It was chilly and overcast when we set off for our final day on the trail, a 27km tootle through to Middlemarch. First order of business was a side trip down to the cemetery. Just for a look, as you do.
Pointing back south, it was a couple of kilometres before we reached Hyde station.
The station was always this distance away from the town as there was no closer flat land. It’s in private ownership now but the owners have permitted Rail Trail access and they have kept a fairly authentic looking site. Buildings, wagons, sections of track, all in a happily run down state.
A few kms beyond Hyde station is the site of New Zealand’s second worst rail accident. In 1943 a locomotive carrying passengers to Dunedin derailed going round a curve. Excessive speed was blamed and 21 deaths resulted from the crash.
A couple of weeks before I prepared this post, around the 70th anniversary of the tragedy, an excellent documentary screened on TV. The second best/worst/biggest etc ‘things’ are often forgotten by the general population and the programme gave an appropriate and sensitive remembrance to this horrible event.
We pedalled on, next stopping at Ngapuna station.
A final straight-line dash took us to our finishing line in Middlemarch.
Our arrival in Middlemarch was, well, an anticlimax. It’s a small town and very quiet. We rode around a block or two, thinking “surely there’s more!”.
We did end up enjoying our time there but how that came to be I’ll carry over to another post or two.
So that was the end of the Rail Trail. It was a brilliant experience and one I often rave about. I would love to ride it again some time, probably in the reverse direction for something different – and because I think you could celebrate its completion better at the other end.
I might choose another season too. The publican back at the Lauder Hotel on day one said he thought May was the best time to ride the trail. A bit cooler, autumnal colours, maybe even a dusting of snow on the ranges… yes I could see the appeal.
Final day done. Station stamps collected from: Hyde, Rock & Pillar, Ngapuna, Middlemarch.