With Brian moving on to Ranfurly the previous night we had the Tiroiti freedom camp (#8352) almost to ourselves with just the caravan and car that had it’s alarm go off there for the night. During the 2 days we had been parked here we had seen the farmers coming to and from their farm with a friendly wave as they went past. The people in the South Island are just a completely different breed to those in Auckland. The farmer also mentioned that the most number of people she had seen staying at this spot was 7 but most nights was a lot less than this.
We were treated to a real sight this morning though with the sheep being driven past the van. They had been past the previous day for drenching then it was back to the fields in the morning. We really felt like we were in the country.
As well as the episode with the sheep we also had this helicopter buzzing around. Landing and then taking off in the next paddock over we think it was checking something but we don’t really know. However it was another thing that added to the days excitement.
It’s only a short drive from Tiroiti to the NZMCA camp in Ranfurly (#8760) but with hardly a cloud in the sky and amazing scenery on both sides of the road I could have kept driving for ages. The camp has a dump station right on it’s border so after we had emptied the waste tanks it was our choice of spots in a camp with tons of space. Brian later told us that he was here for the opening of this camp when there were over 60 vans here.
After we had the bikes set up I went looking for the Rail Trail as we weren’t sure where it was. Turns out it was less than 50 metres from the camp. With that sorted we set off back towards Kokonga the furthest we had got the previous day. Passing through Waipiata it was nice to be welcomed by Waipiata Man who has obviously been holding his arm out to cyclists for a number of years.
The trail is very flat on this section as well as very straight as you leave Ranfurly making for a very easy ride. I must say that all three of us are constantly remaking what a great trail this is with scenery that is ever changing and how lucky we have been with the weather.
The trail crosses numerous bridges as well as crossing the Taieri River a couple of times. The restoration of the old rail bridges adds some real character to the ride with the old steel work retained as well as in some cases the original wooden railings.
We came across these guys at the site of the original quarry. These blocks were all hand shaped from much larger ones then shipped to Dunedin where they built the famous Train Station from them. This is actually one of the major reasons that the rail link was built so the quarry could be connected to Dunedin.
We reached the lodge at Kokonga the point we had ridden to the previous day a place with special memories for Brian who had spent time here with a large family gathering 9 years ago. Turning around on the ride back to Ranfurly we discussed plans for the rest of the day. One of the things about the area is that it’s not just the rail trail being in these small towns gives you the chance to really explore the area. 36.5kms for the morning not a bad ride.
Before setting out with Brian in his car Sarah and I took the chance to wander through Ranfurly. The old train station has been turned into the I Site with a number of displays documenting the history of the area. You can also watch a short video that runs through the history of the rail line if you have 10 minutes to spare it’s an absolute must to watch as it covers all the areas we had been and will be riding.
There are a couple of art deco buildings including the Milk Bar a really prominent feature of the town right on a main corner. The Hotel across the road from the train station evokes a sense of a time long gone just by it’s presence.
Sarah was insistent that I have a photo taken under the John Street sign that we came across as we wandered around the town. The streets of Ranfurly have trees everywhere with this street lined with the red berried tree on the right of Sarah.
We jumped into Brian’s toad (a car towed behind a bus is called a toad) and headed for the hills to the old TB hospital a complex that is now a religious centre with open gates where you can explore the grounds and admire the old buildings. They also have an art gallery with some decent paintings by a couple of the residents on display.
From the old TB Hospital to the old cemetery at the top of the hill. What an amazing view over the plains below us. I know it seems creepy to some to visit graveyards but the sense of history that you feel in these places makes it well and truly worth while. This one is worth a visit just for the view.
We woke the following morning to this stunning sunrise over the camp. It had filled up a little during the evening with 18 sets of campers enjoying the facilities it’s a great part of being an NZMCA member that you can enjoy these sorts of places.
It was back on the bikes again to head up the trail to Wedderburn one of the few places left on the trail where the original train station still stands. It’s such a shame that when they lifted the tracks that they didn’t have the foresight to think to preserve this sort of history. Like most of the stops on the way the station has sign boards that give a brief history of the surrounding area as well as distances to the next stop.
With Sarah choosing to return to the camper at Wedderburn, Brian and I rode on to Ida Station the highest point on the Trail. Riding to there also helped balance the distances we are riding each day since we are riding there and back. The ride back was almost completely down hill so Brian and I powered back at almost 40kmph great fun as we went screaming down the hills.
With Brian again offering to play tour guide we set off towards Dansey Pass an area of extensive gold mining in the Otago region. First stop was the old graveyard where this signboard outlining the various charges to be buried depending on your age etc.
The whole area is covered in information boards with a number in and around the pass at the cemetery there is the tragic tale of two boys lost in a snow storm who along with a few of the people out looking for them perished from the cold. It makes really sad reading but it also makes it far more interesting than just turning up and seeing the graveyard without any explanations as to the history of the area or who is buried here.
As we drove along the road we spotted this fellow gold panning in the river. He told us that although he didn’t personally have a claim he had permission from the person who does to look for gold in this part of the river. He also told us that he does it for fun with only small pieces of gold to be found here he is lucky to find more than $50 worth in a day but he loves doing it. He did have some specks of gold in his sluice but that’s all they where specks.
We arrived at the Dansey Pass Hotel the last one standing from the days of the gold rush in this area. The original part of the hotel has been converted to accommodation with 19 rooms available for guests. The new part of the hotel built in 1990 forms the bar and restaurant area with the open fire blazing the place had a very friendly welcoming atmosphere.
The Manager was a fountain of knowledge telling us that the new part of the hotel was built of bricks constructed of local materials by a special machine imported from the USA just for the job with the amazing roof trusses recycled from a factory that was being demolished in Christchurch.
Also shown in the photos above are the ruins of one of the old buildings left standing in the hotel grounds as well as the huge Macrocarpa tree that was being felled a huge job as it’s right next to the hotel with it’s natural line of fall directly over the hotel roof.
To finish the day we took a drive into Dansey Pass an area of dramatic scenery with a very narrow road, not one that I would want to take the new Motorhome through but probably would have been OK taking the old Mitsi through as it’s smaller with a higher ground clearance.
It was then back to Ranfurly for another night at the NZMCA park with the plan to move up the road the following morning to start day 5 of the trail ride.