The Otago Central Rail Trail is a 150+ km ex-railway line that has now been converted into a cycle way. It goes through the plans and hills of the Otago region which is towards the bottom of the south Island. The trail is still relatively new and so it was a change to be somewhere quiet and away from the main tourist areas.
Caught the bus from Dunedin to Clyde which is about 2.5 hours. All well and good until we got to Clyde when we discovered the bus had dropped us off in entirely the wrong place (population of Clyde = not many and it's also shut Mondays). Fortunately there was another couple also doing the RailTrail so they took charge and the RailTrail guys came out to get us in their van. First day we had 39k to do which was really hard as after all the bus faffing etc we didn't get on the trail until 2.30. We also made the mistake of doing the extra cycle around the river at the beginning which added 7k. It started raining and getting steep at the 20k to go point so things were really not looking that great. Mad got a bit mutinous at that point and threatened to flag down anyone who looked like they might have room for her and a bike but the road is not that busy so no choice left except to cycle. Fortunately Steve had packed a couple of luggage straps which were quickly brought into service as a tow rope. So the for the final hill, I was towed (still had to pedal a little, honest!) Still, it was worth it when we got to our accomodation. In fact the excitment of seeing the accomodation meant Steve forgot about the tow rope and stopped suddenly - I didn't and the resulting tug ripped the reflector off the back half of Steve's bike. Whoops! We stayed at Tiger Hill Lodge which is a large house and there was only us and one other Canadian guy in it. The woman who owns it insisted on driving us to the pub where we had a fantastic meal and when we finished the barman insisted on driving us home again!! It's all very causal around here as the lodge was open when we arrived and at no point have we been issued with a key.....
Mad's missing handbag crisis. Fortunately I knew that I had left it in the pub so it wasn't too difficult to find and, of course, nobody had nicked it. The weather today was much better so with only 43k to do and all day to do it, we were able to actually stop and look around. The stretch we did today is meant to be the most scenic with plenty of viaducts and tunnels to go through. The tunnels are a little disconcerting, cycling into pitch black before emerging again at the other side! The Rail Trail is a long gentle climb followed by a long gentle downhill so effectively we have 2 days of uphill cycling and 2 days of downhill. We hit the highest point late in the afternoon and then it was the most fantastic downhill stretch to our accomodation at Wedderburn (population - about 2). The weather today has been very sunny and very hot which has made it quite hard work as there is not much shade. We met a group of cyclists who are on a supported tour which means that a van meets them at certain points with tea and biscuits (why didn't we do that??). Anyway, they are staying at the same place as us for the next 2 nights so I'm sure we'll get to know them quite well! Another great meal at the pub and still no sign of a key for our accomodation.
45k today so set off and made excellent progress down to Ranfurly which is a town full of Art Deco buildings, mostly because of a spate of arson attacks in the 1930's! Stopped at a very nice cafe for a cuppa and cake, plus we got a free muffin as one got a bit burned! Yes, we have descended to that level! The woman running the cafe used to live in Dunstable of all places, but had the good sense to get out and now lives on a 20,000 arce farm! After Ranfurly is where it all started to go a bit pear-shaped as the wind turned to blow directly in our faces which meant that even though we were going downhill we still had to pedal hard and progress was very slow. It also got quite cold with weather reports of snow down to 800 metres (we were at 620 at the top of the trail). Then it began to rain. Heavily. The track is quite spectacular as it goes thorgh a gorge with lots of beautiful scenery but unfortunately we didn't have time, or inclination, to stop and admire it! We got to our destination about 2 minutes before the thunder started so I suppose you could call that lucky. We were staying at the Hyde Hotel which is not a hotel at all really, more of a posh B&B. Hyde has a resident population of 5 so it's not exactly humming. The hotel has only been open for about 6 months and has come about because of the number of people using the Rail Trail and the lack of places to stay en-route. They cook an evening meal for you since there is nowhere else to go. There is a lady who helps out with the food, she lives on a farm and her driveway is 6k, plus it's another 6k after that until she has any neighbours! She was telling us all about her and her family, her children learned to drive at 3 (yes, three) because they were needed to help out with the sheep feeding and they were too little to shift hay bales so they had to do the driving instead. It was brillaint and so nice to be able to meet and talk to people who live and work here. The "supported cycling" group are also here so it's turning out to be a very social occasion indeed. Key? No chance.
Sunny but an incredibly strong head wind today. Steve finished the trail but I'm afraid I wetted out and went in "support cycling" van. Only 29k today but I just couldn't face the thought of battling against the wind anymore. I was chatting to Gary in the van, he said that at least 3 people a year get physically blown off the track and into gulleys and have to be rescued! The trail ends in Middlemarch where, if it was a Friday or Sunday, you could catch the train back to Dunedin. However since it was Friday we had to get a shuttle bus to Pukerangi and pick up the train there. We had some time to kill so went to the local (only) cafe for lunch then on to the local (only) pub which was dire. Some of our supported cycling people were there too so we got the opportunity to chat to them - they're all friends from Auckland who go on tours together once or twice a year. The bus to Pukerangi goes on unmade roads where you would be quite sure that a bus couldn't go but it does. Pukerangi is no more than a shed but fortunately we didn't have to wait too long for the train. It's the Tareiri Gorge Railway which was made back when there was gold in them thar hills but now is just runs as a tourist thing. The views are absolutely stunning and well worth doing if you are ever in this area (just make sure you get a day return as there is not alot of civilisation on route!). Back to the Alcatraz Bat Cave in Dunedin, a different room this time so not quite as dark. Sorry to see that our crudbucket of a car has not been stolen.