The Tour Aotearoa didn’t go to plan, a dose of Giardiasis put paid to my plans and a week into the event I pulled the pin, riding with an empty stomach was not much fun, and evacuating my stomach about an hour after eating was even less fun, a real shame as the event and the people I met along the way could accurately be described as awesome, in the truest sense of the word.
Anyway, after canning the ride and heading back to Wellington I was under no illusion that once again my New Zealand riding was over, it seems that I’m cursed with my plans here…..
So, my wife had already headed home to the UK (understandably as who would want to wait around while I’m having fun riding bikes ? ) and with a month to go until my flights home I decided to hire a car and go and explore the south island. I made a very conscious decision to not take my bike, resting was going to be key to recovering from the stomach bug……
I got almost a week in, happy to be out walking everyday including some decent walks to the base of Mount Cook, then I made a mistake, I headed to a place called Clyde.
Clyde is the start point of the Central Otago Rail Trail, a trail that I first rode in 2015, its flat, its double track, its an old railway line….. but it goes through possibly the most beautiful landscape that I’ve ever seen, no doubt my opinion of this place has been swayed by the paintings and poetry of the local artists, in particular a chap called Graham Sydney.
Its irresistible to me, the weather was good, the town was buzzing with cyclists, I hired a bike, the guys at ‘Bike It Now’ were super accommodating, giving me a bike the afternoon before I’d paid for it meant I could head out to the Roxburgh Gold Trail on Saturday, heading out along the River Trail towards Alexandra.
My legs felt strong but I still needed to be mindful that an easily accessible toilet was a necessity so I got to Alexandra and paid a visit, that done I headed out along the Roxburgh trail, lovely swoopy singletrack alongside a turquoise blue river with very few people about, I headed as far as I dared and then turned around to retrace my steps back to Clyde. Stopping frequently to take photographs of the autumn colours ( its all about face in the southern hemisphere) I finally arrived back and scoffed a veggie pizza and a fine pint of beer.
Sunday morning and I’m feeling pretty good, a light breakfast and I’m off down the Rail Trail, the memories flooding back, when I first rode this on my own I enjoyed it so much that I convinced my wife (a non cyclist) to do it with me, we loved it and I enjoyed riding it with her so much more that time.
Once again the weather was kind, a balmy 22c and perfect blue skies, I got to Chatto Creek in no time at all, a quick coffee and I pushed on to Lauder for lunch, a squeaky visit to the loo reminded me that I was supposed to not be riding !
Turning back towards Clyde now and the trail was full of riders of all ages and abilities, and once again that landscape !, I finished the day with another pizza and a cheeky beer, happy with my lot.
Fast forward three days and I’m in Hanmer Springs, the scene of many previous visits and some unfinished business with Jacks and Jolies Pass, the weather was good and I was feeling strong, I hired another bike.
This time I knew I was going to be pushing my luck, I headed out in the early morning up Jacks Pass with the intention of heading along the Clarence River road to meet up with Jolies Pass, heading up was actually okay but I was sweating way too much, my legs felt fine but I knew that I was pushing my luck a bit too much so I got to the top and turned around. I found a car park that I hadn’t noticed on the way up and this gave entry into the mountainbike trails of Hanmer Forest. I rode a couple of the black runs, again pushing my luck on an unfamiliar bike, then settled into the blue runs which were more within my comfort zone.
After lunch back in town I decided to explore some gravel roads I’d spotted earlier, both ending in dead ends but nonetheless beautiful, ford crossings, autumn colours, blue skies and absolute solitude, what more could you ask for….
oh yes, some incredible grass up the middle just to top it all off!
Words and pictures – Steve Makin