New Zealand, Cromwell to Dunedin

We said our goodbyes to Zita and Arpi and left the holiday park for Clyde, a short ride of about 25km. We turned right over the bridge and started to follow the river through the valley. Looking back over the Lake Dunstan and the Clutha River that feeds it gave some great photos to start the day.
The scenery was as you’d expect, simply fantastic and the journey was a very pleasant one. Just as you enter Clyde there is a huge dam and it wouldn’t be right to just cycle past with out stopping for photos. That done we rolled down the hill into this charming little town. It’s now famous for either being the start or finish of Otago Rail Trail, a 150km bike route through Central Otago. The railway was built to supply the remote towns that now lie along this trail but the advent of better roads and the deregulation that used to mean that freight was carried by rail meant that the railway was no longer able to compete. For ten years the remote towns were lost in a wilderness until the Otago Rail Trail, New Zealand’s first such trail brought new life back into these towns. Now some 20,000 people a year ride some or all of it and the local towns and villages have prospered. It’s reported that the local economy was 7 million dollars better off in 2013, no wonder they have expanded the idea country wide….rest of the world take note !!
So we stopped in Clyde for our customary coffee and cake before joining the Head of the Trail. It’s compact gravel for pretty much all of it and as it’s well used it has very little loose or deep gravel. The gradient from Clyde is a very gradual climb, almost to the point of not being able to notice your going up hill. The scenery is spectacular and the absence of cars is very welcome. Our first night saw us pull into Omakau, having cycled through places such as, Alexandra and Chatto Creek, very evocative names and places, can’t stop at them all though !!
We arrived at camp, cabin for us though, and bumped into Jack and Laurie whom we’d met at Kaiteriteri. They’d certainly covered some miles since we’d last seen them so it was good to catch up. We cycled into town for fish and chips and a cheeky beer, well we are on holiday 😉
Well I suppose I’d better share a few photos from our first day on the trail…

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I’m finding it tough to select just a few photos !!
Day two on the trail saw us start with a slight detour to visit New Zealand’s oldest continually working Post Office, it’s only a few km of track in Ophir so it seemed silly not to have a look. The ride out there is great and takes you over a very old suspension bridge, yet more photos to take !!
The village is very quaint and as you’d expect the Post Office was open and looking spotless ready for the tourists. I broke a golden rule here and not only bought my first postcard on our 18 month trip but I also sent it to my mum…my first and only postcard !!
We were given a look round and shown the other tourist attraction, the old lock up before heading back to the trail.
We were still going uphill although as I said earlier you’d hardly know it, today would see us at the highest point and we’d stop in Ranfurly for the night.
To get there we’d pass through Poolburn Gorge and cross the viaduct of the same name, not only that but we’d also pass through two tunnels so lights at the ready please !!
Also along the journey we’d pass through Louder, Oturehua and Wedderburn, we’d meet plenty of cyclists and get to recognise and chat to a few…what a fantastic journey 😉
In Ranfurly it quickly became apparent that something was going on, it was very busy and had a real buzz about it. We checked with the iSight people and were told that, No 1 it was Deco Day ( Ranfurlys annual homage to Art Deco ), No 2 Ranfurly had been chosen to hold thus years cavalcade ( a collection of historic cars, tractors and machinery, horses, wagons and just about anything else that wants to join in) all march, roll or walk down Main Street. No 3, the Ranfurly Duathlon, a 150km run and cycle the length of the Trail over two days, day one ends at…..you guessed it, Ranfurly !!
No wonder it was busy, we were lucky to get a cabin at camp. With all the hooha going on we decided that as we’d only got 60km to go and all of it down hill we’d postpone our departure from Ranfurly until 1.00pm so we could join in the festivities. Just to make sure we had somewhere to go we got the iSight to book a cabin for us in Middlemarch.
So here are the photos from our second day on the trail….

