Tuesday 23rd March
Queenstown to Cromwell
A sunny warm day 36c when starting 29 when cycling.
We cycled out to Arrowtown a picturesque town, old gold mining history, however a lot of the build appears to be new but in the old fashioned style, we had a much around the high street and walk around a reconstruction of old Chinese miners homes. We didn’t go in the museum as there was a charge.
We have passed a number of towns dedicating areas to the Chinese who came across and took part in the gold mining industry, A number of these sights have been recently renovated and I can’t help thinking this has been done in recognition of the number of tourists coming from Asia. It was interesting and the information and cottages were laid out well and we had a lovely mid morning walk in the sun.
Our route along highway 6 followed the Kawarau river, this was a flat flowing river in a deep rocky ravine. To avoid the narrow roads we cycled on a purpose build cycle track for about 5 miles once back on the road we stopped at the famous bungy jump bridge to take some photos, it was a big tourist site and fun to watch.
Once on the road we followed the lip of the gorge which was a really scenic route.
A day of being teased, first we cycled past a jet boating adventure experience, Stu was tempted but it looked a little tame for him, he spent his youth driving jet ski boat. Later we passed a bungee jumping site over water, I would have been up for having a go at this but at £100 for 1 minute of fun I couldn’t justify it. Later we cycled passed a number of wineries without entering them. That said it was one of my best days cycling in New Zealand the route was very scenic and I felt good, the sun was shining and we seemed to be whizzing along without a care in the world.
Wednesday 23rd March
Woke early following a really good nights sleep. ( I had Ginette drilling and snoring in me this morning – love is).
It was a colder morning than the previous days but still dry and a little overcast.
Gary wanted to cycle into the old heritage part of Cromwell before setting off on our journey and as we didn’t have many miles to do we happily followed him.
The old town was interesting, the oldest building was probably 1886, New Zealand definitely lacks the history of the UK but tries to make up for it with the way they construct their towns. The town had a number of historical buildings with information about the occupants it was interesting to see that most had been owned by people who had emigrated from Europe (Gary, most of the buildings were reconstructions). We also got to see an almond tree and try one of the nuts that had landed on the ground, very tasty.
The first part of our ride was down the undulating highway 8, I put my head down and pushed through the miles with the boys following closely behind. We got to Clyde just before lunch time, Gary couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a picture of the sign ‘turn right for Clyde’ (reference to the film Every Which Way but Loose). We stopped for a quick break in a look out point and talked to a lady who had just completed the railway trail which we will be doing over the next 3 days. She didn’t seem that excited by her adventure in fact she nearly put me off by telling me it was very bumpy and off road. She was a lady travelling on her own from America and although traveling lighter than us looked like she was still struggling with the hills.
We stopped in Clyde for a coffee and a piece of cake, a rare treat but I was feeling cold and it helped to warm me up before we set off for the Otago Central Railway Track.
The Railway track was a lot easier than I thought it would be and quite scenic with rolling mountains to the left of us rock formations on route. We met a number of cyclists on route completing the trail and stopped to talk to one or two of them.
Gary, I am enjoying the offered cycle track, its nice to be away from the traffic, cycling over old wooden railway bridges and stone cuttings.
Our accommodation was basic but functional with showers, kitchen and a lounge.
Gary. Food conversations.
The majority of our conversations revolve around food and drink, do we need to buy more? when is the next break? what shall we cook tonight? its funny to hear Ginette talking so fondly of her food now that she has been taken over by the alien life form.
Thursday 24th March
Omakau to Rainfuly
A damp morning, managed to get the tent down before it got too wet.
Another day cycling the Otago Central Rail Track, the morning was not too bad, some nice terrain, ravines, tunnels, bridges and cuttings, but towards lunch time the rain came in and made our next 20 miles unpleasant, the temperature dropped to 9.7 centigrade.
Ginette we’ve met people of all shapes and sizes doing the railway track, it is quite picturesque and easy terrain but I have to say personally I prefer cycling on the roads.
We watched the news last night and was surprised to see that the Franz Josef (where we’d stayed last week) had over a one meter of rain in the mountains and 330 mm of rain in the town. The campsite we’d stayed at had been evacuated due to flooding. It would appear we’ve been really lucky as the whole island seems to have been hit with a very wet weather system.
We arrived at the camp site at 2.30pm, wet and cold. Before we put the tent up we headed to the kitchen for a hot drink to warm ourselves up. Stuart opted for a cabin rather than a night in his tent, which meant he could wake up warm and dry on his birthday.
I felt particularly cold and was amused to see a Polish man sweating buckets in the kitchen claiming it was very hot, I don’t think my temperature gage is working very well at all.
