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.
Got up early to catch the shuttle from Oamaru to Dunedin. Cold but not as cold as yesterday and very sunny. Shuttle took us to the Holiday Park. After getting settled we rode back into town to see where we catch the train tomorrow to the start of the Otago Rail Trail. Dunedin is a big city, with lots of old Victorian architecture. Bike infrastructure seems adequate. The Holiday Park is far enough south of town that it is close to the beach. The town itself sits on a big harbor formed by the Otago Peninsula. The Holiday Park is at the very bottom of the peninsula.
Increadible trails today. First a bit of road and next-to-road path to Elephant Rocks. Then things got really interesting as the purpose made bike trail wandered down a canyon and then across and switched back up the other side. The geology of this region is very interesting with ancient worn rock formations.
The path then meandered through, not around, a bunch of farm fields with cows, sheep, and pastures. It didn't just go straight either but wound around with dips and swoops, making it fun riding. The perfect mix of smooth gravel and fun stuff, that would be boring on a mountain bike, but just right for a touring bike.
It went on like this most of the way to Oamaru. There were a couple of old railroad grades and even a tunnel. There were some places where they were building new sections of trail while the current route took a gravel road.
Eventually we hit old bike path heading into town. The route took us through the public gardens, past a lot of Victorian buildings, and dumped us off at the waterfront and the end of the line. And that was it, Alps2Ocean is done. Couldn't ask for a better cycle adventure. The Brewery now beckoned and we headed the call.
Logistically it was too far to get to Oamaru so today would be a short ride, mostly along the Waitaki River. Leaving Kurow we immediately came to the winery which of course required a stop. The trail then led through the vineyard, which was nice. This was part purpose made bike track and part repurposed gravel road.
There would be 3 dry riverbed crossings today, which were pretty rough to ride. I walked most of it. The biggest was quite wide. We had a hard time finding the path through it and on the other side. We it wasn't crossing river beds it was a smooth gravel path trough farm fields and long the river. Although we were close to the river we could never get down to it, or even get a good view.
One thing that disturbed me on this ride was the amount of invasive weeds. Thistles, mullen, and most other common weeds were in abundance here. None of thee things are native here but once here they thrive.
Approaching Duntroon you got the feeling you were in for a treat. Much care had gone into building the path through the Duntroon Wetlands. There were lots of interpretive signs along the way. It was really nice to approach and enter a town on a trail rather than the highway. When we got to town there were direction signs pointing to the Flying Pig Cafe, the hotel, tavern, etc. How disappointed we were to find that they were all closed down. With the exception of the Museum/Visitor center it was a ghost town. Why was this town not able to thrive on the tourist economy of the A2O trail as other towns had? Hopefully this is a temporary setback and the town will bounce back. There was at least a domain campground where we settled in for the night.
Today was all about hydro electric plants. In fact each day had been leading up to this. The canals we had followed from lake to lake had all the water flowing this way, and today is where it all came through the Benmore Dam and hydro plant.
But before we got there we were treated to a nice section of purpose built bike track along a very pastoral upper arm of Lake Benmore. Alas the trail didn't last long and we were soon on the highway and climbing a hill, followed by a nice downhill into Otematata. Otematata had a nice cafe which was the perfect place for our second breakfast. It is a very scenic spot with great views of Lake Aviemore, which we would soon ride around one side of.
But first we had to get across Benmore Dam. The trail led out of Otematata at almost a right angle to the road we took in, as it followed a finger of the lake up to the dam. We were then on a nice gravel road which even had some trees, before getting on the sealed road for the big climb up the dam. It was steep and I may have had to stop and catch my breath part way up. This was the second largest hydro plant in New Zealand. I don't know about the largest. This one was certainly impressive enough.
After the dam there was a nice downhill and we were then on a quiet sealed road around the back side of Lake Aviemore. The map showed a couple of campgrounds on route and we considered staying at one if we liked it. What we saw was really interesting. Hundreds of caravans and campers parked all along the lake, with no people around. Evidently people just leave them there and come out on holidays or weekends. There was nothing all that inviting for tent campers so we continued on.
Eventually we got beyond the lake to Aviemore Dam, and then back on the highway for the last bit into Kurow. The wind was now howling a bit in our faces. There was a short climb to yet another hydro plant at Waitaki Dam, and then finally downhill into Kurow. There we found the Kurow Holiday Park and our home for the night.
We left the campground at Twizel on a quiet back road. After a few miles it crossed the highway and led us to a canal road similar to the one we took from Lake Tekapo. Once again the road alternated from sealed to gravel. After we reached Lake Oahu and crossed a dam our path became a nice gravel track along the lake, and after the Oahu weir the trail turned into well groomed single track for 7km along the lake. This was a great ride.
From the lake we once again had views of the mountains. After the trail we were back on a sealed road and starting to fight a strong wind. This went on for 6 or 7km as we wound around the southwest side of the lake. I became very dispirited fighting the wind, especially because I knew the direction we wanted to go was behind us but the route had been built to funnel people to the Lake Oahu lodge. I wanted nothing to do with the lodge, but Jelle wanted to have lunch, so I went on alone, knowing he would catch up to me at the top of the 10km climb we had ahead of us.
Back on the trail the surface was good, the grade was gentle, and the wind was at my back. The trail climbed the side of a big ridge, never going over it. It was built as a mountain bike trail, and for that it was a very good one. For a loaded touring cyclist it was very enjoyable for about 7km at which point it started getting really rocky. I could handle the grade, or I could handle the rocks, but not both at the same time, so I started getting of and walking when it got too bad. Soon I started getting passed by mountain bikers. I caught up with more of them at the top. They were part of a big group of friends that were riding the whole A2O fully supported by a tour shuttle. I reached the top at 900 meters and stopped to rest and wait for Jelle.
As expected Jelle caught up to me at the top and we started back down. It was still very rocky so it was a difficult descent until it finally smoothed out. It was a long way down and kept winding around, and then when you though it would join a road it cut back up a little valley, once agin into the wind. I was thoroughly beat by then. The trail finally came to an end at an old sheep shearers shack where the tour bus was waiting for the mountain biking group. It was just for support as they were all riding on into Omarama. We could have camped there, there was an outhouse and a stream for water, but we were assured Omarama was an easy 23km downhill with the wind at our backs.
So off we went on a nice gravel road. At first it wasn't all downhill, but soon the few little hills ended and then it was. The problem was deep loose gravel. There was a well worn track in most places but sometimes it funneled you into the gravel. Sure enough I got caught on the edge of the road and plowed into a deep pile which brought me down. Fortunately there was a bit of a bank and I just got a few scratches. I jumped up and continued riding, but at a slower more cautious pace. It was a long 23km and I fell pretty far behind. By the time I caught up with Jelle in town he had already polished off a beer, so I didn't waste any time getting one myself. That was followed with some fish & chips before heading out to the holiday park for the night.
Also met a Scottish cyclist name Christine. I can hardly understand a word she says but I love the sound of it. She is traveling self supported but caught a ride with the tour bus as she had a very difficult time riding the trail with her narrower tires. We caught back up with her at the campground.