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Rail Trail: Day 3 to Hyde

In more overcast weather we set off on the 44km jaunt to Hyde. I really liked simple photogenic little Wedderburn and vowed to come back and stay another time.

Somewhere between Wedderburn and Ranfurly

Somewhere between Wedderburn and Ranfurly

First station stop of the day was Ranfurly where we had a quick poke around the station buildings. The town was originally known as Eweburn, which given the Wedderburn thing made you wonder if the Chief Surveyor back in the day set out on a theme he would feel compelled to maintain. Surely we wouldn’t come across a Hoggetburn or Lamburn?

Ranfurly station

Ranfurly station

Ranfurly is the largest town in the Maniototo district. Maniototo is Maori for ‘plains of blood’ – hopefully not the blood of Rail Trail cyclists.

On we trundled

On we trundled

We approached the Rock and Pillar Range which we’d then hug the base of for the rest of the day.

Central Otago Rail Trail, irrigation channel

The vast land around here was subdivided after WW1 as part of the rehabilitation scheme for returning servicemen. Further back in time this was a forested area inhabited by the now long-extinct moa.

Central Otago Rail Trail, between Ranfurly and Kokonga

Kokonga station used to be here. A small settlement is still located nearby

Kokonga station used to be here. A small settlement is still located nearby

We didn't see other riders all that often

We didn’t see other riders all that often (and liked it that way)

Daisybank is one of the Trail entry/exit points

Daisybank is one of the Trail entry/exit points

Not sure who the red dwarf was

Not sure who the red dwarf was

Lunch stop by the Taieri River on the way to Hyde

Lunch stop by the Taieri River

Tiroiti station was here, servicing one of the railway construction camps

Tiroiti station was here, servicing one of the railway construction camps

Is it just me or does Mike look a bit gigantic?

Is it just me or does Mike look a bit gigantic?

After the challenge of strong cross winds in the last sector, and after what was probably the last tunnel of the Trail, we arrived in Hyde. The old mining town lives on though today is sustained moreso (in part anyway) by Rail Trail tourism than small shiny particles.

Otago Central Hotel, Hyde

This would be our stop for the night. We had booked with the Otago Central Hotel but as the hotel part was full of Rotarians, we were put in a separate house a short distance away.

As was our pattern, there was time left in the day to both explore and kick back.

Always happy if I find an old and abandoned building or two

Always happy if I find an old and abandoned building or two

Old sheds, Hyde, Otago

Inside the hotel

Inside the hotel

Day three done. Station stamps collected from: Ranfurly, Waipiata, Kokonga, Tiroiti. In the morning we would collect the Hyde stamp and also find the site of Hyde’s unfortunate main claim to fame: NZ’s second-worst rail disaster.

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Rail Trail: Day 2 to Wedderburn

We set off on day 2 in sunshine with a leisurely 35km on the cards.

First impressive bridge for the day: Manuherikia no.1

First impressive bridge for the day: Manuherikia no.1

In our very near future was one of the fabulous Central Otago mountain ranges, the Raggedy Range. Thanks to tunnels, this was traversed with relative ease.

I love the schist outcrops down here

I love the schist outcrops down here

I love the vistas like this down here. I pretty much love everything down here

I love the vistas like this down here. I pretty much love everything down here

One of the distinctive gangers' huts, shelters used by railway workers

One of the distinctive gangers’ huts, shelters used by railway workers

One of the old 'mile markers' except this is metric and is the distance in kms from the depot just outside Dunedin

One of the old ‘mile markers’ except this is metric and is the distance in kms from the depot just outside Dunedin

You can easily imagine the railway winding through here

You can easily imagine the railway winding through here

One of the many excellent information panels along the trail

One of the many excellent information panels along the trail

Here we deviated further to check out the relics of the workers' camp build on the hillside (see the chimney remains to the right)

Here we deviated further to check out the relics of the workers’ camp build on the hillside (see the chimney remains to the right)

Never far from your thoughts is the Rail Trail’s former life. Isolation, challenging terrain and climate would have made construction a feat of endurance. Remains of camps and work sites can be seen here and there and the more enduring structural legacies along the trail leave you at times in lengthy contemplation.

Such as when you’re navigating long dark tunnels.

Walking through the longest tunnel on the trail, Poolburn no.2, 229m long. Pretty sure I spent the whole time hoping there weren't spiders lurking anywhere near me

Walking through the longest tunnel on the trail, Poolburn no.2, 229m long. Pretty sure I spent the whole time hoping there weren’t spiders lurking anywhere near me

And gawping at big viaducts.

The amazing Poolburn Viaduct, regarded as the most impressive structure on the trail

The amazing Poolburn Viaduct, regarded as the most impressive structure on the trail

Quick deviation for some views

Quick deviation for some views

Another very long straight

Another very long straight

Hmmm?... You can't reach the lock?... Gosh well that's a shame...