We shopped locally and managed to spend £50 on food for the evening and the following day (breakfast and snacks)! Gary really wanted a burger and as I’m a veggie he compromised with some fish steaks in a roll and chips. We all felt stuffed it is surprising how stodgy western food can be.
In the evening we watched a bit of mindless tv which was great for me as it helped me to have a really good nights sleep.
Friday 25th March
Ranfurly to Middlemarch
Stuart’s 45th birthday, he had 3 cards from home which had been sent by his mum and dad and his sisters. We gave him a card as well with a piece of cake with matches as candles.
A dry morning we even managed to dry the tent before setting off, it was a little cold at about 12c.
The ride and weather was great, mainly downhill all on the Otago Central Rail Trail on a hard packed gravel track.
We had views of mountains with clouds like cotton wool, rocky gorges, more tunnels and bridges, a really nice ride.
Ginette Early on in the ride we saw lots of old bicycles on displayed on one fence and on the opposite fence was a lot of dried out sheep skins including skulls which was very unsettling.
Middlemarch was a tiny town, it had a train station but the trains only stop once a week and that was at 1.pm on Fridays.
Ginette We saw lots of cyclists on the last 5 miles of our trip, they’d all arrived off the train and were excited about their journey. Most people seem to do the track over 4 days although it is possible without panniers to do it in 1 day. We easily completed it in 3 days not starting until 10am and finishing by 2.30pm, but we have to confess we didn’t stop at all the information boards to read up on the local history.
This was our last full days cycling with all the panniers on, we have a half day tomorrow then we will have a car that Tony and Beth are lending us. It was nice to finish the trip on a rail track as we started on one in the UK on the Strawberry Line.
We stayed in a camp/cabin site which was small but cute, it had a converted train carriage as its kitchen area.
Ginette was cold all day, she had on 4 layers and her rain mac on whilst Stu and I were only wearing two layers, admittedly there was a head wind but it was 20c.
Ginette – maybe I’m coming down with a cold, or I could have been cold all day because my feet were wet from the wet shoes I had to put on in the morning. I do hope it’s warmer in the UK, I can’t stand being cold.
In the evening we went out for a meal for Stu’s birthday we chose a cafe over the local hotel as the prices per meal were at least £5 or £6 cheaper, however the service was not great. First when I said I was a veggie she said she couldn’t help and i would need to eat next door. Then when we’d agreed on a fish dish we ordered a pint of beer and were given half pints but charged for pints. On our second round we questioned the glass size only to be upgraded to the next size up still charged for a pint but only given the next size up, needless to say we didn’t stay for a third drink. We went to the hotel next door in the hope of getting a decent drink and some dessert but ended up smashing a wine glass on a very wobbly table and leaving without dessert. Not a very successful evening. Fortunately we had cake and chocolate back at the camp site which was yum yum.
Interestingly in NZ pubs and cafes are not allowed to serve alcohol on bank holidays unless it is served with food. In the UK the two bar/cafes would have been packed but both establishments were virtuality empty.
Saturday 27th March
Middlemarch to Pukerangi
Last day on our bikes with loaded panniers. The initial ride out of town was on a sealed road but with 13k to go we turned off to a gravel road. This did have some sections of sealed road and a big climb or two.
The weather was overcast and cold but the scenery was good, it felt a bit like cycling over Dartmoor.
Pukerangi station was in the middle of no where with only a few small farms around, there was none manning the station. We arrived an hour and a half early so made some hot drinks on our cooking stove and a piece of cake.
The ‘Taieri’ Train journey was excellent, we had some fantastic views along the gorge, over viaducts, through tunnels and even got to eat a meat pie.
We arrived at Wingatui station having had to ask the train to stop at this stop (not a scheduled stop) so that we could pick up the car Tony and Beth had kindly lent us, it was parked at a campsite on a racecourse
It was very strange cycling the 500 meters from the train station to the race course as this was the last time we would be cycling with our panniers on.
The car we picked up is a converted estate car, with a double bed in the back and a cycle rack on the back.
It felt weird driving again, especially in an automatic with the shift lever on the steering column and the hand brake at the right of me.
We took a drive northwards up the east coast stopping at ‘Moeraki Boulders’ to view a weird natural spherical rock formation on the beach.
We stopped n Oamuru, the first campsite we stopped at was full so we had to stay in a top 10 site it was packed as it was Easter weekend.
After setting up our camp we drove to the harbour in the hope of watching the penguins coming in we waited until 9.00pm but there was a no show. We had thought they would have appeared at sun set and had put dinner in the oven needless to say it was burned when we returned to the campsite but we managed to rescue it (conga eel, very meaty fish, which was cheap).