Westport – All Ford Day 2018
The start of June brings our last long weekend through until October, so what better excuse than to make it an extra long one by taking the Friday off and making it into a four day event. In 2016 & 2017, I spent Queen’s Birthday weekend attending the Timaru All British Day. With my two year anniversary of the Fiesta, I decided it was a good weekend to take it to an event where it’d be welcomed to attend – Buller All Ford Day.
I started Friday morning by getting out and washing the car in the dark at 6am, where we had a -4 degree celsius day. It’s not something I’d volunteer to do again, my hands were like blocks of ice and the water was freezing on the car. Still, I couldn’t go away with a filthy car!
Travel for Friday was pretty easy and we only had to travel as far as the Ashford Motor Lodge, in Christchurch, where we were booked in for the night.
With a reasonably prompt start on the Saturday morning, we ventured over the Lewis Pass and headed to our midday destination – Karamea. I’ve only driven the road into Karamea once before, when I originally purchased the ST, but have been dying to drive it again ever since. The second time around was just as rewarding, although next time I do this road it has to be in the summer when I don’t have to be quite as gentle with the car on some of the damp and slippery road surfaces.
The sun was out and shining in Karamea, in fact the entire four day weekend mostly consisted of t-shirt wearing conditions, which is a change from our ten degree days we’ve been having in Southland. With plenty of spare time, we got to explore some of the hidden areas of Karamea, including the original school site in the second picture above. The original school was formed in the mid 1870s, but didn’t stay in this location for long – as poor soil forced the settlers down to the river valley. It was eerie visiting the old school location and surrounding areas, as it really felt like that place that if you went missing – you’d never be found… I also had a chuckle at the lack of effort put into the telephone/internet cables in this remote location. As you can see in the second picture – it just runs along the roadside and at one stage, you actually drive over the cable!
Sunday brought the main event for the weekend, the car show. It’s about 105 kilometers through to Westport, which takes around an hour and a half, as the roads are quite tight and twisty in sections. Making reasonable time, we arrive for the 10am starting time.
The venue, in the middle of Westport was a really good one for a car show. With a grass field in the middle for you to park on, you could walk the entirety of the outside on a banked tar-sealed loop. Plus, there was a large grandstand over by the stalls – a good place for a sit-down or to shelter from the rain if the weather hadn’t played ball.
We caught up with Richard, who had brought his XR4i to the show. It was great to hear how some of the projects he had underway when we visited in February were progressing.
My car of the show was this AU XR8 Falcon. The owner had the car presented extremely well in original condition. Take a look at the stone chips on the front bumper – proof that the car has been well used.
It was a nice little coastal town, that had a few little holiday houses and bed & breakfasts.
The next stop was Mitchell’s Gully Goldmine, which, surprisingly is still owned by Valentine Mitchell – the great (or great-great) grandson of the original owner. Paying the $10 entry fee, we set off on our adventure through the mine.
With a tourist based venture like this, I was surprised about the lack of health and safety. No mention of good shoes or a torch were mentioned, so I was pleased that I carry a penlight in my pocket, otherwise it would have been a little awkward in some of the tunnels. As you can see in the pictures there are no internal supports on any of those tunnels, they’re just 150 year old tunnels dug out of the dirt and stones.
This is the last remaining waterwheel left in the whole of the Charleston area and powers the stamping battery situated beside it. The stamping battery crushes the material put into it, as it rotates the camshaft. The owner appeared while we were looking at it and told us that it’s the third waterwheel on this exact spot, which he had built himself in the 70s.
The whole Charleston area is actually an ancient beach and at some spots, you can see the layers and layers of sand from hundreds of years. The sand is cemented with iron, so the material is broken down using the stamper and the gold extracted using materials such as mercury baths.
The scenery on the 40-odd minute walk through the tunnels and area was pretty cool, including this old chain that the owner had left sitting on this tree in the 70s and had never picked up again.
In the office were a bunch of old photos, memorabilia and newspaper articles from the late 1800s. As you can see in the pictures, Valentine’s grandfather was using his Ford Model T in 1921 at the mine. The Charleston map from approximately 1870 shows just how busy the town was – gold miners from all over the world arrived to make their living. Valentine said that he believes New Zealand is the melting pot of the world, with most of us having ancestors from many different countries.
Driving the remaining distance back into Greymouth, I managed to park the ST up and take a few “beauty” shots.
Monday morning consisted of the 700 kilometer journey back home, with the car even making it home on a single tank of gas. It was another good trip away in the car and a great way to celebrate my first two years with the car.
I’ve got another post underway covering my ownership costs so far and a video to go with it. Stayed tuned!