Having already stayed at Molyneux Park (#8807) last time we visited Alexandra (the locals call the place Alex.) we thought we would stay there again as it’s close to town as well as being handy to both the rail trail and the dump station.
Molyneux Park is a fantastic area for the locals as well as visitors to the camp as it’s surrounded by all sorts of activities. With an Ice Rink, Squash Courts, BMX Track, Skate Park, Swimming Pools plus the Cricket and Rugby grounds not to forget the Bowling Greens.
We had expected that with Wings over Wanaka that the POP would be full with people waiting to make their way to Wanaka. This proved not to be the case as on our arrival the park was almost empty perhaps as there where a couple of huge mud puddles in the middle of the parking area or maybe people had chosen to stay closer to the event.
For us this visit was all about taking the time to see some of the things that we hadn’t managed to get to last time when we only spent the one night then had to go to Gore to renew our COF.
Realising that there was about 400 metres of the Rail Trail that we hadn’t ridden when we last stayed in Alex as we had started the final days ride from Molyneux Park rather than from the station we had ridden to the previous day. Sarah and I rode this final section then carried on towards the famous “Shaky Bridge”.
Originally constructed in 1877 it was the first bridge to cross the Clutha. Restored in 1952 as just a pedestrian bridge it was certainly shaky when we crossed it. There is a Cafe located here that appears very popular with the locals although we didn’t sample it’s wares this time.
Just down the road from here is an old mining area with the claim name of “Linger and Die” I would have thought this was a joke had I not read the signboard shown above. Turns out that it was a very unsuccessful claim so maybe the name was appropriate.
It’s only a really short ride from Molyneux Park to the Otago Rail Trail were we would again ride the final stretch to take us back to Clyde and the chance to have a good look at this historic place. The California Poppies are everywhere alongside the trail adding a nice touch of colour.
Like a lot of towns that we have visited in Central Otago, Clyde is a mixture of new houses of which there are quite a number as well as a number of older historic buildings. I have been really fascinated with the churches in the whole Southern Region although a number of them are obviously no longer used for their original purpose most of them have either been restored or have been kept in really good condition.
Like a lot of these towns hotels dominated the local businesses with the still trading Dunstan Hotel across the road from the rather run down example in the back street. The heritage boards pop up like mushrooms after the rain, it is good however to get the history on the area and they are very informative.
As we cycled through Clyde we were overtaken by a Dethleffs Globetrotter (the same model as ours) thinking that it would be nice to meet the people driving if they stopped nearby. We followed them all the way up to the lookout for the Clyde Dam where we met Bruce and Barb, turns out that they had purchased the secondhand van we had almost brought from Gary at Deluxe Group in Blenheim. It’s also the same van we saw going the other way in Motueka at the start of our journey 10 weeks ago. Small world!
Chasing Bruce and Barb up the hill to the lookout also gave us the chance to have a look at the dam itself. The dam is the 3rd largest dam in New Zealand holding back a massive volume of water that forms lake Dunstan up the river in Cromwell. Although the gorge is reasonably narrow it cannot have been an easy build with such an unstable landscape in the surrounding area.
The main street of Clyde is an interesting mix of old and new buildings in most cases the new buildings fit well into the street but the dairy looked like a dairy in Auckland not really fitting in, otherwise a nice main street with a historic feel to it.
As we wandered/cycled around Clyde we came across this large stamping battery. Having heard one of these running some years ago in the Coromandel and knowing how noisy it was I wondered how the local residents would feel if they fired this one up especially as they used to run 24/7.
It would appear that more people start their Rail Trail experience in Clyde than Middlemarch as the infrastructure here seems much more geared up than it does at the the other end. But that’s just my observation on things.
Not being a wine buff I hadn’t realised just how many vineyards there were in this region as we rode back along the rail trail for Alex and the Motorhome we passed acres and acres of grapes waiting to be harvested. I guess that at this time of the year it’s a fine balancing act between leaving the grapes to ripen for as long as possible but also having to weary of the first frosts of winter ruining the harvest.
Easter Friday the sun dawned for another fantastic Central Otago day. Sarah suggested that we should ride up to the lookout in the hills above Alex. It’s just a short ride across town to get to the bottom of the hill but from there it’s 1.2 kms of hill climb to the summit. The E Bikes make it easier to get up the hill but we were both huffing and puffing by the time we reached the top.
The views from the top are really spectacular making the long climb to the top well worthwhile. It was really interesting to see all the dead pine trees littering the hills as part of the eradication programme of wilding pines. Most looked like they had just been chopped with a chainsaw and left were they fell.
Also on the hill is this massive clock that probably stands 20 metres tall really quite a magnificent sight that can been seen from all over Alex. It was partly this clock that made us want to ride up to the lookout to have a closer look. It turns out however that you cannot get to the clock from the lookout.
We made the mistake of trying to ride back to the campsite along the riverbank on the Alex side of the Clutha. Although there is a track of sorts it’s poorly formed and in places degenerates into a rocky/muddy mess that a tank would have difficulty crossing. Eventually we resorted to Google maps to find the closest exit point. We had to push our bikes up a rather steep bank but we managed to escape the clutches of the path to nowhere not a route I would recommend. The area appeared to be used by 4wd’s but also appeared to be a dumping ground for locals with all sorts of rubbish to be found.
We had a rather peaceful day for the rest of Friday catching up on some of those chores that never seem to go away. That evening we had bit of drama in the park with someone falling ill and an ambulance called, that spent quite some time there before taking the lady to the hospital. Not what you would want to have happen on your holiday but at least the ambulance and hospital are located close to the camp. We left the following morning so don’t know the outcome of the situation but obviously wish everyone the best.
In all we have spent 17 days in and around Central Otago I cannot recommend the place highly enough. We have found during our time here the scenery absolutely stunning the bike trails just wonderful and the people really friendly. Of all the places we have visited so far this is the one that I have liked the most and the weather had played it’s part turning on some fantastic days with warm sunshine and crisp nights without being to cold.
100% a must do.