5 riders headed out towards Harrisburg. 3, including me, turned around at Peoria. Rain was threatening but held off.
Last ride in New Zealand and last ride on the Trucker, which I sold here.
Took Highcliff Road, which is very well named, out the peninsula. It starts up the middle with great views of Otago Bay and Dunedin, and then bends east towards the ocean, before diving fast downhill back to Portobello on the bay. Pretty steep in places, glad I wasn't carrying a load.
It was very windy and cool. On the ocean side and on top. I went to checkout the castle but they wanted money and I was not about to pay to see a castle. I might have paid to see the Albatros or Penguins but they were at the far end of the peninsula and I was not going to get that far.
I didn't bring much to eat which I was beginning to regret when I got to Portobello and the Penguin Cafe. I could get used to touring with nice little towns with cafes every 20 miles or so. Portobello even had Spark wifi (which was available free in many small and mid-sized towns all across New Zealand).
I took Portobello Road back which follows right along the bay and is pretty much flat. There was a headwind but it was not bad compared to the winds up on Highcliff. It was a lovely ride.
My plan was to hang out as long as I could at camp. It was a beautiful spot but the sun hit it really late and it was cold. I still took it as slow as I could. Sarah the backpacker was packed up and ready to go before I even got up. She was the first one out. The Australian couple dallied a bit but still left way before me. By the time I was ready riders were already coming by heading for Middlemarch.
The only stop along the way was the Hyde Hotel. By now the Adventure South group was catching up with me. I was ready to blow by Hyde when they showed up so I stopped and had some coffee with a few of them. Really nice to be socializing with this tour group. Most of them are from Australia except for the couple from Washington.
By now it was getting hot. Wonderfully hot. I just wanted to soak it all in. Although I was trying to ride slow I still had a tailwind and was making good time. Bas and Fiona had modified the plan several times, but my instructions were to meet the bus in Middlemarch about 4 on their way back from dropping the riders off at the Pukeragi train station. The end of the line came too soon as felt like I could have kept riding on and on. But I had now ridden this trail in both directions, got to know it quite well, and met some great people along the way.
I stopped at the picnic tables at the trailhead to dry my tent. It didn't take long in the heat and lite wind. Fiona said the plans had changed again and I should head over to the Kissing Gate Cafe and join them for lunch. I did and we then loaded my bike on the back of their trailer with all of the tour bikes. We hung out quite a while before leaving. The road to the Pukerangi station is rough gravel and Bas does not like taking the trailer on it, so he unhitched the trailer at the head of the road and I stayed to guard it. If I wasn't there they just would have left it anyhow. But now I had a "role" to play. I said goodbye to the group and thanked them.>
The road from there to Dunedin was amazing. Up and down and around some very steep hills. I would not have been able to ride it. Mostly harsh and bare country until we approached Mosgiel. Now it was green with lots of farms. Very nice. Lots of traffic now as we approached Dunedin. Bas dropped me of at an intersection I was familiar with and I easily found my way back to the Holiday Park where I payed up for 3 nights. Looking forward to a nice beach day tomorrow.
Woke early at my not-so-stealth camping spot on the trail. I wanted to get going before too many riders came along. It was a beautiful morning and I was looking forward to a nice long day of riding. The Tunnels were the first thing up, followed by a long bridge. These were nice tunnels to ride through. No dripping water or puddles. Fairly smooth as well, and fairly short. The landscape changes pretty dramatically on the east side of the gorge. Very dry.
First break was at Oturehua, then on over the top. Some of the tour group were getting to the top about the time I was so I took pictures for them. Then on past Wedderburn and into Ranfurly for lunch. Once again I was hanging out with part of the tour group. I got on the phone to arrange a shuttle from Middlemarch tomorrow, but as soon as I hung up the tour guide Bas offered to give me a ride to Dunedin. So I called back the shuttle and canceled. I was really glad I met these folks on the morning out of Clyde.
When I got to the camp spot it looked deserted, but then I walked down to the river and there were some people camping. John & ? from Australia were on touring bikes There was also another fellow camping further upstream, who I never met. And while I was talking to ?, Sarah also from Australia showed up with a loaded backpack. She is hiking the trail and came all the way from Middlemarch today. That was as long as our first day on the trail when I was riding with Jelle. The river seemed even warmer. I got fully submerged and got a good bath.
It was a lovely warm night. I took a long walk and played my Shakuhachi.
When I got up I knew I wouldn't be riding on with Jelle. The tentative plan was to ride the first part of the Roxburgh trail with him, and then double back to the Otago trail. I woke up tired and way behind Jelle who was soon ready to go. So we said our goodbyes and he was off. So now I was on my own. It had been great having someone to ride with, and Jelle and I were pretty well matched and got on well. So I was sorry to part but looking forward to some time alone. I figured I would slow down and stop more often. Of course I also wanted to put in some longer days as we had done very short rides each day on the Otago trail.
The River Track from Clyde to Alexandra is a much more attractive alternative to the Otago Trail. It's a pretty easy 10k trail, but not flat like a rail trail. Like any good river trail it rises and falls and swoops and curves. A nice way to start the day.
Right away on the river trail I ran into a large group of riders. I didn't know it at the time but I'd be seeing a lot of them over the next three days. They were on a tour with the Adventure South company. They were all riding rental bikes and the whole thing was planned for them.
As the day wore on the sun came out and it was lovely. I had lunch at the Muddy Creek Cafe in Omakau. This was on the opposite side of the street from the Commercial Hotel where we stayed just two nights ago. It all looked different now that the rain had stopped. I also made a quick stop at the Lauder cafe and the lady there remembered me from the other day. She thought I looked just like someone they had on TV doing a commercial at Christmas time.
