Green Wheels

The sight of two cars speckled with moss prompted us to pull over on our South Island road trip. What followed was an entertaining little break from the long drive.

Keith Butler

This incline was opened in 1889 in the South Island of New Zealand to transport coal by rail down from the mines it served. It operated for nearly a century until the closure of the mines. A caretaker, William Butler, stayed on when the settlement emptied out. On the 13th of September, 1988, a rainstorm caused a landslide, burying what remained of the settlement and killing Butler. His body and car were never found.

Man With Short Arms

A tweaked edit from our 2019 explore. Perhaps there was some kind of neuroscience at play in this choice of images – SpongeBob SquarePants meets the lost city of Atlantis – for a mural painted along the back corridor of the isolation cells of this now-abandoned prison. Presumably intended to calm disruptive prisoners, and engage painterly ones, further intriguing murals adorn the cold cell walls: a man pruning the limb of a tree so anatomically uniform that he might just as likely be an electrician working on wires strung from a lamp post; a Māori wahine wearing a pounamu and a kākahu feather cloak – barefoot on a pedestal – turning her face to the light; a man surveying his upcoming twisting traverse into a landscape crowned by an active volcano, with only a briefcase to sustain him; and the man with short arms – seemingly ill-equipped to utilise the key to freedom that lies beside his truncated frame with its enormous feet.

Preoccupation

“This Place is Occupied; Please Keep Out,” reads the sign above Rimu Cottage in Waiuta. The Waiuta township in upper Grey Valley on New Zealand’s southern West Coast thrived for only 45 years before the gold mine that sustained and necessitated it closed down in 1951.

Gorgeous

A unique explore for us. This gorge used to be the main link from Manawatu to Hawke’s Bay until the rocks came falling from the Tararua Range on April 24, 2017, littering the state highway with debris. An intended few weeks closure turned into months, before the road was ultimately condemned after it was determined that the hillside could collapse at any moment.

Know Your Biorhythms

This hut in Waiuta, near Reefton in New Zealand, is where gold miner and photographer Joseph Divis lived from 1930. Divis appeared as a subject in many of his photographs, setting a shutter time release and darting around into the frame. After a career-ending injury in the Blackwater mine in 1939, Divis was interned as an ‘enemy alien’ during World War Two, and his health further declined. When he returned to Waiuta at the end of 1943 he was dependent on crutches. When the Blackwater mine closed in 1951, Divis was one of few residents who chose to stay in what rapidly became a ghost town.

Waterpark

Late last year we explored the abandoned waterpark “Ho Thuy Tien” near Hue, Vietnam. This place has been fairly well documented by UE and backpackers before, so to mix things up a bit we decided to predominately explore the park via bicycle- and we’re talking about the old school one speed bicycle variety with a basket on the handle bars.

It took 30-40 minutes in the heat & humidity to bike there from Hue city, courtesy of Google Maps. At the main gate we were surprisingly waved through by a guard. We were expecting a “fee” like all other locals and visitors alike. Perhaps he felt because we’d biked all the way out there we deserved the “free” entry- what ever the case it was good karma.  Locals we spoke to later just could not believe we’d been given “free” entry.

Closed a decade ago- probably because of the high priced tickets and lack of attractions- the park has over the years become a hang out for local youth, urban explorers, backpackers, and on weekends (in this case) a bus load of students. Apart from getting the neck slit gesture after outstaying our welcome at some local lads bbq on top of the waterslide section- it was a safe and surreal experience- and then we had to bike all the way back to town…

Casino Rouge

Exploring the ruin of the French colonial era Bokor Casino Hotel in Cambodia recently. The Casino was fought over by the invading/liberating Vietnamese army and the murderous Khmer Rouge from 1979 onwards. Due to it’s strategic place and size on Bokor plateau it was invaluable to either side to gain an advantage over the other. In recent years it has been cleaned up and somewhat structurally improved- unfortunately removing most of its neglected charm, tragedy and history in the process.

Church : Time

Exploring the abandoned former French colonial era church on Bokor Mountain in Cambodia recently. In 1978 the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia, toppling the murderous Khmer Rouge in a matter of weeks. There was however a stalemate for a time on Bokor (and other locations) as the Vietnamese and the Khmer Rouge battled it out- fighting between the church and nearby casino. In recent years the church has had occasional use- it’s first in nearly four decades. “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen…”

West Coast ghost town

Once a thriving railway township, Rewanui was abandoned in 1985 when the railway branch was closed. The town was taken care of and preserved by its caretaker until in 1988 where a huge landslide following a flood destroyed most of the buildings and bridges that remained, tragically killing the sole occupant of the town.

After quite a long walk and a lot of searching through bush we found many remnants of the past still exist throughout the valley including old coal carts and mines.

