Roxburgh & Clutha Gold Bike Trail – New Zealand

Tuesday March 21st 2017: – We arrived in Clyde for the start of our third South Island Bike Ride in two weeks.

The Roxburgh & Clutha Gold Trails: The plan was to ride four days to complete the trail from Clyde to Lawrence We booked into the Clyde Motel for the night before and the last night of the ride – a lovely quiet motel about one kilometer from Clyde village – friendly, homely, clean and comfortable.

We had booked Trail Journeys (having used them very successfully before on the ‘Tasman Taste Trail’) – to cart our bags each night and also to pick us and bikes up from Lawrence at the end of the bike ride and transport us back to our motel in Clyde.  They also booked us on a water taxi from Doctor’s Point to Shingle Creek as there is no bike access between these two places. Trail Journeys were extremely efficient and very helpful – they can also book  accommodation if needed.  They allowed us to leave our cars in their car park without charge, gave us maps and advice and fitted two of the group with excellent bikes for the journey.

Wednesday 22nd March 2017

Clyde to Roxburgh – 48kms

The sky was clear but there was a chill in the air when we left Clyde to head to Alexandra and onto Doctors Point where we would be picked up by water taxi and taken to Shingle Creek. The river journey between Doctor’s Point and Shingle creek  (13 kms)  came about because access for the trail has been blocked by local lease holders  and therefore there is no bike access between the two places.We learned that some of these leases will be up in next few years so who knows??

Leaving Clyde there was a division in the group – some chose to take the shorter way from Clyde to Alexandra via the rail trail because they had ridden the river trail from Clyde to Alexandra several years ago when riding the Otago Rail Trail, those who had not ridden the rive trail chose to ride that way.  Coffee as always was on the agenda so we agreed to meet at the information centre in Alexander to purchase our permit for the trail – $25 to help maintain the trail and have some coffee.  At the information centre we were told that the $25 was a voluntary donation but we we were so pleased we did pay as the trail is superbly maintained and this cannot be cheap.

The ‘Old’ and the ‘New’ bridge across the Clutha /Mata-Au river

After coffee in Alexandra we headed to the Clutha Mata-Au river and historic bridge piers to begin the Roxburgh Trail.  But before that we went back about one kilometer towards Clyde to see a display of cricket gnomes in a local garden!

  

Just beyond the bridge is where the Manuherikia River joins the Clutha river and within another km we were riding along the Roxburgh Gorge where sheer bluffs rise up 350m each side of the river.  A few kms along we started to climb up to Butchers Creek and on to Doctor’s Point where we passed stone walled water races and several signs of the gold mining days.  The scenery is truly spectacular but what you do notice is the peace and tranquility only broken by the river noises.  The river is a deep blue and the rocks are a mixture of 50 shades of grey!  As we ride we have the added bonus of passing well preserved gold mines from the 1860 and the schist hand built minute miners huts still standing as they were!

You get the sensation you are riding right above the river!
Doing as we are asked – walking our bikes down!
Walking our bikes as requested
Scary when you see signs like this!!
About to climb the switchback
Walking the bike down the narrow switchback
And the hill goes on and on and on……

There is a series of switchbacks to test your metal and resolve and a cantilevered boardwalk that appears to be hanging over the river!  Also a sign that states “Steep Grade and tight curves Walk Bikes next 300m!  We did just that as it would have been hazardous to do anything else. The trail, which has km markers all the way, comes to an end at Doctor’s point where we were booked with our water-taxi ride to take all nine people and our bikes to Shingle Creek.  While we waited for our boat we enjoyed exploring some old schist stone huts built by the Chinese gold miners.  They are compact and solid and even though built by hand have survived until today.  However, the life for the people mining there was harsh and one wonders how they survived the fierce Otago winters, the fierce sun in summer and the rise and fall of the river in those tiny huts.