I rode on and made camp just before the tunnels. I found an open spot just around the bend from the outhouse I would need in the morning. I was very exposed by I had a great view of the valley below the gorge. At dusk I took a walk with my shakuhachi and played it in the first tunnel. Wonderful echo. Sounded great.
Day 3 on the Otago Central Rail Trail. Wet and cold just like a winter ride at home. Wind was at our backs for the most part and there were two cafes on the route.
We hung out as long as we could at the Wedderburn Hotel not wanting to go out in the cold rain. Eventually we had to go. Of course it wasn't as bad once we got going. The first 3 miles was the last part of the climb. It was an easy grade but enough to get warmed up. Then it was downhill, still on railroad grade. We started passing riders going the other way who were having a much harder time than us, with the wind in their faces. We soon came to Oturehua where there is a wonderful cafe. It was packed with riders, especially around the wood stove, which we quickly gravitated towards. Nothing like a wood fire to dry you out when you're cold and wet. We could have stayed there all day, but after some coffee and biscuits it was time to start riding again.
We met some other touring cyclists going the other way on the next stretch. First some folks from Australia, and then a German couple Jelle had been riding with on the North Island. We wished we had more time to talk but standing around in the rain and wind was not much fun. So we rode on, but it was only another 20km to the next cafe in Lauder. So we stopped again for more hot coffee and some lunch. I really hope the bike tourism is enough to keep these places alive. The towns along this trail are tiny, and there us not much local economy except farming.
After lunch it was only another 7km to our hotel in Omakau. Another historic hotel modernized for the bike tourism. This one is quite fancy though.
Otago Central Rail Trail day 2. Cool day, easy riding.
I slept in knowing we had a short easy ride that day. Jelle got up early as did the Danish couple with their children. Hard to believe they could get their kids fed, their stuff packed and make it out of camp before me, but they did. Jelle didn't wait either as he needed to ride to warm up. So I lallygagged around and eventually got going.
I soon met Daniel coming the other direction. We had first met him on the Alps2Ocean way back near Omarama. He had gone over Lindis Pass to Wanaka and had been riding this trail from the start in Clyde. I gave him my URL and said good bye. He only had a few days left before returning to the states.
Next up I met a couple from the Bay Area who were just leaving camp. I would have liked to talk more but we soon ran in to Jelle and we stopped at Waipiata for second breakfast.
Not long after that was Ranfurly, the biggest town we would see until Alexandra. We spent a good amount of time here at the cafe and the info station. Lots of other cyclists around, none of them self supported. People come from all over, contract with a tour company, and book accommodations ahead of time. This trail is probably the most popular cycling destination in NZ.
Our destination for the night was the historic Wedderburn Tavern. It was cold and threatening rain when we got there. We had a warm reception and were soon settled in and having a beer. The owners work really hard and do a good job. The tavern was packed for dinner, although we were the only overnight guest. I hope they can stay in business, as there is not much else out here.
Had my tea at the fancy hotel and was ready to go. Then had a light breakfast it the bike shed, where it was at least dry. It was misting out, but not raining.
The trail seemed to be climbing which helped warm me up. We were coming up the back side of Tiger Hill, which from the other side was the steepest grade on the trail.
First break came early at Chatto Creek. Just coffee. We would have stopped again but there was nothing the rest of the way in to Alexandra.
We ckecked out the holiday parks in Alexandra thinking maybe we'd ride to Clyde and then back, but agreed we'd probably camp in Clyde.
The final stretch to Clyde was probably the least inspiring of the whole ride, but Clyde itself looked really nice, nestled against the mountain foothills. The Clutha River also goes by it, which is a mighty river.
And so we reached the end of the trail, a mere 150km from the start. We found the holiday park, setup camp, found the pub and had a beer.
Tomorrow Jelle and I will part company as he follows the Roxborough trail and I double back on the Otago. It's been great riding with him. He's a great guy and really helped me out a lot on this trip.
Otogo Central Rail Trail day one. The trail was great but first was the train ride.
We left the Dunedin Holiday Park by 8:30 to get to the train station by 9:00. We knew the route after riding it the day before. The Taieri Gorge Railway train ride was very scenic but short of spectacular. There was a man doing a constant commentary which was entertaining as well as informative. Most people ride this as a scenic out and back, but there were a number of people heading to Middlemarch to ride the trail.
Middlemarch is a tiny town but was buzzing with activity. Many tour vans and bike rental companies were picking up or dropping off people and bikes. We stopped at the SheBikesHeBikes office to ask some questions and fill up our water bottles and started out on the trail.
It was nice to be starting out on another trail, especially a smooth flat one. The scenery was not particularly inspiring but the easy riding made up for it. There was not much on the trail except for the "Ganger's Sheds" which were now information booths. These could also serve as emergency shelters should the weather get harsh, as it does in the winter here.
Eventually we got to Hyde. Almost a ghost town the only thing left is the Hyde Hotel, which is shut down but still has a self serve "honesty" store with ice cream, snacks, and drinks. It was warm so an ice cream hit the spot. I hope someone revitalizes this place. It is in a really good location on the trail.
We soon came to our campsite which was listed in the guide as an "informal" campsite. There was a good composting toilet and room for tents. Good enough for me. There was also the Taieri River which was warm enough for a rinse off. We had settled in and were just starting to get into dinner when a Dansih couple with two girls aged 4 and 6 months showed up. Very inspiring to see people touring with their young kids. We shared the one picnic table and talked over dinner.
At dusk I climbed a hill and played my Shakuhachi. I haven't had much opportunity to play it lately as we've been staying mostly at holiday parks.