I woke early as usual checking my phone for any messages overnight, thinking it was a little cold but to see it was 0 degrees was a bit of a shock to the system. Back under the covers as I said to Sarah that we might need to invest in an extra blanket.
At a slightly more civilized hour of the day as well as after a decent breakfast we moved onto Lauder one of the places with the original station still in place that although more barren inside than the one in Wedderburn at least had something to look at to evoke thoughts of times past.
The carpark area at Lauder is huge with tons of space for the motorhomes including Brian’s at 10.5 metres plus the car on the back still with space to turn around. The Trail forward from here is an 11 km ride back to Auripo station yesterdays end point then once back at the car park to proceed forward to Omakau station and perhaps beyond making a decent ride for the day. With the wind also having dropped overnight and the sun out it was going to be a great day for a ride.
The ride back to Auripo Station is mostly uphill although since the Trail was built for trains the uphill is not uphill in the true sense of the word as it’s more of a gentle rise that just seems to keep on going.
First photo chance of the day comes at the curved bridge across the Manuherikia River at 110 Metres long it’s one of the longest on the trail it’s also the only one that’s curved making it stand out from the others on the trail. There were more riders on the trail today or maybe this is just a more popular section. It was at this bridge that we ran into John who had been camped next to Brain in Ranfurly and it was he who had given us the tip to make sure we visited Danseys Pass.
Unless you ride the Trail then it’s impossible to understand the rugged beauty of the area. Sure you can see the rocks or the blue sky or wide valleys in the photos but the sense of majesty when you are actually there is something really special. With the ride today really at the top of the pile.
Pickaxe, Shovel and Wheelbarrow are the tools of choice to dig the two tunnels that you reach after a short climb from the bridge. The first tunnel is 440 metres long it’s also curved so when you enter at one end you cannot see any light from the other end. It was just as well Sarah had a headlight on her Bike as we rode in single file following the leader.
Interesting inside the tunnel is that the brick work is not right throughout the tunnel there are areas where it’s just exposed natural stone I presume this is because it’s a different type of rock that’s more stable hence no need to have it reinforced. Where there are no bricks the tunnel is quite a bit wider than the rest but I guess thats to allow space for reinforcement if required.
One thing I do need to mention riding through the tunnel there is a really disconcerting feeling that you have lost your balance and are going to crash into the sides both Brian and I felt this, really strange.
We came across this gangers hut just before the first tunnel unusually it had a fireplace whereas all the others are just a tin shack, so at least in this one you would be a little warmer in winter.
Having returned to Lauder for a spot of lunch as well as a chance to rest my knees which are now starting to give me some serious grief. It was time after lunch had settled to complete the second leg of the days journey to Omakau and slightly beyond. In the end we managed to get about 5kms past Omakau which would shorten the journey the following day.
We considered spending the night in the carpark at the Lauder Station although not an official camping ground it had plenty of space with us thinking nobody would mind. We did however choose to move to the Freedom Camping area (#8728) in Omakau just across the bridge as you drive towards Ophir.
We are so glad we found this spot with just us, Brian in his bus and a couple of French tourists. As you can see we found a spot right on the riverbank surrounded by Willows all beginning to change colour with the season it was just beautiful.
We had Brian over for a roast chicken that we cooked on our little BBQ with some roast potatoes on the side whilst Brian brought over his specialty garlic cabbage (very tasty). A great end to another full day of riding.
The following morning we woke to another spectacular sunrise so Sarah popped her head through the roof vent above the bed and snapped these shots. It was a terrific start to the penultimate day of riding.
We had chosen to start the penultimate day in Galloway this would give us 17 odd kms to ride towards Omakau before the return making 34/35 km round trip. The station is just the small box hut you can see above with all sidings removed so not much to view here but with good parking for the Motorhomes it was a good place to start.
The track follows and then crosses the Manuherikia River as we crossed this bridge looking down the river at all the trees beginning to change colour I realised that if we where here a couple of weeks later the colours would be truly amazing, so maybe we might come back to this particular section again.
We arrived at Chatto Creek station where the sidings still stand but no buildings remain from here the trail climbs on a gentle slope for the next 7 kms to the point we reached yesterday but with a clear blue sky and fantastic scenery there was plenty of motivation to continue.
All along the trail I have noticed the planetary sculptures but for some reason I hadn’t taken any photos until this point. I first noticed them just outside of Ranfurly then spreading out along the trail from there although I might have missed the first couple there is just so much to see along the way. In fact sometimes it’s hard to keep your balance on the bike as you are so busy looking both ways.