Chinese hut at Doctor’s Point
David showing just how tiny the entrance to the hut was.
Another hut on the opposite side of the river from Doctor’s Point
Inside the hut
Waiting at Doctor’s Point for our boat

Once we were all aboard the jet boat for our journey down the river, our driver took us on a guided tour imparting local knowledge gained through years on the river. It was a very impressive commentary while he swung the boat back and forth across the rive pointing out huts, gold mines, water races, track to push wheelbarrows and goods over the rocky terrain.  Gold was first discovered on a shelf at Doctor’s Point in 1877. Mining was difficult due to large boulders and a shortage of water, but returns were good.

Views from Doctor’s Point
Waiting for our bikes to be loaded onto jet boat
Loaded and ready to go!

As we came close to Shingle point we were introduced to Mrs Herons Cottage where she lived and brought up 7 children while running a shop.

From Wikipedia:-

Harriet Heron and her husband initially lived in Tuapeka, where they ran a butcher’s shop. For some time she ran the store single-handed as her husband went to Wetherstones to work on a gold mine, and then to the Cluta River area. Heron sold the business and joined her husband at the mining site, located at Fourteen Mile Beach. For their first three years there they lived in a tent, and Heron was the only woman in the camp.

The Herons later built a schist and mud mortar cottage to live in, which was originally located on the shores of the Clutha River; however since the river was dammed and flooded in 1956, it now sits on the banks of lake Roxburgh.  The cottage is a maintained heritage building and known locally as “Mrs Heron’s Cottage.

Mrs Heron’s Cottage
Another Chinese Hut by the river Clutha
Swirls from our boat zig zag-ing across the river

Leaving Shingle Creek we started to climb a narrow and steep climb past Elbow creek, Hidden valley and up to Lake Roxburgh village where the trail becomes ‘The Clutha Gold Trail’. 

The climb from Single Creek
Single Creek
and on…
and on…..
and on….

We rode across the lake Roxburgh dam, past Commissioner Flat where we had to check maps to ensure we were heading in the right direction. We spotted the old remains of a dredge called the Kohinoor dredge that sank in 1912 but before it sank it ‘won’ 3,358 ounces of gold from the river between 1902-1906.  A sign by this dredge says there are the remains of several other dredges along the Clutha river.

An old swing bridge after Commissioners Flat
The remains of the Kohinoor dredge that sank in 1912

We finally came to the end of the trail just outside Roxburgh and we turned away from the village to our accommodation at Clutha Gold Cottages where Christine greeted us warmly. We stayed in a lovely old four bedroom cottage and kindly drove us all into town to the Grand Tavern and picked us up afterwards.  We were the only people in the Tavern – I think they opened it late especially for us. What an amazing day!

Thursday 23rd March 2017

Roxburgh to Millers Flat – 21kms

Before leaving Roxburgh we wandered in to the town to have a look around. First we found Jimmy’s pies and wondered at the selection of fillings. Along the main street there were several sculptures – one beautiful stainless steel sculpture created by Bill and Michelle Clarke which sits opposite the public toilets.  The detail in the faces and tools is superb. There were a few quirky shops and an art gallery that was not opened at 9.30am so unfortunately we missed seeing inside.

Sculpture by Bill and Michelle Clarke
Wonderful detail
Beautiful work!

However, we did not miss the stunning view of the Clutha river from the Roxburgh bridge, as we cycled back to the beginning of the trail for today ride to Millers Flat. 

View of Clutha River from Roxburgh Bridge

The river followed us along the track for some time as we rode through wooded areas where the leaves were turning their autumnal colour – shades of yellow, red and brown.

We arrived at the Millers Flat Holiday park our home for the night at around midday. We were greeted by Marise & John May who were a young couple who had taken over the park about nine months ago.  They have great plans to develop the park and have already made great inroads. They installed a coffee machine in their Kiosk and so we started our visit with a flat white made all the more welcome as we had frozen hands and feet and were chilled by the headwind!

