• Richard Prosser


Photo credit: Peta Brady

Central Otago has always been my spiritual home, and I have been enormously fortunate that for fifteen years it was my actual home.

And Central has some of the most stunning and incredible skyscapes in the world, particularly at sunset and sunrise, but in between as well.

I wrote this when I was working for Gibbston Valley Wines, putting in vineyards on the Bendigo Loop Road between Cromwell and Tarras. That's up by the headwaters of Lake Dunstan, on the opposite side of the Clutha from the Wanaka Road, for those who don't know the geography there.

Up on the terrace above where we were working are the ruins of Welshtown, a mining settlement built during the gold rush of the early 1860s. It must have been hard going for folks there. Central regularly cracks 40°C in the summer, and in the wintertime the mercury can plummet to below minus 20°C for weeks on end.

When the gold ran out around the turn of the century the sheep farmers took over, battling plagues of rabbits along with the elements. A hundred years later a new gold rush began, this time in the form of the wine industry.

Enjoy :-)

There’s a painted sky at the Bendigo

Where the sun beats down from the Pisa snow

There’s a painted sky and a sunburnt tree

Where the clouds run wild and the hawks fly free

There’s a painted sky and a morning star

And a sunset seen in the distance far

There’s a pastel dawn and a western glow

Where the sheep still graze and the grapevines grow

And a lake that sits like a shining sea

On the rocks and stones of the high country

And a day seems long where the time runs slow

And the hot nor’westers dusty blow

There’s a man on a horse with a rifle high

And a dragon’s mark on the brooding sky

Where the rocks lie bare and the gold runs deep

In the river’s tomb where the spirits sleep

With an ear for the wind and an ancient cry

And the joy, and the pain, of the bones that lie

On the face and heart of a barren land

Where the miners took from a giving hand

Till the hand took back when it felt content

And the gold, and the grace, and the men were spent

And the sky turned bleak under winter’s chill

And the men, and the earth, and the rocks were still

And the river’s voice was a silent song

To the men who had lived, and died, and gone

As they followed the gold to Bendigo

Where the sheep still graze and the grapevines grow

And they came with their farms on a changing tide

And they grew, and they grazed, on the bare hillside

And the wind, and the sun, and the plague, and the snow

Was the price they paid to the Bendigo

There’s a painted sky and it tells a tale

Of a hard-built land where a man might fail

Where his soul must be strong, if as seed it would grow

In the rocks and stones of Bendigo

There’s a painted sky and a season new

And the vines reach out where the grass once grew

And they march, and they spread, on the sunburnt land

And the vintners take from a giving hand

There’s a painted sky and a canyon deep

Where the hawks still fly and the memories sleep

And the grapevines grow where the town once stood

And the giving hand seems to think it good

And they toil in the sun, and the wind, and the snow

And the wine, and the river, and the seasons flow

As the patterns change on the canvas high

Of this sunburnt land and its painted sky

There’s a painted sky at the Bendigo

And a truth in the minds of the men who know

That they live by the grace of that mighty hand

In this desolate, beautiful, windburnt land

And the sun, and the dry, and the stones, and the cold

And the wind, and the sky, and the grass, and the gold

Are the mark of the place where the voices say

That a man couldn’t wish for a better way

Than to live out his life ‘neath a painted sky

Where the grapevines grow and the ghosts still lie

And we live, and we learn, and we reap and we sow

‘Midst the rocks and the bones of the Bendigo

Richard Prosser


December 2000

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