Home' Get Up and Go : Autumn 2012 Contents The Central Otago Rail Trail
has been a success story since
it opened in 2000 – the first
of New Zealand’s rail trails. The
railway line was built to connect
Dunedin with the area’s successful
gold mines in the 1800s, but by the
time it was built the gold boom had
dribbled to an end. The line was then
used to carry wool, vital supplies and
materials for the Clutha dam, but
eventually it closed in 1990.
Some forward thinking by the
Department of Conservation and a
group of determined locals, saw them
purchase the 150km of track between
Middlemarch and Clyde and have
it set aside as a recreational reserve
for cyclists and hikers. It has been a
masterstroke, with many small towns
brought back to life by the project, as
well as the development of many new
The full track can be done easily in
four days, allowing cyclists to ride for
three or four hours a day, then take
time off to explore some of the other
fun things to do, or to sit back and
drink in the colourful canvas
that Central Otago provides.
I am part of a group that
unfortunately doesn’t have four days,
so we choose to do a 22km section
from Oturehua to Lauder. We spend
the night before our ride at the
Wedderburn Cottages, a collection
of 14 cottages splashed on a carpet
of green grass surrounded by rolling
hills hosting plump white sheep.
No need for an alarm in the
morning, as most of us are woken
by barking sheep dogs, herding a
thundering flock of sheep right past
our cabins. It is a working farm
after all, and has been in the Duncan
family for four generations.
On your bikes
We meet our ‘bike man’ Steve from
Shebikeshebikes at Oturehua, and
jump on our Comfort bikes ready for
action. They are called Comfort bikes
for a reason – they have plenty of
extra padding on the seat. Only one
of the group rides a bike on a regular
basis, and many of us have not
ridden for more years than we care to
remember, so it is with nervous legs
and trepidation we set off.
We head over our first wooden
railway bridge just outside Oturehua,
and have a quick break to check
out historic Hayes Engineering. It is
interesting and gives an idea as to
how tough life would have been in
this part of the world – the hottest
and coldest part of New Zealand –
in the 1800s. We feel a bit soft as
we jump on our extra padded seats
on our way to a lovely ride and a
delicious hot lunch.
We all settle into a comfortable
speed, and eventually spread out over
a wide distance. It is like being in a
trance; peddling along to the crunch
of the gravel, the whir of the pedals
and the allure of the Central Otago
scenery catching the eye.
I am riding by myself, and stop
frequently to take photos. It is a soul-
stirring landscape, with the lush green
farmland sprinkled with sheep and
The flat trail gives way to
Blackstone Hill, a long gradual
incline that really tests the legs. I stop
and ‘take photos’ a number of times,
allowing me to get my breath and
give my thighs a rest. After topping
the rise, it’s mostly flat or downhill.
The trail from Auripo to Lauder is
exciting and exhilarating, taking in
the Poolburn Viaduct, two tunnels
and the bridge over the Manuherikia
Bridge. The tunnels are pitch black,
which is why we were told to walk,
not ride through them. The torch on
the bike doesn’t make an indent in
the dark, but thankfully, the tunnels
aren’t long and we emerge into
daylight in no time.
The last section into Lauder is
easy, and all too soon we alight from
our two-wheeled steeds and mosey
over to lunch at the Stationside Cafe.
Other members dribble in over the
next half hour, and we enthuse about
the trail and muse that we would like
to keep riding.
It is addictive, riding through the
fresh spring air, at your own pace,
with nothing but the sweeping
Tolkienesque landscapes for company.
And as we all proved, you don’t have
No Lance Armstrong, but
an enthusiastic traveller,
Helen Hayes gets
pedalling and finds she’s
quite the cyclist.
organise your itinerary
including accommodation and
bikes. Hop on to [@] www.
Visit: [@] www.
e Stay at
Wedderburn Cottages - well set
up and deliver five-star views.
Wander down the driveway and
have dinner at the Wedderburn
Visit: [@] www.
Olivers Lodge and Stables is a
stunning property in Clyde and
worth a visit in its own right. Visit:
- Other things to do
Go curling at the Mangiototo
Curling Rink in Naseby.
Discover the region’s mining past
on a cruise up the Clutha River.
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