The problem with chilling for a week at my brothers, enjoying reclining leather chairs, Discovery & National Geographic channels in a warm house 🏠 it’s hard to get up and make a move back out again. As they say, stepping out the front door is the hardest part of any journey or something like that!
At long last, the ride to Clyde is pleasant with a healing rear breeze as I follow Lake Dunstan 🚤 to Clyde Dam. From here I join the Otago Central Rail Trail (150 km long).
The first section is a 12 km roller-coaster-single-track-ride following the river to Alexandra. I resolve to find a camp spot near the end of the river trail before entering Alexandra.
I attempt my first bush curry 🍛 Chicken, onion, Chinese curry blocks and Jasmin rice. Very very tasty too. Thanks to my brother, Andrew for the curry blocks idea.
The morning I’m greeted to the most docile bunch of mosquitoes I’ve ever encountered! I brushed them off, but then the temperature is still a tad low. But perfect for me! Always good to leave a stealth camping spot, look back and say thank you. Good karma! And think, no one would’ve found me in there
The trail promptly starts in earnest as I cross a red iron 🌉 bridge out of Alexandra.
Some days I can’t resist the temptation for a fine coffee. Stopping at Chatto Creek Cafe’ for just that. Chatto Creek Man wooden sculptures with bicycles are very cool.
Once again, I’m soon back into the routine, after midday, seeking out a spot to pitch my tent 🏕️Around early afternoon I pass Poolburn Gorge. It’s only 1400 ‘ish, but this is too good a spot to cycle past.
It’s also an historical site for the ‘navvies’ building the railway line and tunnels. With plenty of info boards showing photos of them too.
Camp set, noodles in my belly, washed down with a couple of mugs of sweetened tea, I set off exploring the area. The river 🏞️ late afternoon beckons for an early evening splash, well more a case of, strip off, dunk myself and dry off … it’s very cold! I’d imagine the navvies doing just this in the early 1900’s on this very spot.
The morning vista out of my tent is down the Poolburn Gorge, pretty amazing. Camp is broken. I haul my kit and bike to the entrance of tunnel thirteen.
I’m about to set off into the dark abyss I hear a rumble heading towards me. Orcs perhaps? But thankfully no! Out of the gloom appears a Japanese guy on his bicycle 🚵♂️ He tells me he works in a souvenir shop in Queenstown. Plenty of Jap tourists go through there, so makes sense. I’m not so convinced about wearing any kind of backpack while cycling! It’s extremely unyielding on the shoulders, plus just adds more weight to one’s bum.
The tunnel 🚞 is dark and cold, which must be a cracking rest-bit from the summer sun.
In the town of Oturehua, the local store welcomes a step back in time with the early 1900’s Hudsons counter, along with the original shelving. I enjoy a coffee in this pleasant surroundings, while signing the guest book. Blow-me-down, the diary begun in 1966! My birthday year. A great year all round!
Along the route are various red corrugated huts, with either historical information or basic shelters from the elements. As I approach one particular shelter, I find my first hobbit’s of American and Canadian descendants! Sitting with beers 🍻 in hand, coupled with Canadian coolers!
That’s the way to cycle the trail. Greg and Cathie have hired mountain bikes and are staying at accommodation along the route. A civilised way of riding it.
Soon after leaving them, the heavens start to show some sort of vengeance against my fair weather days to date. As the rain ⛈️ starts to take hold, I find shelter in the old Wedderburn railway station. Taking a spot of lunch while the weather abates.
I’m aware of there being a free camp spot at Daisy Bank, so there I head. This I find as I pass through the gorge. After spending my first occasion in cold-driving-horizontal rain. It recedes after an hour or so.
I set camp 100 m before the Daisy Bank site. Down an embankment and onto a lovely flat grassy spot. With shades of the late afternoon sun, ideal. What a place to spend ones birthday. It’s always pleasant when near a water source, to use my folding bucket and install a bathroom! Strip off, stand in the bucket 🪣 jobs done.
Leaving, what has to be my best wild camping spot to date, I trundle towards the end of the trail at Middlemarch.
As I pass through a gate near the Otago Central Hotel at Hyde, there’s a gaggle of touring cyclists around an information board. One being a French 🇫🇷 guy pulling a trailer, along with Sophie and Dave from Belgium 🇧🇪 We all enjoyed a good natter and I duly handed out contact cards. Well, I had them printed so I’m dam well going to get rid of them!
10 km’s or so from the finish I bump into Greg 🇺🇸 and Cathie 🇨🇦 once again. We slowly enjoy the last remnants of the trail while yapping away. A pleasant way to end such a beautiful ride. We top it off with a few jars in the local tavern. Greg and Cathie pick up the shuttle bus to join the tourist train down to Dunedin. Then flights back to California.
The weather currently looks to be turning for the worst. I embed myself in the engine diesel 🚆shed for supper. Pitching my tent at the rear. The weather that had seemed so ominous during the previous afternoon never appeared and a dry evening ensued. Next the big hills to Dunedin.
The trail certainly lived up to its expectations, but I was equally fortunate with the weather. Leaving the next day the heavens opened up and no way would have you enjoy it to the full. No Orc slaying on my part!
Except for the few people I did meet, it was extremely quiet, perfect. And to those I did meet, happy cycling where-ever that may be, and perhaps a beer 🍺 sometime in California too.
Photos shot with a Samsung EX1 24-72mm f/1.8.
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