Day 147: Cycling On The Rail Trail

Mon. 7th January 2013

I am sure I could have driven up here....Over breakfast we review the literature on Dunedin and Dave also Bings “Dunedin tourist attractions” to see what else we should see before we move on. Given the time constraints as we want to get a cycle in this afternoon we decide the only to visit was Baldwin Street which they say is the steepest in world. Dunedin was built on a grid system and the designer had never been to the place so did not realise how steep the area was. (He was probably a Brit, just like the architect of Government House in Sydney.)

Self explanatory signThere are signs to say no turning spaces and no large vehicles so I tell Dave to park on the main road despite his protests “of course I can drive this van up there”. It is as the sign suggests – steep. (Whilst we can’t be sure we think that Lombard Street in San Francisco also markets itself as the world’s steepest. We’re not going to take sides). As my sandals are still wet from our visit to the boulders yesterday I am reduced to flip flops which are not ideal for steep slopes and am glad there are steps instead of a pavement.

Another self explanatory sign!As a base for cycling on New Zealand’s first Rail Trail we are heading for Alexandra some 190km away. The trail opened in 2000 and covers 150km from Clyde, through Alexandra and on to Middlemarch and now a big tourist attraction with the hotels, restaurants and support infrastructure. For example, there are companies with vans and trailers to shuttle you and your bike to specific places on the trail. This sounded a possibility for us as we know we do not want to cycle the whole length and cycling both ways on the same stretch does not appeal.

Cycle shuttle serviceThe route from Dunedin to Alexandra takes us along the main State Highway 1 along the coast for a stretch before turning inland. As we get close to Alexandra we get a glimpse of Roxburgh Lake and huge deep river valleys seeing for miles over changing landscape. One gripe I have of NZ is that there are very few laybys to stop and take pictures and side of the road is just too dangerous. I again took a turn at driving and realised I had not been phased at all by the fact I had not driven for 6 months. Like riding a bike you never forget.

Cycle to ClydeIn the afternoon it was time to try out our bikes we had been carrying around NZ. We decide on a circular route to Clyde and back. One way by the river and the other on the famous Rail Trail. As there was a chance for wine tasting on the river route we went that way first. However most wineries shut at 4pm and so we missed them – we may never have got back on the bikes if we had stopped! There will be other days I am sure – this is New Zealand after all. The path by the river was very picturesque through the trees zigzagged as well as undulating making an enjoyable ride. The narrow wooden walkways raised off the ground were a challenge.

Bridge to ClydeThere is not much to see in Clyde except yet another dam, which can be viewed after crossing the river and climbing up to the top of a steep road and by this time the legs were complaining about hills, and there was yet another electricity pylon fight in the best photo spot. After a much needed ice cream it was time to head back along the rail trail which we had read was a must do. This was the start (or end depending which way you cycle the route) and there is an opportunity to stamp your passport, so we both studied our ever filling passports to find a suitable spot to squeeze in another stamp.

Muttontown BridgeThe trail as you may have guessed has been built along the old disused railway line and a number of bridges had to be repaired to achieve this. We set off down the track and the cycling is a complete contrast to the outward leg. It is so boring, I moan (I must be careful what I say as the cycling tomorrow turns out to be far from boring!). The monotony was broken with the crossing of Muttontown viaduct, aka a wooden bridge, and apparently the longest one of its type on the whole route.It was named after the guy who sold mutton to the gold diggers – how original. The scenery in New Zealand is fabulous so I expect the views and other sights make the boring gravel track more enjoyable on the rest of the route but we will never know as our cycle on the rail trail ended at Alexandra.

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