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Kelvin Heights to Jacks Point

EL4159 packer heading towards woolshed Woolshed Beach Wakatipu

A challenging but rewarding ride or walk goes from Jardine Park in Kelvin Heights, around the Lake edge to Jacks Point. There are beautiful vistas of the Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains. You can reward yourself by having a coffee and cake at Jacks Point golf club restaurant, before heading back the way you came. The mountains you will see looking towards the Glenorchy end of the lake are Walter and Cecil Peak. Both mountains are named after Cecil Walter the son of William and Francis Rees, the founders of Queenstown. Looking towards Kingston you have the impressive peaks known as Bayonet Peaks on your right. They were named after their appearance by early surveyor, James McKerrow. Maori believed the mountains west of Kingston were the home of ‘fairy people’ and were known as Ka puke maeroero which translates as ‘fairy or ogre mountains’. The Lochy river named by explorer Donald Cameron after a river in Scotland is known as Te Awa maerorero, an area that is haunted by fairy- like people. On your left you see in the distance the Hector Mountains, named after Sir John Hector, Otago’s Provincial Geologist. The Maori called the Hector Range tapuae Uenuku which means ‘the footsteps of Uenuku- the Rainbow God. The main feature towing above you and dominating the landscape are the amazing Remarkable Mountains aptly named for their unusual character by Alexander Garvie an early surveyor. Maori knew the Remarkables as Kawarau, the same name as the river that runs below them. The Remarkables are one of only two mountain ranges in the world that run directly north/south.

The ride/ walk takes you above and then beside the large sweep of Woolshed Bay named after the woolshed that served the surrounding sheepstation. Wool would be picked up from here by the lake steamers and taken to Kingston.

After a bit of a sweat you arrive at Jacks Point. This is named after one of the most interesting characters from the gold rush period, Jack Tewa. Jack was known by a few names ‘ Maori Jack’ ,’Big Jack’,  Hatini Whire and Antony White. Jack was born in Thames and worked as a shearer/ shepherd for William Rees. August 1862 was pretty momentous for him. He was the first to discover gold in the Arrow River, but is not universally recognized for this. William Fox often gets the credit. On August 9 he was on a small sailing vessel on Lake Wakatipu when it capsized in a storm off what is now known as Jacks’ Point. On board were two other men, Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Rogers. All were overcome by the intense cold of the water and Mr. Rogers drowned. Using his huge strength and tenacity, Jack dragged Mr. Mitchell to the shore and saved his life. For his gallantry Tewa was awarded the Royal Humane Society silver medal. This medal is on display at the museum. In gratitude Mr. Mitchell presented him with a watch and the people of Queenstown raised money for him to buy a dray and bullock team.  Jack Tewa then largely disappears. In 1865 he is seen as part of an expedition mapping a road through the Haast Pass to the West coast and is reported on the West Coast goldfields as late as 1897, but then the trail goes cold. For years I have tried to find out where he  ended up or where he was buried, but without success. I wonder what he would make of a whole subdivision and golf course being named after him?

Another stunning track leaving Arrowtown is the Bush Creek saddle walk. You can now go a lot further, in fact all the way to the intersection with the Coronet Peak road and the Skippers turn off. It has become a popular cross country mountain bike trail also. Bush Creek is named after the extensive stand of native beach forest that was there originally. A couple of kilometers into the track you come across the remains of the dam that supplied drinking water to Arrowtown. Bush Creek has always supplied Arrowtown’s excellent water. During the first years of the gold rush the water was supplied in barrels. The museum has the barrel book from 1863, that identifies all the businesses and pubs and how many barrels of water they were ordering. Soon after a dam was installed and reticulated water arrived in Arrowtown. Bush Creek also runs beside the Chinese Settlement in and that’s where they got their water. Today bores beside the creek still supply Arrowtown and Millbrook’s domestic water. For a while  in the 1970’s and 80’s there was an ice skating rink in bush creek

The track steadily climbs up towards the base of Coronet Peak. It is hard to believe you are just one valley from civilization. You could be in the Caples or Greenstone as you cross the creek numerous times, pass through a lovely stand of beech forest and head across open tussock land. You will often see, or be bombed by native falcon who nest in the surrounding crags or come across a flock of goats.

Coronet Peak was named for the rock formation at its summit that looks like a crown. It was named by a surveyor, James McKerrow in 1860 and now in the winter it is one of New Zealand’s best ski fields, but more on that another time.