 

 

 

 

Nokor

Not your usual urbex video, but exploring ruins nonetheless. This is the strange fusion temple complex of Banteay Prey Nokor in Cambodia that we visited late last year. Situated in countryside near the town of Kompong Cham, the original 11th century Mahayana Buddhist shrine has been added onto over the centuries and incorporated into a bewildering and sprawling complex of wat’s and stupa’s. Apart from a security guard and a couple of monks we had the place to ourselves. More to come from Cambodia soon…

Kingdom’s gone!

This derelict and forgotten film set was never actually used for filming as the movie was mothballed after running out of money. The set still stands waiting for its film crew and producers to perhaps one day return.

Exploring this abandoned movie set in the middle of rural New Zealand countryside was quite the experience, as we wandered through the film set which was designed to look more like Jerusalem than New Zealand it felt like we were entering some kind of cartoon world. Everywhere we ventured was artificial and built by film set designers, from the walls and floors to the odd props and building materials that were left lying around and never used.

 

The Mansion

Built out of New Zealand native kauri wood in 1899 and the largest structure in New Zealand around in its time, this grand mansion is slated for demolition following extensive earthquake damage.

The mansion was built lavishly both inside and out for a Scottish immigrant Allan McLean, and its beauty is resounding even in its currently dilapidated state. McLean donated his mansion to women’s education upon his death, a worthy cause – we hope McLean’s can eventually be restored and not demolished.

Exploring one of Christchurch’s last grand mansions still standing brought emotions of amazement and sadness as we looked around its unique beauty and its so-far-decided future, demolition.

 

 

 

The Farm

Inside an abandoned former catholic girls school/farm/’rehabilitation unit’ we visited in mid 2013. Founded by a French sisterhood in 1953 -“the girls who came into the care of the sisters often had problems that could not be resolved in their normal environment and needed the loving care of others to restore their sense of self-worth.” The first residents stayed at the ’13’-room Manor built by its previous owner; and over the years the Catholic order embarked on a building program that included a 25-girl dormitory, two-story working/training block, visitor accommodation and sports facility. The last building was an expanded convent for the growing number of sisters at the facility. At it’s peak there were apparently up to 50 nuns in the house, and at least 70 girls. The farm/school/borstal/convent finally closed down in the early 1980’s.

Chiller

A video from a couple of years ago- wandering around the creepy ruins of an abandoned cool-stores facility in Taranaki. Happy Halloween folks 😉

Inhospitable

Filmed in late 2011- this was the final days of the old Hawera Hospital (1925-2012). Demolition was already well underway on the South Taranaki Hospital, with at least half the complex already gone. A compact digital camera was rigged onto the hot-shoe of a DSLR to capture on video the state the place and what was being photographed- plenty of shaky camera footage ensued. Abandoned in 2002, the hospital’s state of decline over the next decade was dramatic and completely unnecessary. It wasn’t a pretty explore- a bleak and hazardous environment, the complete opposite of what a hospital is supposed to be about- inhospitable.

House on the Hill

Rural legend says this house was transported to its spectacular hilltop location sometime in the 1980’s. Allegedly the farmer who owned the property, had intended to renovate the house and make it the family home. Apparently though soon after the building was in place, the couple separated and the man was left to bring up the children on his own. Then, because he couldn’t afford to spend any more time and money on the house, it duly deteriorated and is still standing like a folly decades later. Check out our videos here and here.

WAIKUNE

After 30 years of decay this abandoned prison camp is barely recognisable as a prison anymore, this was a quick, fun early morning explore of a prison that was closed due to 1000 prisoners being released in New Zealand under the Criminal Justice Act in 1985.

The Lost Resort

Anyone visiting Rarotonga for more than a few days, will probably have heard of (or seen) the doomed and abandoned Sheraton resort on the south coast. For a tiny country (pop. 14,600) which earns half of its income from tourism, completing the project is seen as vital.

The history of the project dates back to 1987 when the Cook Islands Government signed a deal with an Italian bank, after being unable to attract the required foreign investment. The Government acted as guarantors for the NZ$52 million loan and agreed to an Italian company’s bid to build Rarotonga’s first luxury 5-star 200-suite hotel and golf course. Sheraton signed up to manage the property and work began on its construction in 1990.

However within a few years, the lion’s share of $52 million disappeared down a black hole carved out by the mafia and other crooks- the project was 80% complete when the insurance firm cut off funding to the builders. Since then, Rarotongans have seen a steady flow of foreign receivers, consultants, con men, lawyers, bankers and developers trying to figure out what to do with the site. The country’s finances were crippled as the government’s liability ballooned to $122 million, and taxpayers are still saddled with the interest bill. The issue of who owns the hotel has been stuck in the courts for years.

Many locals think the project was doomed from the beginning, after a curse was thrown on the site in 1911- after More Uriatua was shot dead by William John Wigmore, following a bitter argument over ownership of the land. At the project’s official launch, Metua More’s grandson, More Rua turned up dressed as a high priest in warlike regalia, intoning the resurrection of his grandmother’s curse. He ended by slamming his spear into a rock onto which a plaque had just been unveiled by the Prime Minister, marking the beginning of the Sheraton project. When the rock split to ground level, the locals saw it as a sign that the resort was still cursed and doomed. It still lies abandoned and derelict today, with no new grand plans of completing The Lost Resort.

