After six nights at Mosgiel, it as time to say goodbye and get on the road again. We had a great time meeting up with friends, enjoying their hospitality with several home cooked meals, and sharing in their family Christmas. Just south of Milton we stopped to look through a historic sod house, built in the 1860s. 100 years later, the old cottage, now owned by Mr. J Clark, was derelict and the South Otago Historical Society undertook restoration. There was wide interest in this project with financial help and supplies donated from local businesses, and several anonymous financial donations from “Old Sods”. The project was completed by May 1970 with living and bedroom furniture in place.
Restored Sod Cottage
Instead of crossing over the interesting old Balclutha Bridge, we turned right and travelled alongside the Clutha River to spend the evening at the Heritage Hub at Tuapeka Mouth. This historic church was built in 1909, with the last Presbyterian service held in 2011. It was purchased by the Clutha Valley Tuapeka Heritage Trust, and is available for hire, as well as being available for NZMCA members to stay overnight. The church has been stripped of most of the pews, although an organ and piano are still inside, as well as a ping pong table and a billiard table for visitors to amuse themselves.
We had heard about the historic Tuapeka Mouth Punt, which was just along the road from the POP. The Clutha River was first crossed by rowing boats, and the community agitated for a punt to cross the river more safely. The punt was built by Tyson and Dunlop at the cost of 333 pounds, and was officially opened on 22nd February 1896. It was a huge success and carried 336 passengers and 255 horses in the first month of operation. And there it was, taking a couple of passengers and a motor bike across, and we watched it return to our side of the river.
Then it was our turn, and we were welcomed aboard by Terry. He operates the Tuapeka Mouth Ferry (The Punt), which is the only one of its kind in the southern hemisphere using the flow of the river to cross from one side to the other and back. And it's free! The punt operates every day between 8am 10 a.m. and 4 and 6 p.m. river level permitting. Terry was very chatty and told us what he was doing as he undid ropes, and wound handles.
Terry working the punt across
The river was lower than normal so it was a little difficult to get the punt moving to start with. To control the ferry, two heavy wire cables across the river (one upstream and one downstream) are permanently attached, and the craft is powered across the river solely by water current pressure against its rudders, attached to the rear of the pontoon hulls. This historic ferry generally crosses the 130 metre width of the river in about 4 minutes.
Two happy punters
What a great ride we had, and Terry was very knowledgeable and informative - it’s obvious he enjoys his job.
The punt actually crosses over the Clutha River, so we set out to find the Tuapeka Mouth, it must be here somewhere. It was just a matter of driving up the road, and over the bridge, and there it was, looking lovely in the sunshine.
The Tuapeka Mouth, flowing into the Clutha River
On the way back to our camp site we passed this interesting local hall, the Tuapeka Mouth Coronation Hall. What coronation, we wondered – even Mr Google couldn’t tell us.
Back in camp we are still the only van in residence. No neighbours, so we will be having a quiet night, it seems.
All on our lonesome