Millers Flat  has a population of around 200 but the trail is bringing more visitors to the area and as a result there is another cafe and shop opening up soon. We had booked in for dinner at Millers Flat tavern which entailed riding across a massive blue bridge across the Clutha river. We tentatively headed across the very narrow bridge which did not leave much room for trucks and bikes but luckily there is little traffic so made it safely to the Tavern.  The food at the tavern was really good – had whitebait fritters – Yum!

Friday 24th March 2017

Millers Flat to Lawrence  – 42kms

Today started out bitterly cold with a clear blue sky as we cycled out from Millers Flat.  We had read about Millers Flat’s ‘Lonely Graves’ which was a short 5km detour from the trail and said to be well worth the extra ride. It was just of the trail to Beaumont where we had planned to meet for coffee.  The detour was close to the Horseshoe Bend Bridge carpark and was uphill all the way, but a gradual climb and well worth the effort – it was a soul stirring haunting atmosphere. Just two graves sitting side by side on a bleak hill in the middle of nowhere. 

The story goes:

An anonymous grave at Horseshoe Bend, probably of an 1860s miner, was provided with a headboard by local man William Rigney, who added the words, ‘Somebody’s darling lies buried here.’ A new headstone, reproducing the words, was put in place in 1903. Rigney died in 1912 and was buried next to the earlier grave, his headstone marked with the words ‘The man who buried “Somebody’s Darling”’.  But before he died Rigney wrote to the local paper saying

There was nothing done to enclose the grave until a maned [man named] John Ord who, I think, died long since on the Coast, and myself put a fence of rough manuka poles round it. Just then I had to go to Tapanui for mining timber and I got a board of black pine. This I shaped something like a headstone, painted it white, and with a tomahawk and a four-inch nail I cut, or rather sunk into the timber the words: “Somebody’s darling lies buried here.”

The plaque beside the grave tells the story and admits that the ‘truth should never get in the way of a good story’!

Todays ride was mostly through farmland – our first stop Beaumont which had a large bridge and little else. We followed the trail right through the very small settlement of Beaumont but found no coffee shop so rode back to the bridge and over it to the Beaumont Hotel.

However, when we got to the hotel it looked very closed.  We were desperate so we went around the back of the hotel and finally saw a man working out back and called to him.  It turned out he was the Icelandic owner of the hotel who told us he had two boys at Otago university.  We said there would be nine of us and could we have coffee. ‘Yes’, but his coffee machine would take 10-15mins to heat up.  We were happy to wait but noticed there was a sign that said ‘Whitebait Sammies $10’ (Sammies = sandwiches). We asked if we could have some – yes, no problem. By this time the rest of our team arrived and ordered nine coffees and nine whitebait sammies!!  Boy were they good.

Once we left Beaumont replete from our food and drink we started to climb up to the highest point in the trail and on through the Big Hill Tunnel  (440m) – thank heavens for the tunnel as the road close to us went a lot higher!

On the way there was a sign that read ‘ Stop for a while – it’s that simple – Lawrence 5kms

Stop for a rest, It’s that simple – Lawrence 5km

Still has it’s number plate!

As we rode closer to Lawrence there was a ‘Lawrence Chinese Camp site’ which was founded in 1867 and the last Chinese died there in 1945. Since then it was left to go to ruin until it was revived by a charitable trust which aims to retire it.  The site once had a population of about 100 and was a gold mining township serving the needs of the residents.

The township of Lawrence is a lively spot with cafes, shops art studios, brick-a-brac and hand weaving. The central Orago’s gold rush began in Lawrence with the discovery of gold by Gabriel Read in May 1861. By early 1862 there were thought to be 14,000 miners on the field. Many were locals, but they were joined by numbers from Australia, and eventually from England, Scotland, Ireland and China.  The place where he discovered the gold was named ‘Gabriel’s Gully’. At the height of the gold rush Lawrence ’s population reached 11,500 but todays population is about 450.

