It was a single night stop only at Tuapeka Mouth, and not a single camper called in to join us. But the neighbours were friendly, and the blokes driving their utes or tractors all gave us a cheery wave as they drove up the road passing the church where we were camped. We back-tracked down the eastern side of the Clutha River, crossing over the river at Clydevale – driving over one of those single lane bridges with a passing bay in the middle.
Crossing the Clutha River
We called briefly into Gore to use the dump station, then carried on to Asher Road to stay a couple of nights at the Lignite Pit and Café. Several people had recommended this intriguing sounding CAP (charges apply parking) so it was top of our list for this area. Luckily we had phoned ahead as there were only two power sites – although there is plenty of room for those who wish to go off power.
Lunch at the café sounded like a good idea before we went exploring, and we ordered hot roast pork sandwich (actually served in a bread roll) for him, and seafood chowder for her. All very tasty, and just a light meal required in the evening.
Lunch at the café
And to walk off our lunch, we went through the red gate to see how an open cast lignite mine can transformed to a thing of beauty. There is a $2 charge for this, but no charge for campers, we were told.
It is beautiful serene place, with insects happily buzzing around the flowering bushes, and plenty of water fowl in the lake, and resting on the banks. A group of young swans were making quite a racket as the busily flapped their wings on the lake, practicing their takeoff technique perhaps?
Plenty of birdlife around
There were paths everywhere, little bridges here and there, and seats scattered around for people to sit and relax while looking out over the lake. The garden started as a dream for Dave and Maria Sanderson back in 2004, when the family got in a digger and started to remove the rubbish from the flooded lignite pit. Seven years of hard work and love later, they have transformed the disused lignite pit into the nature friendly habitat is it today. Barry and Maree are now the new owners of The Lignite Pit Café and Secret Garden. Maree was looking for a wedding venue for her and Barry and came across this tranquil garden and decided the easiest way to book the wedding venue was to buy it.
More views of the lake
So what actually is lignite, you are probably wondering. It is the lowest quality of coal, formed at the depth of 1km, and found in Otago and Southland. The lignite coal deposits were first worked in 1904, tunneling to start, then the mine progressed to open cast mining. A pump was necessary to deal with the oncoming water in the pit. When lignite sales dropped considerably and it was no longer viable to continue, the pit closed in 1971. The pump was turned off and water filled the pit.
Rail cart used for lignite