Our plans - Kiwis enjoying cycling in their own land - CycleBlaze

February 21, 2012

Our plans

This is a very unusual tour for these two Kiwis. It is very short, we will only be riding for a few days, we are going to ride hire bikes and what is more it is in New Zealand. Our usual trip lasts about ten weeks, escapes the dreary end of the New Zealand winter and takes us through Europe. www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/ambertrail , www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/rivers

It has been an awful summer here, we can't quite believe it, but this has given us a window of opportunity. We have a small vineyard and as well as growing the grapes also make the wine. This shocking summer has meant that the grapes are about 2 weeks behind their usual schedule and won't ripen until at least the end of March. Ken thinks it will be in April. In early March Ken's medical school class is having a reunion to celebrate 50 years since their graduation. It is being held in Queenstown and Ken and I thought we would have to rush straight home to deal with this year's vintage. There is no way the grapes will be ripe by then so we are taking another few days to ride 'The Central Otago Rail Trail'.

New Zealand doesn't really have a strong cycle touring culture, though it is growing. Most cycle tourists we see are from other countries. There is however one trip that every Kiwi has either 'done 'or aspires to 'do', the Central Otago Rail Trail. There is a very good reason for this. Otago was settled by two groups of people. From 1848 onwards the settlers, largely from Scotland came to the church settlement of Dunedin (Gallic for Edinborough.) Ken's forebears came there in 1890 escaping the horrors of the lead mines in County Durham. The other less pious groups were those coming to the newly discovered goldfields of Central Otago. My lot were in this group though they actually went to the Westcoast Goldfields not only to find gold but also to escape religious persecution (my Great Grandmother was an Irish Catholic and my Great Grandfather an Irish Protestant).

A railway was progressively built linking Dunedin with Central Otago. It reached Middlemarch by 1890. Although the gold rush was nearly over it brought the golden apricots and other fruit from the region. However in their wisdom the Government of the day, intent on destroying all railways, removed restrictions on road transport and in 1990 closed the rail link between Middlemarch and Clyde and soon pulled up all the rails. With fore sight the Department of Conservation bought this rail corridor and with the co-operation of the local communities the Rail Trail was established opening in 2000. It was New Zealand's first long distance off road cycle track and is not only spectacular but has been a spectacular success. It passes through wonderful remote countryside and has brought a new life into the region. Old country pubs, on the brink of closure now flourish, farmers have a new income stream establishing accommodation at all levels. The infra structure is superb. The railway has been reopened from Dunedin to Middlemarch as ' the Taieri Gorge Historic Railroad' and at this time of the year does the 2 hour journey twice daily carrying hoards of tourists as well as those coming off the Rail Trail. We have booked rental bikes which we pick up at the old rail head at Clyde then 150km later drop them off at the rail head at Middlemarch, our heavy luggage will be transferred to Middlemarch and we are booked on the train to Dunedin. Janey, our sister in law, who is coming with us, has booked our accommodation so we are all set to go.

Central Otago is an area very special to us. When I was a teenager my very good friend had and still had many relatives in the area and each school holidays Jan and I would descend on these generous people for a fantastic holiday. Ken saw Central through slightly different eyes. He and his friends from late high school and while at university used to in their vacations work on the Rabbit Board wandering the hills attempting to control what has been a real scourge for the area. Jan and I liked having them working there!

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