Our pickup from Lawrence by Trail Journeys was at 3.30 so we had plenty of time to wander around some of the lovely old building in Lawrence and visit the cemetery where John J Woods, the composer of the New Zealand National Anthem is buried, there is also a Chinese section here and some amazing iron Celtic crosses.

This was our last day riding in our two weeks in the South Island – In and around Queenstown, Around the Mountains and the Roxburgh & Clutha Gold Trails.  We rode 12 out of the 14 days – some very short others long but all memorable.  We rode about 462 kms in all, an average of 38kms a day!

What an amazing time we had – the sheer beauty of the Otago & Southland hills and lakes is beyond my ability to describe – you just have to do the ride yourself !  For more information about cycling in NZ  go to www.nzcycletrail.com 

Our last dinner together in The School House in Clyde!

 

Around the Mountains (Eyre Mountains) – beyond Queenstown

 

Around the Mountains – the Eyre Mountains.

For more information about cycling in NZ  go to www.nzcycletrail.com 

Otago & Southland New Zealand

Day 1

Having read ‘Classic New Zealand Cycle Trails by the  Kennett Brothers this cycle was top of our list after Queenstown and despite the fact that “Around the Mountain” tours and others suggested starting in Kingston and ending up at Walter Peak – the Kennett Brothers suggested the opposite due to prevailing winds. With that route chosen we set off early Friday 17th March, from our beautiful accommodation near Queenstown and rode into town to catch the TSS Earnslaw at 10am

Having earlier decided to take four days and three nights to complete the 180kms around the mountains we had booked bag transportation and bike and person shuttle from Movora Lakes turnoff to Mossburn with ‘Around the Mountain’ (not to be confused with ‘Around the Basin ‘which services Queenstown).  They also sourced our tickets for person and bike on the TSS Earnslaw and had collected our bags from our Queenstown address to deliver to ‘The old Railway Hotel’s latest addition – ‘Wheels & Reels’ self contained units close to the old hotel.

We collected our tickets from Real Journeys office beside where the TSS Earnslaw was moored and waited to be invited on.  There were only two other guys with bikes waiting to board and we later discovered that they were on their second to last leg of the epic bike journey from Cape Reinga to the Bluff and had raised about $15,000+ for charity already.

Inside the TSS Earnslaw museum

We were invited to load our bike in the ‘museum’ of the steamer which seemed both a privilege and a risk to some of the old memorabilia on show.

Once on board we lined up for coffee and a muffin.  We had all packed lots of food and drink for our 58+ km ride today as there was absolutely NO food or drink on this trail.  We drank our coffee amongst the smells from the old Lady’s coal fired pristine engine.

The TSS Earnslaw is an integral part of Queenstown’s pioneering history and a Queenstown icon.

She was commissioned by New Zealand Railways to service the communities around Lake Wakatipu. Launched in the same year as the Titanic, the TSS Earnslaw’s maiden voyage was on 18 October 1912. Known as The Lady of the Lake, she provided an essential link between the isolated farming communities along the lake and the outside world.  At 48 metres long, she was the biggest boat on the lake and carried passengers, sheep, cattle, mail and supplies. 

Nearly scrapped in 1968, she was rescued and purchased by Real Journeys and put to work once again carrying passengers around the Lake. Since then the TSS Earnslaw has been painstakingly restored to its original 100 year old beauty. Today, the TSS Earnslaw is the only coal fired steamship in operation in the southern hemisphere, making her one of the most unique experiences in the world.  The engine room is visible with all the pistons and valves chugging away amidships

The boat was full of tourists going over to Walter Peak Station for a farm tour or other activities such as guided walks/bike ride etc. Everyone happily drank and ate while listening or singing -along to the resident pianist.

The long remote 58kms road ahead after leaving Water Peak Station

Once on terra firma we were all a little nervous starting the ride today as it was a long ride (for our group) through remote wilderness with some stiff hills but on the positive side there was a clear blue sky, the sun was shining and the wind was behind us and off we set!

