Oturehua to Ophir. - Retyrement on 2 Wheels 5 - CycleBlaze

March 1, 2021

Oturehua to Ophir.

Bridges and Tunnels and a murderous moggy.

6 March 1 Monday  

Oturehua to Ophir. 45 kilometres 

Bridges and Tunnels and a murderous moggy.

 Bill supplies us with a fortifying breakfast and we do it justice while admiring the views of the surrounding hills. Friends Mary and Bob arrived on their bikes. They have already covered 20 kilometres from Wedderburn and so we are soon ready to go. 

Departing The Crow’s Nest.
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Not far from town is Hayes Engineering, the company responsible for several important farming engineering innovations in the area. The Hayes fence strainer, while perhaps not a thing of beauty to some, is still doing sterling service today. In the 1880s, Mrs Hannah Hayes, wife of Ernest, was herself a cyclist and something of an entrepreneur. Hannah took samples and a salesbook and hopped on her bike, travelling down one valley and up the next, stopping in at every farmhouse to make a sale, while at home, her 12 year old daughter had charge of the other 8 children. With her long skirts flying and rudimentary bike seat she must have presented a very different picture from today’s trail blazers.

Early on the trail we pass the Ida Burn Dam, popular with winter ice skaters. Curling is a popular sport here. The land  of the Ida Valley is dry with  green fields created by irrigation. On our skyline are the Hawkdun range and the North Raggedy Range. The river is the Manuherikia. 

Ida Burn Dam.
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The trail is easy but with dusty gravel piled in places. Our friends’ fatter tyres seem to cope a little better. There are gangers’ huts along the way- they have a tin chimney on the back and are open on one side, away from the prevailing wind. They would have been vital in this open country. Sheep are farmed on the high country and cattle on the flat. 

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A ganger hut. Warm in summer freezing in winter.
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We have the excitement of three tunnels and two viaducts today and the Rocky schist outcrops make for interesting riding. 

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We make flying progress to Lauder where we enjoy a lunch stop at the wooden tables provided. There’s a school trip lunch stop across at the cafe which is doing good business. Judging from their reaction to the long drop toilets, a number of students are unfamiliar with the concept.

On the way out of Lauder, I spot a smallish tabby moggy on the side of the trail. I stop and call to it, not expecting a response. Instead, seemingly friendly, it brushes against my leg and before I can stop it, has leapt onto my bike carrier and thence onto my back,  where it sinks its claws in, through my shirt material. A potential friendship on trail destroyed, in pain, I shrug it off and pedal away pondering on the mystery of the moggy mind.

The two viaducts are both impressive. The first, spanning the Poolburn is a beautiful construction with supports formed by stone cut by hand and spanned by iron. The river can be heard raging far down  below and massive dry stony rock faces surround us. The other viaduct is more open and is curved. The thing that strikes us about these bridges is their beauty and their individuality and also just how challenging their construction must have been. There is a short walk to the site of a former labourers’ camp. It is quite exposed and must have been cold in winter. Workers in winter had limited fuel for fires and conditions must have been very tough.

Poolburn Viaduct.
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The tunnels are equally wondrous works of engineering that required hard labour and there was the added frisson of danger from blasting. The only danger we face is the dark, requiring us to put on our lights. 

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The river’s course over a rocky bed can be heard high above.
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  We enter the small town of Omakau and buy supplies and ice creams as well as a bottle of Otago Pinot Noir. Otago having the reputation for NZ’s best Pinot Noir. From here, it’s a short ride to Ophir where we are to stay the night.

Ice creams at Omakau.
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 Our accommodation is a pretty cottage surrounded by roses and lavender bushes and hollyhocks in abundance. It also has a pergola from which hang grapes- many a deep purple. The cottage which is very old is beautifully decorated- period china and furnishings and an original chimney. Fortunately the plumbing is 21st century and we enjoy a rejuvenating shower.

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We sit out under the grape vine surrounded by the flower filled garden and enjoy a glass of Central Otago’s finest Pinot Noir.

A toast to the trail blazers.
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Today's ride: 45 km (28 miles)
Total: 213 km (132 miles)

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