Looking southwest from Paraparaumu Beach




Karapiro to Picton

Picton to Woodend


Christchurch to Ashburton

Ashburton to Fairlie

Fairlie to Awamoko

Awamoko to Middlemarch

Middlemarch to Clyde

Clyde to Invercargill

Invercargill to Bluff

Bluff to Te Anau

Te Anau to Arrowtown

Arrowtown to Wanaka (Twice)

Wanaka to MacKenzie Country

MacKenzie Country and Twizel

Twizel to Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier to Hokitika

Hokitika to Reefton via Karamea

Reefton to Twizel

Twizel to Takaka

Takaka to Picton

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Middlemarch to Clyde - 14/02/2012 to 17/02/2012

We are simultaneously driving and biking from Middlemarch to Clyde. The total biking distance is 151kms and is known as the Central Otago Rail Trail. Each day we bike from one point to another and on arrival at our intended destination Roger catches a ride back to the bus to bring it to the end of the stage we have just completed. There are quite a few transport operators, bike-hire firms and other support facilities for bikers doing the Rail Trail.

Not everybody does the trail the same way as us. The majority of the Rail Trail patrons ride each day to the next stage and stay at boutique accommodation, eat at boutique restaurants and pay a nice tidy boutique price. We pay between $20 to $25 per day for Roger’s return ride.

On Tuesday (Valentines Day) we biked from Middlemarch to Hyde, approximately 27km, 3½ hours (including geocaching time). At the start of the track you can buy a Rail-Trail Passport and then when you pass the old abandonned railway stations en-route you can stamp your passport and read the history of that particular station and the local area. There are no longer any railway lines; you ride on the gravel embankment that the line was on. Mainly you see acres of paddocks, rolling hills and the odd farm house. We are never, however, far from the main road. There are plenty of points of interest on the way like historic bridges, stone structures, farmers walking cows down the road and even a railway-disaster monument.

We didn’t get passed by anybody going the same direction as us but did see several people going the other way, which seems to be the more popular choice. When we got to Hyde, a town consisting of a pub/café, the only other non-locals there were from Beachlands. He had come to see the gold claim he staked and now realizes that it is under the town and therefore can’t be easily mined. We are not too sore from our small excursion, but tomorrow will tell. I read the bikers guide and it says your bum is your greatest asset when biking. I guess when they say greatest they didn’t mean great in size. Apparently I should have conditioned my bottom before attempting a long bike ride. They also say the seam of my underwear should not be where the most pressure is applied (that’s a large area to discount), they suggest going without, I suggest Roger doesn’t need any encouragement [Roger wisely kept as much material as possible between the bike seat and his delicate bits – Ed].

Wednesday, saddle sores and all, we rode off towards Ranfurly, 37kms away. Excluding the time we had gear failure and had to wait for a replacement hire-bike, it took about 3 hours 50 minutes (4 geocaches). We are now continuing the journey with the hire bike and a hybrid made out of our two bikes. Luckily the main road was close and we were on a section of the track that had cellphone coverage. While waiting for the hire bike we saw a farmer bring 500 sheep across the road and saw the lines company reel out power lines onto new poles by helicopter.

Today’s historic Rail Trail features included a tunnel and a replica rail bridge at Cap Burn. At Ranfurly we had lunch and learned two things. Firstly, the Maniototo area has produced a lot of famous sports people like Jayne Mitchell (long jumper), Mandy Smith (Hockey and Dean Barkers wife), Andrew Hore (AB seal-clubber) and many others. We also learned that it makes the worst coffee Roger has ever tasted. There wasn’t a lot of choice where you could go as half the shops in Ranfurly and Naseby are shut today because the A&P Show is on. Only in small town NZ would that happen, although the Auckland freight industry will tell you when Christchurch has their show day the whole country stops.