The Photo chances just keep on mounting up I have had to top up my data allowance a couple of times so that I can upload my photos and clear the camera and phone to allow space for more. I haven’t taken a photo of every gangers shed but think I got most of them, It will be nice to look back at the history later as I review the photos.
We arrived back at the Galloway Station happy with the mornings ride knowing that we are now only 7 kms from Alexandra beyond that only another 8kms to the end of the ride in Clyde. It was time for lunch then to see if we had enough energy to ride to the end and back after this mornings ride.
The ride into Alexandra really displays the ruggedness of the area with the dry dusty rocky landscape all round. I was thinking to myself that if you were one of the workers who had started building the trail in Middlemarch you would be wondering when this landscape was ever going to end.
We arrived at the Alexandra Station to find another siding but no building a little bit of a let down as I am sure there would have been a decent building there in it’s day.
We toyed with the idea of finishing the ride with only 8 kms to go but Brian’s battery on his bike was almost out of range and because it’s more of a downhill type bike than it is a mountain bike it’s almost impossible to ride uphill without battery power so we elected to finish the Trail the following day.
Checking into the Molyneux Park POP (#8807) for the night a large spacious area right next to the sports fields and skate park for the town. Even though it was Sunday when we arrived and the skate park was busy it wasn’t noisy so I would not be put off if you are planning a stay here.
As this would be our last night travelling with Brian we went into town and had a very enjoyable Thai meal at the local Thai restaurant, we needed to be in Gore on Monday as we had an early appointment Tuesday to update the COF on the Motorhome. Unlike in Auckland were you just turn up for your COF you have to make a booking in the smaller South Island towns. I had tried to make a booking in Alexandra but it was booked 10 days out!
With Monday morning dawning a little cloudy but with the rain holding off it was time to finish this ride. Setting off from Alexandra the landscape flattens out, the rocks disappear making it feel quite different from almost the whole of the ride so far.
The interesting thing was until I saw these old rail traffic lights just outside Clyde I hadn’t realised how little of this sort of stuff is actually on the trail. In a couple of places there are old railway crossing signs but this was almost the only piece of signal equipment that we saw.
I thought to myself this is like the ride down the Champs-Elysees on the final stage of the Tour de France as the riders come into Paris even though there were only three of us it was an amazing sense of achievement 300 plus kms including the there and back again ride that we did with a little running around in various places.
So we made it WOW! A major bucket list item given the big tick. I can honestly say that aside from a sore backside there wasn’t a single downside to riding this Trail it will one of the highlights of my life that will live with me for ever. The scenery, the ruggedness of the country, the places we stayed, the people we met, the apples we ate. All of these things add up to just an amazing experience and a must do!
But wait! it’s not over yet, we still needed to ride back to Alexandra. Everyone we had spoken to all said make sure you ride the river trail so from the Clyde station we rode through the town over the bridge to join the trail back to Alex.
The trail follows the Clutha river as it winds it’s way down to Alex and although it’s not as well formed as the rail trail it’s still a great ride. With 7 days of riding through rocks and farmlands it was also a really pleasant change to be riding along the riverbank with the amazing colours beginning to appear as Autumn starts to take hold.
On the otherside of the trail from the river are the tailings from the gold mining. Masses of rock piles give testimony to the years of mining that has gone on in this area. We also saw this massive drilling auger alongside the path but had no idea where they may have used it.
The trail is around 12kms long and it’s such a major contrast to the Rail Trail with the trees closer to the trail and this waterfall right next to the track rather than being 20 metres away or underneath a large bridge.
At the Alexandra end of the ride we came across these guys playing cricket with the Hobbits also on the lawn it was an interesting diversion. I could not resist the photo.
So seven days after we met Brain in Middlemarch it was time to part as we made our way to Gore to update the COF on the Motorhome. It’s not often that you meet someone that you hit it off with almost immediately but Brian was one of these people with both Sarah and I enjoying our time together.
Without Brian’s help recharging the bike batteries each night with his generator or his desire to keep going along the Trail who knows if we would have completed the trail. So Brian Thanks a Million! we will stay in touch you are a good friend and what the NZMCA is all about, sharing your camping experience with others whilst enjoying yourself.
My final word on the Rail Trail is to find the map/brochure above before you set off on the trail as it details all the stations, distances involved as well as the elevations between each ride. We found it very useful. Also don’t forget your Travel Directory so you can find all the wonderful places to stay.