I think WOW was the most common expletive used all day.  No words can do justice to the beauty we encountered on this ride. A beauty that can only be viewed by those cycling or walking this trail. The photos will show some beauty but it is very hard to describe scenery that literally takes your breath away and gives you a unique sense of being alone in the world but not lonely.

Living the life in Paradise
Everywhere – amazing vistas

How privileged we were to be able to ride this trail. My friend on her e-bike was moved by the realisation that riding this trail was only possible thanks to her E-bike.  She declared “All this was the reason I moved to New Zealand 21 years ago”!

The trail from WalterPeak is a wide gravel road used also by vehicles in and out of Walter Peak Station by land.  We rode down the road towards stunning views and the silence of the remote countryside leaving the hoards of tourists behind at Walter Peak Station.

From the Real Journeys Website:-  In 2014 Real Journeys bought Walter Peak farm and began a conservation project to rid the 155 hectares of non-native trees and weeds:

Walter Peak High Country Farm, on the western shores of Lake Wakatipu, is steeped in history. Its sheltered bays were used as camping sites by Maori travelling to the Mararoa and Oreti Rivers on Moa hunting and pounamu (greenstone) gathering expeditions.

European settlement commenced in the 1860s.  Following a quick succession of owners, Walter Peak Station was taken over in the late 1880s by the Mackenzies. This family is credited with developing many of the principles of successful high country farming during their 80 years working the property. The station was one of New Zealand’s most famous with 170,000 acres, 40,000 sheep and up to 50 full-time employees. Over time various permanent homes were established and these included the Colonel’s Homestead with its beautiful lakeside gardens. Originally built in 1902, it was carefully reconstructed in 1977 following an accidental fire.

Leaving the Station behind we rode past stock yards, and up to Lakeside Terraces where we had views of Mt Earnslaw and Lake Wakatipu.  We could see the snow capped mountains in the distance – reflected in the lake.   

We cycled alongside the Oreti and Mataura rivers, through the native tussock lands between Walter Peak and Mt Nicholas Stations. After 12kms we reached Mt Nicholas station

Mt Nicholas, settled in the early 1860’s,  is one of the most historic and largest stations in New Zealand. It spans 100,000 acres (40,000 Hectares) from the shores of Lake Wakatipu to deep into Southland and is home to 30,000 Merino Sheep and 2,200 Hereford Cattle.

Mt Nicholas still enjoys relative isolation and is still largely self-sufficient. Hydro electricity is produced on-farm, as is much of the food consumed on the station.

Since 1976 the Butson family has farmed the property.  They still live there with their two children and their partners who run different aspects of the station. Tourism to the station is run separately from the family and offers various types of accommodation and also caters for events such as weddings.  Mount Nicholas was the first station to supply ‘Ice Breaker’ merino wool!

Just beyond the entrance to Mt Nicholas station one gets amazing views of the Remarkables

Stunning Views
Tussock & Mountains

  The sheer remoteness of this trail was confirmed by the fact that we only met two people in the five hours we rode along the trail. They were suffering badly from the prevailing wind in their faces – which made us very glad we had chosen to ride with the prevailing wind! Our ride took us along Lake Wakatipu with its sunny Alpine back drop and snow capped mountains, then through the beautiful Von valley with its vast varieties of tussocks.  A bright yellow sign depicted the boundary between Southland and Otago on flat tussock land with nothing else in site but the sign.  Along the way we passed two massive bulls – one on each side of the rode.  I was terrified but put on the throttle and looked straight ahead! They did not look in the least friendly!

Stream at George Burn
Bob (one of our group) with John & Toby the two guys on their second to last leg of a 3000kms ride from Cape Reinga to Bluff for charity
Some removed shoes!
Some got shoes wet!

We forded a stream at Gorge Burn – some getting feet wet others riding carefully through.  Here we caught up with the two guys John Taylor & Toby Sutherland  (riding 3000kms for charity) who sailed across the ford like pros! 

