Cycling through Middle-earth

~ Biking the Otago Central Rail Trail

No wonder Peter Jackson chose New Zealand to shoot the Lord of the Rings series of films – stunning scenery, craggy mountains, endless rolling hills, greenery galore. Central Otago, in the South Island of New Zealand, is a beautiful area.

The towns are very small, perhaps only a couple of hundred people each, the principal activity is farming. There was a railway here, completed at the turn of the 19/20th Century, then closed in 1990. The Otago Central Rail Trail was opened as a cycling and walking trail in 1995. With 10 to 12,000 users per year, after farming the Trail is the second biggest economic factor in the region.

OTAGO CENTRAL RAIL TRAIL

We decided to cycle it! Scroll down for the video…

There are many companies who will help you organise your bike trip and we chose ShebikesHebikes, as they had good reviews, and we liked the look of what they had to offer. They gave us several different options to begin with, and we chose the 5 day trip. After that they gave us several suggestions of places to stay each night, and after we had made our choices they booked everything. They provided us with a VERY detailed itinerary, including lots of suggestions of things to do and see along the way. Unfortunately as we are not used to multiple day cycling tours, all we did was shower and collapse! We could have gone wine-tasting, or visited local museums, or even tried curling. We were just happy to have a comfortable bed and a good dinner!

NOTE: we were happy to pay the regular price for this trip. We didn’t receive any freebies!

People in this area are very welcoming and friendly. We struck up conversations in local pubs, and enjoyed some excellent meals along the way.

2ND BREAKFAST IN LAUDER
SECOND BREAKFAST!

Saturday Day 1: Queenstown to Clyde to Omakau

Picked up by bus from Queenstown, taken to Clyde, where we got our bikes and start off!

Google estimate: 40.8 km. 2 hrs 21 mins

Actual: 40.16 kms. Av 10.8 kph .22.3 max. 3 hrs 42 mins.

Set off at 12.30 pm, after getting bikes sorted at Clyde. Lots of beehives. Lovely scenery, rocks. Sheep, donkeys. Beehives among wild thyme. Good going to start with. Stopped at Chatto Creek for drinks and cake 🙂 Hard uphill after that, then good downhill! Blacks Hotel, nice room, comfy bed, excellent dinner at Blacks, I had blue cod, prawns and scallops en papillotte.

SETTING OFF FROM CLYDE

1

THE OLD BRIDGE IN OPHIR
THE OLD BRIDGE IN OPHIR
OPHIR POST OFFICE
OPHIR POST OFFICE
OMAKAU CAFE
OMAKAU CAFE

Sunday Day 2: Omakau to Oturehua

Google estimate: 32.3 km. 2 hrs 8 mins

Actual: 35 kms. Av 9.6 kph. Max 25.6 kph! 3 hrs 38 mins

Rocky road! Wind, sheep, highland cattle. More wind. Lots of walking, jelly legs, tunnels, bridges, exhausted. Brain exhaustion. Tough day. Good 2nd breakfast stop! Inverlair Lodge has a hot tub 🙂

Snapshot 1 (28-Nov-15 4-03 PM) (2)

Monday Day 3: Oturehua to Ranfurly

Google estimate: 25.3 km. 1 hr 18 mins

Actual: 25.96 kms. Av 10.8 kph. Max 30.1 kph! 2 hrs 23 mins

More uphill, I thought it was all down…. Hard cross winds, had to walk a lot. Finally we saw the summit sign, it’s all downhill now! Walking cut down av speed. Quite rocky trail. More sheep. Cows. Nearly ran over a bunny. More wind. Naseby Lodge is nice, room with separate kitchen/living room, very spacious and comfy. Had a great dinner in the local pub as Naseby Lodge restaurant wasn’t open: the Ancient Briton. Whitebait the traditional way: fried up in an egg fritter. I learned that whitebait here in NZ are actually elvers (baby eels!). They catch them from a stand in freshwater rivers. Pretty sure the whitebait we used to get in England are small fish fry. Interesting. Very yummy! Got chatting with both locals and visitors in the pub, good evening.

day 3 (1280x1093)

Tuesday Day 4: Ranfurly to Hyde

Google estimate: 32.7 km. 1 hr 54 mins

Actual: 33.21 kms. Av 13.7 kph. Max 29.5 kph. 2 hrs 25 mins.

Pretty much downhill, wind behind us mostly, then switched to blasting gusts of cross-winds! Nearly got blown off a couple of times! Then the last few kms had a head wind, that was tough, we were ground to a halt, had to walk into Hyde! Trail was much easier. Smoother dirt/gravel instead of the rocks from yesterday. Great views, rocks, hills. Sheep, cows, bunnies, startled a duck out of the rough. Lunch in Hyde at the hotel café, good meat pies. Tonight we’re staying at the Hyde School Accommodation and Eatery! Up on the hill just above Hyde. Nice spacious room, comfy bed! Excellent dinner of roast lamb, chicken in tarragon, multiple veggie dishes, and delicious dessert, in the schoolhouse tonight!

VIEW FROM PRICE'S CREEK VIADUCT
VIEW FROM PRICE’S CREEK VIADUCT

Snapshot 3 (28-Nov-15 4-35 PM) (2)

Wednesday Day 5: Hyde to Middlemarch

Google estimate: 27.9 km. 1 hr 25 mins

Actual: 27.6 km. Av 15.1 kph. Max 32 kph! 1 hr 49 mins.

Lower wind than forecast, hooray! Bunnies, sheep, cows. Kept bumping into the couple from last night! Pretty decent ride to Middlemarch. A little uphill, but mostly downhill. Arrived around 12.30 pm. Found Shebikeshebikes, but carried on to The Kissing Gate Café for lunch of beef pie 🙂 Back to Shebikeshebikes, gave them back our bikes, walked down to the Annandale B&B only to discover no-one there! We’re a bit early for check-in, so waited a bit, then phoned. Were told the key’s under the mat! A misunderstanding, we didn’t get the message. Ok, now we’re in, comfy room, decent shower, time to rest a bit before dinner.

Delicious breakfast at the Annandale, ready for the next bit of adventure!

Total distance cycled over 5 days: 162 kms.

And here’s the video to prove it!

NOTE: we were happy to pay the regular price for this trip. We didn’t receive any freebies!

Many thanks to ShebikesHebikes for terrific organisation!

Keep scrolling for a few more photos… and then our train journey video!

day 5 day 5

POSTER IN THE KISSING GATE CAFE, MIDDLEMARCH
POSTER IN THE KISSING GATE CAFE, MIDDLEMARCH

day 5

WE MADE IT TO MIDDLEMARCH!
WE MADE IT TO MIDDLEMARCH!
IT WAS 20 YEARS AGO TODAY...
IT WAS 20 YEARS AGO TODAY…

day 5

Thursday Day 6: shuttle from Middlemarch to Pukerangi. Taieri Gorge train to Dunedin.

Breakfast at the B&B, picked up by Shebikeshebikes at 11 am for shuttle to Pukerangi for the train.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The train ride on the Taieri Gorge train to Dunedin was terrific! It took about 2 hours, riding through some stunning scenery, and here’s a little video we made:

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