Hmmm?… You can’t reach the lock?… Gosh well that’s a shame…

Down in the Ida Valley we stopped at the Idaburn Dam for an explore. This water reservoir (used for irrigation) was in a fairly dry state on our visit but is famous for hosting winter sports and a winter motorcycle rally – brrr. I love its historical touches including the shed containing racks of old skates. A couple of years later we stopped by here in winter.

In winter the Idaburn Dam turns to ice and in some years is thick enough to hold a bonspiel

In winter the Idaburn Dam turns to ice and in some years is thick enough for a bonspiel to be declared

Back on the trail outside the Idaburn Dam - just ahead is the small settlement of Oturehua

Back on the trail outside the dam – just ahead is the small settlement of Oturehua

A few kms on we reached the highest point on the trail and passed (twice) 45 degrees south latitude. Then it was downhill to our stop for the night: Wedderburn.

Approaching the top (618m)

Approaching the top (618m)

This very small place is great. Cute cottages, historic station buildings, and a pub – all you need for a short stay.

At the Wedderburn Cottages (taken the morning of day 3!). Loved this place

At the Wedderburn Cottages (taken the morning of day 3). Loved this place

Wedderburn is a good example of the Northumbrian place names in Otago. In case you were wondering, Wedder means castrated sheep.

Iconic imagery this, if you're familiar with the artwork of Grahame Sydney

Iconic imagery this, if you’re familiar with the artwork of Grahame Sydney

Feeling happy but a bit pooped after two big days pedalling in the sun

Feeling happy but a bit pooped after two big days pedalling in the sun

Wedderburn

Beer in the garden bar - superb idea

Beer in the garden bar – superb idea

Station stamps collected from: Ida Valley, Auripo, Oturehua, Wedderburn. Two days down, two to go.

Rail Trail: Day 1 to Lauder

A fine day greeted us as we walked over to the bike shop to pick up our transportation for the next few days. We had engaged the services of a company through which we could rent bikes, book accommodation, and also get our bags forwarded. Brilliant.

Our bikes were customised for the Rail Trail; practical steeds equipped with bike stands and frames for attaching panniers. With all my dismounting for photos along the way I actually grew very fond of the bike stand, though Mike said I’d be riding by myself if I got one back in Wellington. Perhaps not the coolest accessory then.

Neither was my camera bag which I attached to the front of my bike with a bungee cord. But for me the convenience factor far outweighed any concern about looking like a dork.

We acquainted ourselves with the bikes on the short ride over to the railhead at Clyde Station – ‘km 0’.

The Rail Trail starts here!

The Rail Trail starts here!

One excellent component of the Rail Trail experience is the passport. You can buy these little booklets for $10 and collect a stamp from each station along the way. Most of the proceeds from each passport goes toward the upkeep of the trail.

Our Rail Trail passport with stamps diligently collected

Our Rail Trail passport with stamps diligently collected

We collected our first stamp and got going. Today we would be cycling 44km through to Lauder.

One bridge down - about 66 to go

One bridge down – about 66 to go

Starting to get amongst the Central Otago-ness

Starting to get amongst the Central Otago-ness

Action shot!

Action shot!

Our next stamp from nearby Alexandra wasn’t as straightforward thanks to the removal of the stamp from its wee box by local idiots. We detoured into town to the visitor centre where a stamp could be acquired and also collected lunch supplies.

Off we went again with station stops at Galloway, Chatto Creek and Omakau.

Collecting a stamp where Galloway Station once stood. That wee building used to be the ladies' waiting room

Collecting a stamp where Galloway Station once stood. That wee building used to be the ladies’ waiting room

Oh look, a lady waiting

Oh look, a lady waiting

Chatto Creek Station was used from 1906-1983

Chatto Creek Station was used from 1906-1983

A long straight on the Chatto Creek to Omakau leg

A long straight on the Chatto Creek to Omakau leg

The leg to Omakau is the steepest part of the trail but at 1m incline for every 50m it wasn’t too bad. Omakau made a great lunch stop with a shady patch just off the trail and station building and cemetery to have a poke around in.

Omakau, thought to have been the country's busiest stock handling station

Omakau, thought to have been the country’s busiest stock handling station

I wandered through Omakau Cemetery during our lunch stop. Given the gold mining history in Central Otago the headstones can often be interesting

I wandered through Omakau Cemetery during our lunch stop. Given the gold mining history in Central Otago the headstones can often be interesting

From Omakau you can make a recommended and fairly short detour into Ophir and we did just that. We’ve been there before but when you travel by bike it gives you a different perspective and more time to notice details.

Our detour into Ophir

Our detour into sleepy little Ophir

An old Ophir house that intrigued me

An Ophir house that intrigued me

Crossing the Daniel O’Connell Bridge to rejoin the Rail Trail

Crossing the Daniel O’Connell Bridge to rejoin the Rail Trail

The last few kms were not very speedy and we arrived in Lauder mid-afternoon tired but having loved our first day as Rail Trailers!

