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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.

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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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