past was used for processing rabbits. The first rabbit factory, called 'McAdams Rabbit Factory' opened in 1898 near the Green Bridge. Several years later in 1919 a second factory opened - at one stage it was the largest in Otago. In its day it employed around 60 men in the canning factory. A slump in prices resulted in the factory closing in the 1930s. The building was then used for a variety of purposes, such as a woodshed and as concrete works.

 Below is a photo looking along the Main Street of Waipiata.

Nicely restored cottage on Waipiata's Main Street.

The Waipiata Man was built from bits of metal and sits beside the Rail Trail welcoming cyclists along the track.

Old Railway's building.
Waipiata was originally named Komako, which means Bellbird but local residents preferred the name Waipiata meaning 'Glistening water'.

The old "Waipiata Motors'.
Steel sculpture beside the Rail Trail.
We had a few evenings when the sky turned dark grey and thunder rumbled around the hills. I love the contrast in colours from golden, dry paddocks to stormy mauve coloured skies above.

Near Waipiata are the sale yards, which played an important role in the farming community. Sale Day was one of the biggest events in town with stock being brought to these sale yards from all over the Maniototo to be sold and sent away by train.

Near the entrance to the domain is a lucerne paddock. It was interesting to get a close up look at this plant after reading the book 'The Resilient Farmer' by Doug Avery. It's a brilliant book about a Marlborough farmer who suffered eight years of drought before growing lucerne to feed his sheep, which ultimately changed his whole farming practise.

Not far from Waipiata is the Green Bridge - this iron bridge was built in 1896 and named after it's colour. It's the only flood-free crossing of the Taieri River in the Maniototo. The Taieri River is New Zealand's third longest river.

We headed towards the old Waipiata Sanatorium passing a mob of sheep contained in a woodshed's holding pen. A well trained sheepdog was obediently sitting nearby maintaining crowd control. A couple of hours later as we drove passed again, I saw the dog still sitting loyally in the same spot - on duty.

Nestled in the foothills of the Rock and Pillar Range is a cluster of buildings. Some were built in 1914 as a private Sanatorium (owned by Dr George Byres) to treat tuberculosis. The dry Waipiata climate and height above sea level was considered a suitable cure for consumption. In the 1920s the Sanatorium became government owned and was further developed, including ward blocks, administration buildings, an operating theatre and houses for staff. When the Sanatorium closed it became a youth correction centre (borstal) for the Justice Department.
Today the settlement is named 'En Hakkore' and is a Christian Community and Retreat Centre.

I heard some scuttling around in the long grass nearby and saw a free-range hen scratching around for some insects and/or grass seed - a happy life for a chook.

Waipiata is an amazing little town with some interesting history. Staying here was ideal for us, it allowed us to have a base so we could do day trips exploring the area.


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