We stopped at Old Nic Cottage, an old restored Shepherds cottage from times gone by, where we had lunch and got ourselves psyched for our long climb up Von Hill – one of the disadvantages of tackling the trail in this direction!  We caught up with John and Toby again as they were mending a puncture on the side of the track – they did not seem to be at all perturbed about their flat tyre and said they carried several spares each.

Old Nic’s stone cottage

At 28kms we hit the hill – we were all spread out but each person was travelling with at least one other as there was little or no cell phone cover in this area!  The two E-bikes were ahead but alas having already ridden 33kms approximately our batteries could not cope with the steepness of the climb so one rider walked for about 15mins and the other for about 10 mins – not easy going pushing the heavy bikes up to the top of the hill and wondering if the battery was completely flat.  We got to the top and the bike refused to move with the throttle. I was getting depressingly resigned to walking the rest of the 20kms!!! when I turned the battery off and back on again and it purred into life with thee bars of power still left! What a relief! 

The elevation of Von Hill was 700 meters and all of the rest of our group walked up the whole of the three kilometre hill.  But once at the top it was a Yahoo moment as we went speeding downhill for about 5kms. Joy! The downhill ride was through tussock landscapes sometimes riding alongside the Oreti river, then through McKeller flats down to the Mavora lakes turnoff where we were being picked up by ‘Around the Basin Shuttle’ at 16:30.  We had changed an earlier time to later as we were unsure how long it would take us to get to the cross roads.

Downhill – wheeeee!
Which way to go? Check my map!
Magical colours of the grasses

I rode on to Mavora lake and what an amazing contrast to the earlier countryside. I rode by rainforest fringed Mavora Lakes and wandered over the swing bridge.  Mavora Lakes is made up of 2 lakes (North and South) in the Snowdon Forest Conservation Area surrounded by thick beech forests and the snow capped peaks of the towering Mount Turnball. 

Mavora lakes
Lake Mavora rain Forests

What a day! What a ride! I believe this is probably the most memorable day-ride I have ever had!

We made it!!

The shuttle took us all and bikes the 50kms to Mossburn (the deer capital of New Zealand) to our accommodation in the Railway Hotel (parts of which date back to 1886). On the way we had to negotiate a massive flock of sheep moving along the road – a very country scene and supposedly becoming a very rare sight even in the remote countryside as most sheep farmers now move sheep in trucks! 

Mossburn Railway hotel bar was humming when we arrived as it was  St Patricks night and we were greeted like old friends. We were all relieved the long ride was over and wolfed down steak and Guinness pie and wine…well some folk did drink some of that black and white Guinness!

The Railway Hotel, Mossburn.

Day 2

A short day today – 19kms from Mossburn to Lumsden. Leaving the motel we wandered into the local main street and into Bracken hall where we found coffee, food, and everything else you might want in the way of gifts, jewellery and clothes. 

After our coffee we thought we might go back along the trail towards Mavora Lakes as the locals seems so proud of it and not many people were using it as it does not connect to the trail we rode yesterday.  We rode for about two kilometres but decided as it was close to the road and not very scenic we would head back into Mossburn and onto our planned route to Lumsden.

The track was long and straight travelling close to the Oreti River and the main road . The bike trail beside the road had telegraph poles right in the centre of the path but there was plenty of room to ride around them. The reason for this the locals informed us – because the land owners would not allow the bike trail along the edger of their property!!  We were later to discover just how stroppy some of the land owners and the Fishing & Game Group were. 

Telegraph Poles in middle of cycle trail because local farmers would not consent to taking a small strip of their land!

After fighting a strong headwind we finally crossed a massive bridge before tucking down under it to end up in Lumsden town. Once a major railway junction with lines departing to all four points of the compass, now there are several heritage buildings, quirky cafes, bars and restaurants.

We ate at the old Lumsden Hotel – great atmosphere and good value.  We stayed at the Lumsden Motel central to everything – and clean and comfortable.