More famous is Naseby, not just for the cheese advertisements, but because it is the home of Curling. The small town has preserved its old buildings and serves cold beer in a warm pub; yes, they had a fire going in summer! However after attempting curling I can see why. For $10 we had a short lesson and game of curling on an Olympic International rink. One must blow her own trumpet and say that not only did I win but I astounded our instructor by sliding my first stone right down the middle into the circle. I don’t think I will continue my new found pursuit; the yelling, sweeping, funny shoes and frost bite in summer doesn’t really do it for me.

On Thursday, our hardest day, we climbed to the highest part of the Rail Trail being Mt Ida at 618 metres above sea level. Even though the sign said “all down hill from here”, it was a bit misleading as there were definitely uphill bits. Today it took us 5.5 hours (including lunch and geocaching) to do 45 kms to Lauder. We also stopped at Wedderburn Station, subject of one of Graham Sydney’s more well known artworks. We crossed over, twice, and did a geocache right on the 45 South Latitude.

Lucky for us the Mt Ida ice skating/curling rink wasn’t frozen. However unlucky for us it was 28 degrees and 67 boys from John McGlashen School were on the track. A large number came towards us but one brainless child had no idea about the keep left rule and rode straight into us. Either Roger was stealth-like or the boy thought he was imagining a man in a pink shirt.

Roger’s luck didn’t improve. Later that day, as he was driving the bus from Ranfurly to Lauder, the tread on the inside back tyre of the bus came off and unlike Greg Murphy’s pit crew it took a while to change in the extreme heat, made worse by the fact it was right outside a Speights pub. [My extensive road transport experience has shown, yet again, that vehicles only ever break down near pubs or 24hour service stations - Ed].

With the spare tyre on we conceded this is where we are suppose to be and camped in the hotel grounds after handing over several dollars for the cold brown stuff. We got talking to the other group doing the trail the same direction as us. They are Australian, one of the couples comes to NZ from Queensland for 5 months every summer to get away from their hot weather and to compete in masters road cycling events. They are doing the trail with another couple and everyday they bike a section and the guys bike back over the same section to fetch the motorhome. Sounds a little bit crazy, but just imagine we could save $25 a day if Roger biked back for the bus. I would do it, but he would just spend the $25 in the pub while waiting for me.

Friday started with the discovering of another nutter. This time it was a guy from Waiheke Island who is biking both ways because he is to tight to pay for a ride back to get his car. He also did the same when walking the Heaphy Track.

Today we passed through some more small towns stopping at Chatto Creek for lunch. This time I was a lot smarter and saved my salmon bagel before they cremated it; apparently it is a South Island thing to toast a perfectly fresh bagel until it is dry and its contents hot and wilted. Again we saw lots of railway remains and tunnels, but our main focus was on the finish line at Clyde.

Seven kms short of Clyde we rode into Alexandra to collect our mail. This town consistently has high temperatures around 30 degrees in the summer and today was no different. We have been very fortunate with the weather and had no rain or wind. I felt sorry for the Japanese girls we met at Alexandra, when they looked at our sun-burned and dusty bodies, and asked how many days we had been going and Roger replied unsympathetically that they had a long way to go.

It is nice to be at Clyde, the end, but at the same time sad to say goodbye to the amazing countryside and the lovely people we have met at the cafes and hotels along the trail. Even though we can hardly walk and it hurts to sit down I am so pleased we did it. I am sure some doctor will make a fortune from the knee surgery we will need later in life.

A small lesson for my nephews; if they ever read this they may be interested to know that we biked 151km without a single drink of Powerade and went two whole days in a row without internet.

Next page...


gallowayDiscovered at Galloway
200kmPausing for a drink and a photo
vista towards alexandraThe Rail Trail continues
viaductPoolburn Viaduct
More rail trailMore Rail Trail
idaburn damIdaburn Dam
zenithAt the top of Mt Ida
45 south45 South
WeddeburnWedderburn Station
NaesbyNaesby Shopping Centre
j9 curlingJeannine Curling
valentines dayValentine's Day Lunch for J9
tunnel approachApproach to tunnel on day 2
cuttingThrough a cutting
hydeMain feature of Hyde
j9In the beginning... J9
rogerIn the beginning... Roger