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Another fabulous day !!
The Ranfurly Cavalcade starts at 12.30 but before then there’s the ubiquitous street markets, food stalls, music, street performers and any number of people trying to extract your hard earned cash by offering you something you probably don’t want !!
All good fun and to be honest the jazz band sounded good and attracted a large crowd. When the cavalcade did start it was a job to find a place where you could actually see anything let alone take photos…..just so many people !!
It started with horses and wagons then moved on to cars, tractors and finally more horses and large wagons. All very colourful but not so easy to photograph ! Any how we’d had a good time in Ranfurly what with a a few beers at the hotel the previous night and there being a Deco Dinner Dance with everyone in costume of the era…fabulous !!
Time to leave, bit later than planned, I think by the time we’d had lunch it was almost 2.00pm so it was a good job it was down hill. We’d only been going ten minutes when we stopped to help a couple of ladies with a puncture, easy for us as we’ve had lots of practice.
We both felt like cycling gods, downhill with panniers, man we were really getting a move on, felt amazing. In hardly any time at all we arrived at Hyde and obviously stooped for a coffee and cake…we run on caffeine now !!
The second part of the ride was equally fast through the Maniototo Plains and with the occasional bridge and a tunnel to add interest we were soon rolling into Middlemarch. A big high five with Naomi for a wonderful three days and our last days cycling in New Zealand !
We found our way to camp and were soon out looking for food and beer, funny, every other town and village along the way has prospered with the Rail Trail and they look good, you get a welcome and a cheery wave but despite this town being either the beginning or end of the journey it lacks “warmth” ! Even with the Taieri Gorge Railway using the station here it still has the feeling that it’s shut, odd little town !
Still here are the photos from the days ride….

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Just a small selection of photos, I took so many, it’s just such a beautiful place !!
From Middlemarch we’d booked ourselves onto the Taieri Gorge Railway to get us into Dunedin. It was due to leave at 12.30 so we had a little time to kill before it left. We found a fantastic little cafe called The Kissing Gate, ended up with a full cooked breakfast and several cups of coffee….bloody good though !
The train left on time and I took my seat but not for long as the scenery was immediately stunning and I found myself outside the rear the carriage taking photos. The journey lasts about. 2.5 hour and passes through the Taieri Gorge, hence the name. It really is a fantastic ride and I would not only recommend the Rail Trail but to finish with this train ride. We passed through so many tunnels that I lost count (17, I think), numerous bridges and viaducts and it’s that scenic that the train actually stops occasionally so you can take photos…..brilliant !
As good as it was it had to end and we duly pulled into the fabulous Dunedin Train Station later that afternoon. We reclaimed our bikes and bags from the goods car and made ready to leave for the holiday camp. It was only a 4km ride but it turned into a very wet and cold affair. New Zealand provided us with proof that you should never go out unprepared in this country. We left the station in sunshine and within a couple of km’s it had turned to rain then sleet and finally hail. Fortunately my waterproof jackets and gloves were easy to get at and we made it to camp without suffering to much. Another cabin, such a great idea, I wonder if they’ll catch on in the UK ?
We dumped our kit, changed into some drier clothes and took a taxi to the airport. We’d booked a hire car for our final week, realising that we still had so many places left to visit and no time to do so. It also meant that we wouldn’t have to cycle up the rather tedious east coat highway !!
So with very large station wagon now in our possession we dismantles the bikes and packed them in the car, we won’t be using them again until Brisbane !!
Well I suppose I should show you a few more photos before I end this blog….

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What a fantastic day, excellent breakfast, stunning railway journey, bikes dismantled and packed, cosy cabin and a sunset over the beach to end our day !!
Keep reading folks and see where we go with the car !!
Take care
JC

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Nearly forgot to put the sunset in !!

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About John Chevis

I'm a forty something single guy who spent far to long depressed, but luckily for me I found an answer in the form of exercise !! I started running and cycling on a regular basis and now two and a half years later I'm cycling the world !!
This entry was posted in Cycling, New Zealand, Otago Rail Trail, south island, Taieri Gorge Railway and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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