Pedalling the home stretch to Lauder

Pedalling the home stretch to Lauder

Made it to the end of day 1

Made it to the end of day 1

The 1904 railway hotel at Lauder was our lodging for the night. When rail passenger numbers started to diminish, the hotel was turned 180 degrees to face the road

The 1904 railway hotel at Lauder was our lodging for the night. When rail passenger numbers started to diminish, the hotel was turned 180 degrees to face the road

Rail Trail: Before the ride

When I met Mike a few years ago it seemed that I would need to reacquaint myself with pedal power, something that had been absent from my life for, oh, a couple of decades give or take.

I was only luke-warm on the idea so quite some time passed and I was still bikeless.

Then after a visit down south we jumped on a great idea: that we should cycle the Central Otago Rail Trail. We had heard great things about it and knew it would be a perfect activity given we both have a big soft spot for that part of the country. The 150km ride was eminently doable thanks to the very gradual gradients and the many options for splitting it across several days. After all, why would you want to hurry through the absolutely stunning landscapes of Central Otago?

The Rail Trail has been a huge success. Since opening in 2000 it has inspired the development of many other trails. And having done it I’m adamant that it’s one of the best activities you can do in this country.

So with that decision I bought a bike and we set about acquiring some saddle fitness. A week in Feb of ’09 was organised and an order for fine weather placed.

First stop…

Queenstown

A couple of nights here kicked things off.

Catching up with friends, picnics, shopping – all great stuff. One activity we may not have done with the infinite wisdom of hindsight is a walk from lakeside up to the top of Queenstown Hill. Steeper and longer than we realised, this walk (while rewarding) killed our legs and we knew they’d be sore for the next few days. Probably not the smartest preparation just prior to a four-day bike ride.

From Queenstown we caught a shuttle bus over to Clyde, a small town an hour away where the Rail Trail starts. (Or ends, depending on your inclination.)

Clyde

Like many towns in these parts, Clyde came about because of the gold rush. The 1860s saw tens of thousands of miners descend on the area, gagging to find glimmering particles in the banks of the Molyneux (now Clutha) River.

The Clyde Dam’s very controversial introduction in the 1970s-80s changed the town forever and transformed the rugged Cromwell Gorge into Lake Dunstan. The railway from Cromwell to Clyde disappeared under water and the branch through to Middlemarch closed a few years later.

Very gradually those tracks were pulled up and in due course the land re-emerged as a walking and biking trail, punctuated with old station buildings and other such reminders of its former life.

Our two-wheel journey was to begin the next day. In the meantime we coaxed sore muscles on a walk around Clyde – with its colourful history, there was a bit to see.

Poolburn Dam, Central Otago

Summer 12/13 roadie, day 4, part 2

Coming here had been on the Central Otago to-do list for a while. It’s a bit out of the way and not accessible during winter, when most of our trips down here tend to be. Part of the appeal was the journey (the Old Dunstan Road); but we’d also heard the dam was a great feature in its own right.

After very much enjoying the drive up the Rough Ridge, the dam came into sight. From this first impression our reactions were the same: amazement at both size and setting.

Poolburn Dam

Poolburn dam was built in 1931 as an irrigation supply for Ida Valley farmers. The location was chosen to exploit a natural basin on top of the ridge. When water filled the dam, it swallowed up five hotels still standing decades after gold miners travelled the old Mountain Road.

Many signs vie for your attention as you arrive at the dam. One worn message, whose deterioration seems to have received a helping hand, states that further resurrection of the old huts that dot the banks around the dam is not allowed.

Many signs vie for your attention as you arrive at the dam. One worn message, whose deterioration seems to have received a helping hand, states that further resurrection of the old huts that dot the banks around the dam is not allowed.

Today the dam is a popular fishing spot after brown and rainbow trout were released there. We could see a number of small weathered huts, many decades old, built here and there around the edge. One looked like it had been ‘done up’ recently, which doesn’t seem to be a permitted practice if the signs are to be believed.

Poolburn Dam

A couple of events in recent years have elevated the profile of the dam. It was a film set in LOTR The Two Towers (the Rohan Village)*. And, somewhere at the other end of the scale, a local man accidentally drowned about a year ago when he drove into the dam (at 1am; read into that what you will).

*Bizarrely, a few days later in the trip, I turned the TV on in the motel unit and what should be on, but that movie, and those very scenes.

Picnic spot

Picnic spot

Over lunch we watched a small boat putter slowly across the dam. I later read that there is a large number of submerged rocks (hardly surprising given the landscape) which makes boating a very tricky and slow endeavour.

Poolburn Dam

Mike had thought he might have a swim but it was a bit chilly for that. Instead we had a wee explore before seeing how much further we could drive.

A hut in a very protected position above the dam

A hut in a very protected position above the dam

And here is the actual dam

And here is the actual dam

Poolburn Dam

Polburn Dam

Schist tor

Schist magnified

Schist tor

Near this spot the Old Dunstan Road continued through a closed gate. Beyond here the road gets much rougher and would probably have destroyed Mike’s car. So with that, and a final few photos, we returned the way we came.

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