Min­ing her­itage tourist op­er­a­tor’s pas­sion

Central Otago Mirror - - FEATURES - By MARY-JO TO­HILL

When Clyde-based tourism op­er­a­tor Lau­rence van der Eb bought his business last year, he com­bined two of his great pas­sions in life – boats and gold­fields her­itage.

Ed­u­cated in Eng­land, with strong fam­ily ties to the Span­ish is­land of Ibiza, van der Eb now spends most of the year in Clyde, where he lives in an his­toric stone cot­tage and runs Clutha River Cruises.

He also fer­ries peo­ple and their bikes up and down the Clutha, to ride the Roxburgh Gorge Trail, which opened in Oc­to­ber 2013, dur­ing van der Eb’s first sea­son in op­er­a­tion.

‘‘When I got the jet­boat I didn’t know about the bikes, but I al­ways knew I’d be do­ing some­thing on the river. It all just fell into place.’’

Ini­tially trained in his fam­ily’s shipping business in London, van der Eb, 50, de­cided as a young man to follow his own path. This in­cluded open­ing his own cloth­ing shop in Ibiza Town called More Ibiza, named after the 1969

Lau­rence van der Eb with a sluice mon­i­tor from the Cen­tral Otago gold­min­ing era, tak­ing pride of place out­side his his­toric cot­tage in Clyde. film More which was made on the is­land, with the sound­track by Bri­tish band Pink Floyd.

In fact, New Zealand also has a con­nec­tion, with cru­cial ‘‘com­ing of age’’ sec­tions of kiwi writer Janet Frame’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy An An­gel at My Ta­ble set in the un­spoiled but im­pov­er­ished Ibiza of the late 1950s.

Ev­ery year, van der Eb re­turns to Ibiza for the north­ern hemi­sphere sum­mer, to run his business. How­ever, as much as he loves the is­land that he has been go­ing to since he was four years old, Clyde has also laid claim to his heart.

‘‘I came on a visit in 1990 and I just fell in love with Clyde and Cen­tral Otago. Some­thing about the Dun­stan cap­tured me, and I’ve been ob­sessed by the gold­fields since day one.’’

He even named his 12 year-old son Hart­ley, born on Ibiza, after Ho­ra­tio Hart­ley, the Cal­i­for­nian who along with his Ir­ish com­pan­ion Christo­pher Reilly struck gold in 1862 on the Clutha River, just be­low its confluence with the Kawa­rau River.

In­fected with gold­fields fever, he has spent many a happy hour fossicking, not for gold, but for books and mem­o­ra­bilia from an­tique and sec­ond­hand shops all around New Zealand, to ed­u­cate him­self about the coun­try’s min­ing his­tory, and specif­i­cally Cen­tral Otago.

‘‘I’ve spent over 20 years ac­cu­mu­lat­ing knowl­edge about the area’s gold­min­ing her­itage, and luck­ily the op­por­tu­nity to take tours just hap­pened to come along, where I get a chance to be able to talk to peo­ple about it.’’

Ibiza is full of an­cient Ro­man and Phoeni­cian her­itage, but what fas­ci­nates him about Clyde and the Gol­drush is ‘‘liv­ing his­tory’’. ‘‘You feel like you can touch it.’’ This pas­sion in­fuses his tours on the Clutha, when he points out min­ers’ huts etched into the Roxburgh Gorge’s rugged land­scape, aban­doned opium dens in rock niches and well-pre­served al­lu­vial mine sites.

It’s this at­mos­phere that keeps draw­ing him back like a mag­net, year after year.

‘‘I feel con­nected to this place… I think it was all just meant to be.’’

Mine in­ter­est:

Wind in the hair stuff: Clutha River Cruises’ op­er­a­tor do­ing what he loves, driv­ing a jet­boat while show­ing peo­ple Cen­tral Otago’s gold­min­ing her­itage.

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