 

 

 

Smash You Bro

This car wreckers yard was the set of the New Zealand cult classic film Smash Palace released in 1981. The junkyard offers a rare opportunity to see cars from multiple eras and in various states of decay – some are even in the process of being reclaimed by nature by means of plants growing inside them.

Ruapehu Railways

Standing at the feet of Mt Ruapehu are the remains of several railway viaducts in various stages of decay. Modernisation of the railway network and the move towards concrete bridges in place of the historic steel viaducts has meant that these symbols of industrialisation are no longer in use. One of the viaducts has been turned into a tourist attraction with the option of walking across it – on this viaduct I took the path less travelled and popped down for a look at the hidden service platform beneath its deck.

Ford

Fording a stream in a rather unconventional manner, because here at Urbex Central we feel you don’t always need to take Urban Exploration seriously 🙂

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Man on Wire

Gunner gets in some tight rope walking practise up the cables of an abandoned suspension bridge. This particular bridge was a crucial factor to the success of this region in the early to mid 19th century. Check out Gunner’s video of the event here

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Hilltop Sanatorium

This imposing building on the hill overlooking a small country town has had several uses in it’s lifetime.
It was initially constructed as a hospital for veterans returning home from the great war, before being re-purposed as a sanatorium (tuberculosis hospital).
After 60 years and over 7000 patients, and with the number of cases of TB in decline in New Zealand the hospital became a safe haven for the handicapped and for people suffering from head injuries.
The hospital has gone through another metamorphosis in the new millennium and is now used as part of a larger vineyard complex, we popped by for an inspection on our travels through the North Island.

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Freestyle

Sometimes we don’t even have to search for a new location- we just stumble on them. This abandoned rural school and pool is a good example. We came across it accidentally while taking some time out from exploring a nearby complex. Someone’s got to brush up on their freestyle strokes though 🙂

Beaufort

The Crusader fortress of Beaufort Castle- constructed in the 12th century- has been the focus for countless battles and the home of many occupiers over the centuries.

Beaufort (French for “beautiful fortress”) sits atop a 300 meter cliff which declines steeply to the Litani River. Its commanding location, with views over of much of southern Lebanon and northern Israel, is still of strategic value today.

In fact, Beaufort is one of the few cases where a medieval fortress has also proven to be of strategic military value, in the age of modern warfare.

In late 2005 the place was in ruins- but there was no mistake who held the high ground here.

Hezbollah’s AK47 emblazoned flag fluttered in the breeze- along with their allies and former rivals, AMAL.

Seven months later, the IDF once again invaded Lebanon- blitzing their way up to Beirut- laying South Lebanon to waste and cluster bombs in the July War

The Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) held the castle from the beginning of the Lebanese Civil War in the mid 1970′s, until the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) finally evicted the PLO and occupied and fortified Beaufort, controlling south Lebanon for the next two decades.

Upon their withdrawl in 2000, the IDF set explosives and destroyed most of the structure. In 2007 an Israeli film- Beaufort– was released about an IDF unit stationed at the fortress.

Anba Hatre

Aswan, Egypt, Dec 2005: Anba Hatre is an earlier name for the 7th century Coptic Christian monastery of St Simeon- featured here in the previous post. During the exploration some video was shot on a very basic mini-DV tape camcorder, and due to this being the last tape. it was edited in camera to make the tape last longer. This is the result, with only a basic “damaged” effect and a soundtrack by the instrumental band Grails, appropriately titled “Erosion Blues”.

The Monastery

Aswan, Egypt, Dec 2005: After exploring some ancient tombs on the westbank of the Nile (featured here)- we decided to walk across the open desert to the ruined 7th century monastery of St. Simeon. It didn’t look far, but in the heat and harsh enviroment of the desert, it proved to be a bit more challenging. The Monastery of St Simeon dates back to the 7th century- it survived as a Christian stronghold of southern Egypt up until being sacked by Saladin in 1173 and abandoned. No real thorough archaeological attention has ever been paid to this ancient site. It was examined and published by Grossmann in 1985, and in 1998 by the inspectors of the antiquities- but still very little is known about this ancient monastery fortress.

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Psych

This former notorious rural psychiatric hospital- see this post-  was visited by one of our group back in 2008. The majority of the buildings then were mostly intact with minimum vandalism. Today many of the buildings have been demolished, with the remainder largely abandoned or used as storage. Incredibly though a number of the villa’s are now reoccupied, by apparently sane people.

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Racecourse Tower

In keeping with our recent racecourse posts, but this time from a different racecourse entirely, join us on a trip up to the top of an observation tower at a rural racecourse on the Kapiti coast. Taken just after a big storm had lashed the lower North island, thankfully the wind had dropped enough to make the climb.