|Nothing but a cemetery, a stand of ancient poplars and the distinct white tailings remain of the gold-mining township, Drybread, situated at the foot of the Dunstan Range near Omakau.
Yet the history, landscape and its curious name are so wonderfully Central Otago, that Drybread continues to attract those seeking out an authentic Central experience.
The name does require an explanation and locals will happily share it.
Prospector Charles Wise and his associates were active along the foot of the ranges during 1863-64. Their party included a nanny goat, whose milk was used to soften their hard, stale bread supplies. When the men found alluvial gold at the diggings, there was obviously cause for celebration. However, the goat had gone dry and the best they could rustle up was a feast of dry bread. So Drybread it became – and Drybread it remains today.
The cemetery is the focal point of the local community and visitors are welcome. It is situated on private land and clearly signposted off Glassford Road. (Please note that dogs are not allowed and all gates should be left as you find them.)
However, besides the cemetery, the only sign you will find of Drybread township today is a stand of gnarly old poplars and the white tailings left by relentless sluicing. Both are situated several hundred metres to the cemetery’s north-east.
Some visitors mistakenly identify the remains of the Matakanui Welcome Hotel – which sits on Glassford Road, near the cemetery turn-off – as part of the Drybread township. In fact, the hotel was built just outside the township, strategically positioned to attract the steady flow of miners making their way to Matakanui.
In 2007, Drybread became part of the consciousness of New Zealand’s literary circles, after author Owen Marshall published a novel – called, simply, “Drybread”.