the branches road and station

Near Skippers Canyon by Queenstown is an other beautiful remote 4wd road called The Branches Road. Historically Skippers Canyon was the main area for gold mining in the late 1880, At first was Skippers Canyon Road build and few years later begun the building of The Branches Road. I rode both roads many times and both roads are a great adventure all the time, special on a Adventure bike. Before you reach turn off to Branches Road you have to ride Skippers Road which is at some sections a very scary road, the road follow few hundred meter above Skippers Canyon River, there is even not even enough space for two cars to pass each other, I need to watch out all times for dust clouds which where man made by buses or 4wd trucks, that I could look for a safe passing area to pull in. After I reached the rock fall area there is the turn off to the Branches Road to the right into the forest. The road is very exposed, sandy and rocky; what make to ride my bike much more difficult. As soon I reached the first hard right turn I saw a statue which is overlooking Skippers Town and upper skippers canyon, it was said that the statute is looking for the luck and safety for the gold digger.

From that point on the road get more spectacular than Skippers Road before. The road is more exposed and the cliff is getting higher than on the first part on Skippers Road. The excitement get more and more the further I rode down the road, I passed many fords which where not to difficult to pass, due the luck of rain, one of the Fords was just wheel deep but very big rocks where in the drive way a steep sand ramp was to drive up straight after the ford, my bike begun to swing from right to left, but I got my bike back under control with out coming off it.

Further down the valley I found a green area in middle of an forest which I juice to camp for the night, as a farmer told me it must be the historic supply house on right side of the river, it is the only access to the left side of the river by using a flying fox too, the flying fox is in top condition and get used nowadays. We started pitching up our tents and light up a bone fire. But as soon the day light faded away, little blood sucking animals which we call sand-fly’s make our pleasant first stay very unpleasant. But any way; we didn’t break down our campsite and enjoyed our BBQ and our night. In Early morning hours some animals where running around my tent I have had no idea what kind of animals that could be, after one of them attacked my tent I went outside and checked out the situation. Surprisingly there was no danger at all, there where many rabbits playing and running all over the green, one of them must slip and roll over and bounce back from my tent. It was a great experience to sit on the side and look at the rabbits, what a great start into the day, it was so peace full, around us.

After Breakfast we continued our adventure ride to Branches Station, one section was more challenging, rocks as big as footballs; drifting sand in between them make the passing more difficult. That part is only passable by low water of the river, on a bike. That is the only part of the whole road which can make the ride an obstacle. After our success full passing it was easy going until Branches Station. Many confusing notes where at the entrance to the station. We dried to find the farmer to get permission to go further up the private road, the farmer was so kind to give us permission to continue our ride, he recommended to take the steep gravel road up to the top of the hill. From there we would get the best panorama view over the whole valley. Once more a steep climb smaller and tighter serpentines than ever before, may more suitable for a small 4wd car than for a full loaded adventure bike, we went that far already and no one of us want turn back with out that promised view, it must be a gradient of 45 degree, tough, no way back… keep going and don’t look back down.

The view was incredible, stunning, mind blowing and overwhelming. The only big disappointment was I didn’t ask for permission to camp at this location. We took the same way out of the valley as we took in, every ting seems to be easier than before, but wasn’t. We stopped at the original Skippers Home State to take a close look of the well maintaineced cottage, historic tools where hanging outside and where displayed inside as well, an old iron bed was on the far end of the room the fire place was nicely set up with pans and kettle.

May Queenstown is called Adrenalin capitol of New Zealand, definitely Skippers Canyon and Branches Road is Adrenalin capitol of Queenstown.

There is one more good rule on those roads, the road is not suitable for camper vans at all, and if some one rent a car, this is one of New Zealand roads which the rental company exclude any insurance. In the whole valley is no cell phone coverage, if a break down happen it make it very difficult to find fast help by phone, more likely it is a long walk back to the entrance of the road to make the needed call. Even than it is not certain some one pick you up due the difficulty and danger of the road.

 

The Branches Station is a high country farm with 90 000ha of farmland, Sheep and cattle are the most livestock which is on the farm

There is a chance to stay at the branches by one of the farm houses , which is called Stockman’s Camp, to experience that unique and pure, untouched environment cost its price.

 

 

Skippers Canyon

Unbelievable scary, with the beauty of a women; is the Skippers Canyon Road which belongs to the top 10 dangerous roads of the world.

The entrance of the road is in the same location than Cornet Peak Ski fields by Queenstown. The turn off is in a long right corner ¾ up the road to the left.

Skippers Canyon road is a historic scenic road 22km in length,, which winds up beside Shotover River one on New Zealand’s richest bearing gold rivers, which was named by William Rees one of the first settlers from Europe.

In late 1862 Thomas Arthur and Henry Redfern discovered in the area of todays Arthurs Point 4 oz gold in 3 hours, they made no secret of the found and soon start the settlement up the river. At the early stage of the gold finding the miners had to find there own way up the river, which was very difficult due the steep mountains and the current Shotover River, at this time many accidents and casualty’s has been reported, which had difficulty of the transport of goods to the end of the river. In late 1800 the first survey has been made to build a road into the valley to make the Skippers Canyon more accessible for the Miners, first Hotels where build beside the road one of them was the old welcome Hotel, today are only the both chimney remaining the other one is the Otago Hotel far up in the mountain, not much left of this Historic accommodation, it can be reached by a 2 hour hike or Adventure bike but, there are a few tricky sections with deep steps that make the ride a bit challenging, a good work out for biker to check his menthaly strength, on one side is the straight rock up and on the other side a steep cliff to the Shotover River. However the access point is behind the historic cemetery. Further up the valley, first challenges waited for the road workers, the rock is very soft and the steep cliffs made the road very dangerous, at dry condition as soon the carriages rolled over the loose rock, the rock turned into dust, as soon the rain started the dust road was very slippery and unpredictable. Under those condition it was no surprise that motor vehicles where banned until late 1900, and no insurance covered the vehicle on this road. Today it has changed; Skippers Canyon Road is a public road from start to end.

Today, Skippers Canyon is a main tourist attraction. On weekends the road is very busy with 4×4 wd cars, at some locations it could be very difficult to pass an on coming vehicle, usually by dry condition is a massive dust clouds visible from the on coming vehicle and a passing spot can be looked at, to let the on coming vehicle pass. For UN experienced driver the biggest challenge is the deep drop beside the road, with no hard shoulder on the side. In 1898 the Skippers suspension bridge where build in just 2 years. Even though the completion of the existing bridge was done after the gold rush was over, it is one of the main attractions of the journey to Skippers Village. The bridge spans from sheer rock faces on both sides and is about more than 100m above the Shotover River.

At Skippers Town village is a DOC campground with basic facilities. The old school house is nicely refurbished and one of the original houses is open for visitors to take a look into the basic live in the gold mining times.