Sensual to the point of surreal, Central Otago is an achingly lonely summit crest, a glacial lake gouged to below sea level, muscular mountainsides shimmering with snow tussock in a fohn wind, towering billow clouds, hoar frost filigree, and a rage of autumn colours. Central Otago is a poem, a song, a cry for something lost in time. The landscape, once a paradise for birds, remembers moa of just about every kind, eagles almost too big to fly, imposing adzebills, browsing takahe and mouse-sized bats that crawled about the forest floor at dusk. Flightlessness was the fashion in a land without predatory mammals. Forest and shrubland covered large tracts of this basin-and-range hinterland, which is today swathed in the golden brown of tussock grasses, tall and short, and the gaudy green of irrigated lower country.
Among the human symbols here are the mullock heaps and stone cottages of 19th century gold-rushes, and the merinos and fence posts crafted from slabs of schist or ancient totara and kowhai logs that are the mementoes of a pastoral frontier.
There is no place like Central. No New Zealand region has landscape character like this. It is the kind of place that can become deeply etched in a traveller’s mind – and a resident’s soul. After eons of a sculpting by freeze-thaw and wind-whip, schist tors ride the rangelands in distinctive style - an obelisk here, a balancing act there, a face, an animal, a test of the imagination. The mountains are built of splintery schist.