Saturday, January 8, 2011
Rail Trail, baby!
Hey there! How's everyone doing? It's been a few days and I'm feeling like a post is in order, so I need to get things back on track after our short detour into the 70s and what better way to do that than to get on our bikes and spend a day on the Otago Central Rail Trail?
To recap, we're a few days in to our journey through the South Island of New Zealand ('we' meaning all of you and me, too). We've been to Queenstown a few times and also Te Anau and Doubtful Sound. Next we head east just a bit into the Central Otago region, known for lots of sun, wind, and fruit orchards and grape vines. And the Rail Trail.
Way back in the mid-1800s many areas in NZ hit gold and things were really hopping for a while in many of these mountains. A railroad was built from The Dunedin area (on the east coast of the South Island) up into them there hills of Central Otago. And then once it wasn't needed so much anymore they ripped up the tracks but kept the nice, long trail for walkers, cyclists, and horseback riding. It runs for 150km (about 100 miles) through gorgeous scenery and much desolation. Mountains, gorges, rivers, farmland, and tiny little towns where you can stay overnight if you do the whole thing, or at least grab some lunch or a drink if you're just passing through.
We stayed in the adorable little town of Clyde in the old Postmaster's house, a funny little house filled with charming old telephones and such. There was a spot on Laurel's bedroom floor where she'd step and the antique phone would ring. Clyde sits just past an enormous dam built in the 80s and 90s on the Clutha River to produce hydroelectric power (480 megawatts for you power utility guys). They had to do all sorts of crazy engineering to make it work as it sits on a major earthquake fault. Yikes!
Spent some time in the bigger town of Alexandra, where we did some laundry and found a Warehouse (NZ equivalent of K-Mart) to stock up on a few things. Trey and I wandered about a bit, looking for Paddle Pops (we are all four addicted to these, the best fudgcicles ever made in the entire universe).
But regarding the rail trail, many people do the entire 150km, but we reckoned that one day's worth would suit us just fine. So we had the bike rental company drop us partway out, in Auripo, and then we cycled back to Chatto Creek, about 32km (20 miles). The lovely man that drove us and our bikes to Auripo stopped at his house to pick up the cherries that he'd deliver as he made his way along the trail and through the little towns, and he even shared a box with us. Yay!
When I was planning this, it sounded like a good day of exercise and fresh air and it would've been just that if not for the 30-40 mph winds that hit us going through the gorge and then didn't leave for the rest of the day. We saw some glimpses of a few little towns. Really they were a few clusters of buildings and a road. In Lauder we found a nice little pub where we filled our empty bellies with yummy yummy stuff and about a gallon of water each (except for Dennis who had a beer and got back on his bike -- sometimes I'd really like to be him for a day).
Through the old tunnels and over the bridges, too! We needed torches, even! (Flashlights...) :o)
Thank God for that sign or I might've just stopped there and given myself up for dead.
It literally was blowing so hard that a few of us got blown right off of our bikes (guess who). And in typical NZ fashion, safety precautions were left to us, so we're high up on these embankments the width of train tracks and a couple of us are more than a little klutzy. As the day had gone on for hours and hours and the wind kept blowing and there was no end in sight and my lungs and legs had had enough, I was about ready to smack someone, but we did it and it was cool and beautiful and challenging and sometimes even fun. If any of you ever do it (and despite my frustration due to being a bit of a wimp, I would highly suggest it), just go on a calm day. One of my favorite parts was riding through all of the farms and seeing the sheep and cows crossing the trail (plus that gave us a few minutes to rest!).
Pardon my American gesture there. I couldn't help it. Here's a map of the whole trail and then a closer up one with our day route rather sloppily marked in green.
And here is the next day's paper which justifies my complaining. :o)
Hope you're all enjoying the weekend. We passed the two-week mark yesterday and are getting ready to start packing everything up. I am sad, sad, sad and do not want to talk about it anymore.