Population Ten

On my recent trip to the South Island of New Zealand, I had the pleasure to discover and stay in the wonderful little historical town of St Bathans, located in the middle of Central Otago.

The origin of the town dates back to the early 1860s when gold was discovered and migrants came from as far afield as Ireland and China to seek their fortune.  It was originally named Dunstan Creek and by 1864, approximately 1000 people lived in the immediate area.

As a legacy of the mining, the amazing Blue Lake was formed.  Named after the distinctive blue colour which was caused by minerals in the water, it was created by miners digging away at a 120 metre hill until all that was left was a deep pit. When the mining stopped, the hole filled with water forming the lake.  Today, the lake is popular with weekend visitors who swim and jet ski in the lake.  There is a two kilometre walking track around Blue Lake so you are able to see the amazing colours and reflections from many different viewpoints.

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Blue Lake

Today there are only ten permanent residents, which include the owners of the haunted historic Vulcan Hotel, Mike and Jude Kavanagh.    You wont find a website to advertise the charming digs of this hotel accommodation, but you will find wonderful hospitality and have the opportunity to hang out with the locals when they drop in for a beer at the end of the day.

A couple of times a year, they run sheep through the main street in order to move them to different pastures.  I saw an amazing photograph on the wall of the pub which showed this happening.  The image had one sheep standing up in protest in the middle of the mob which really made the shot.  I was chuffed when Mike gave me a postcard of this image to keep.

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Many images of the renowned artist Grahame Sydney hang on the wall in the Vulcan Hotel.  Grahame has spent a lifetime painting and photographing the Central Otago landscape.

Little has changed in the town and it is easy to imagine how things might have been in its hey-day.  Historical St Bathans is now managed by the Department of Conservation and the only currently operating buildings are the pub and the post office.   I found it interesting that there were two cemeteries.  One for the catholics which took pride of place in town near the church, and one for non catholics which was located out of town.

I wandered through the township of historical buildings and found many items of interest to photograph, including vintage bicycles and old farm equipment.

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The Catholic Church and Cemetery

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Bike and Rabbit Trap

Only 17 kilometres away is the amazing Central Otago Rail Trail at Oturehua .  I was surprised at the number of families who were out riding parts of the trail.  It is such a wonderful landscape though to keep you distracted from the pain of cycling up the many hills.

St Bathans is a wonderful little place to put on your ‘must see’ places if you are travelling in the South Island of New Zealand.

A gallery of my St Bathans images is now able for viewing on the Getaway Images website.

Cambria – A Hugger’s Paradise

Some of the most enjoyable travel experiences are those which are unplanned.  Whilst I do love to research and plan before travelling to new locations, I also like to go with the flow and take advantage of any opportunities that arise along the way.

Over a beer with the locals at the Vulcan Hotel in St Bathans, a really cool little town in the middle of Central Otago in New Zealand, I mentioned to the friendly folks that I was a photographer visiting from Australia and would they be able to share their knowledge on any great spots for me to photograph.  Whilst my main intent was to photograph the lake and surrounding landscapes of St Bathans, getting some unique shots of the area is always a travelling photographer’s delight.

I should mention that there was never any more than six people in the pub at any one time, and legend has it that the ghost of Rosie, a lady of the night who was murdered at the pub and her body was found down in the lake, still haunted the pub!

As I was the only house guest on the first night, I declined the option to stay in the haunted room.   Yep….I was piked out!

People always love to help and I was advised that I should go on up to Cambria and meet “Bob”.  I was warned to watch out for him because he was a hugger!

I didn’t know what to expect but the next day I thought I would check out this place called Cambria where Bob the Hugger had created his own man made forest.

I came across the first of many interesting signs on the dirt road leading into Cambria.  It provided directions to Lower, Middle and Upper Cambria.  I chuckled as I realised that each area only consisted of about six houses.

Then another sign asking me did I want to go “here” or “there”


I chose “here” and ended up at the forest.


I parked the car and was immediately greeted by “Bob” who gave me a big hug and genuinely welcomed me to his piece of paradise on earth. He was beside himself that someone had taken the time to seek out his little piece of paradise and to come and admire his handiwork.


Bob had painstakingly planted thousands of beautiful trees which were now in full autumn splendour.


In amongst the forest were a number of quirky objects and were testament to his sense of humour.


Nothing but the best….silverware and a welcome drink for guests


The forest was a quiet meditative place for some.


Sold in St Bathans” – I am sure Bob has plans for that old washing machine….one day!


Curiosity will lead you to mysterious places in the forest.


There are places to rest your weary exploring feet…..albeit a little rustic!


Plenty of old cars for the motor enthusiast to see


Of course every good forest needs a submarine. Bob told me that this one was a work in progress. “I have just got to build up the bank at the back and wait for some rain”, he said.

Take the time to meet the locals on your next trip, you never know where you might end up.

It sure was a pleasure to find this little treasure, and of course you can never have too many hugs!