The legacies of Central’s back-country builders.
It followed a winding contour in and out of the ridges and gullies from its source high on the western slopes of the Old Woman Range.
We sat on a snow tussock and wondered at the magnitude of this accomplishment of the builders of the 35km-long Carrick Range Water Race.
The first sod was turned on the water race in April 1872, and by 1877 water was flowing from the Nevis Valley into the Bannockburn catchment, allowing miners to liberate gold from its alluvial gravels and gullies.
Eleven hundred metres up on the Carrick Range, water from the race turned the Young Australian Water Wheel and stamper battery, an imposing piece of restored heavy engineering which was dragged up the ridge in 1874 to where it sits today.
One hundred and forty-nine years later, the Carrick Range Water Race still carries water in the summer to irrigate the paddocks and vineyards far below.
On this late autumn day it carried no water, so we could really marvel at this product of human muscle, picks and shovels.
As luck would have it, the even gravel bottom of the water race provided us with a perfectly smooth, if sinuous, pathway to ride our mountain bikes back to the Nevis Rd.
This heritage of ambitious and awe-inspiring engineering projects continues here in Central Otago.
The newly opened section for the Lake Dunstan Trail from Cromwell to Clyde is a masterpiece.
It provides a worthy challenge for walkers and bikers as it traverses the bluffs and kanuka-clad gullies of the western shores of the lake.
The hand-laid rockwork continues the heritage of Otago’s early track and race builders who ensured their work would stand the test of time.
I have no doubt that in 140 years’ time someone will take the time to wonder at the job done by the builders of the Lake Dunstan Trail.
They had the same vision, doggedness and pride in their workmanship as the race-builders on the Carrick Range 150 years before.