Tracy and Brian were excellent hosts and Brian also drove the Sherpa Shuttle bus for ‘Around the Mountains’ so he transported our bags each day and gave us lots of information about the area..  They were very helpful and friendly and ensured we had everything we needed.

Day 3

Lumsden to Athol – 31kms.

What started out as a beautiful clear day with bright blue skies, cold with a strong headwind ended  with nine people very disillusioned with Southland Council and the local landowners.  In fact disillusioned is too mild a word – furious would be better.  We had been advised by the “Around the Mountain’ website that some gates may be locked along this track closer to Athol. With this in mind we set off through lovely rolling farmland and avenues of trees. The further we rode the more we were convinced the gates would not be lock and if they were there would be a detour sign put in place.

Beautiful rolling countryside

Alas NO that was probably too much to expect! We reached the first locked gate and considered riding back several kilometres to access the main road.  However, the stories we had heard about riding along the very busy highway (main highway from Queenstown to Milford), how hilly it was and so dangerous, we decided our best move was to attempt to lift our bikes over the gate.  Now this may seem an easy task and indeed it would be with a conventional bike – but E-Bike!! ?? My E-bike weighs 25kgs with battery so to make it lighter I had to remove the battery, my panier bags, water bottle and front carrier bag.  Also remember we are aged 70 & 71 and both had E-Bikes!  While cursing the local landowner Rosie Hore and her farm worker Maurice King we heaved and pushed, huffing and puffing attempting to heave the heavy bikes over the barricade. First we had to unload all our extra from both bikes, then heave these over the gate. Next one had to climb over the gate to grab the bike as it came over the top.  It took us a good 15 mins to complete this whole exercise and the we walked across the driveway to the next gate and did it all over again……..6 times in all. 

Believe me that is NOT a smile but a grimace!

I ended up with a sore shoulder and two pairs of ripped pants! I have written a letter to the CEO of Southland Council but do not expect anything to change as this has been an ongoing issue for years and will go on for a few more until someone plans a daily bolt cutting ride. 

We did enjoy coffee at the ‘Five Rivers cafe’ along the way.  Arriving in Athol we found our accommodation just on the outskirts in the Athol Lodge which had six tiny motel units and a shared ablution block plus a camping ground for camper vans and tents. We ate at the Brown Trout in the village centre and found the food to be pretty good.

Day 4

Athol to Kingston – 32 kms

Leaving Athol early we planned to meet at Garston for coffee but we forgot it was a public holiday and so the small coffee hut was closed as was the Garston hotel. There was a very strong head wind on the trail which took some of the joy from the surrounding countryside.  Along the way we stopped at the Kingston Flyer terminus at Fairlight.  It is the southern terminus for the Kingston Flyer, and was originally called “The Ten Mile”  a place for horse and travellers to stop for water or refreshments.

The first train to pass through this area was on 10 July 1878, when the line was completed from Athol to Kingston. A celebration excursion comprising five engines and twenty carriages made its way from Invercargill to Kingston in honour of the occasion.

Fairlight Station

The building at Fairlight was transported in 1996 to where it is today. Originally the Railway Station for Otautau, the style probably dates to 1920.

The line into Kingston is very old, in New Zealand terms, dating back to 1878 when it was built to service the Queenstown goldfields. In the 1890s a passenger service was introduced as well, providing comfortable transport between Kingston, at the southern end of Lake Wakatipu, Gore and Invercargill in Southland, and Dunedin out on the east coast. At Kingston it met the steamboats from Queenstown. The train was called ‘The Flyer’ because of its speed.

 

The service was closed in the 1950s but reopened in 1971 as a tourist attraction, travelling from Lumsden to Kingston but that was cut to just 14km of track (still the original tracks laid in 1870’s) running between Kingston and Fairlight.

Last corner of the stone building – home of William Trotter – still stands 150 years after it was built. On the trail just before Kingston.

The Kingston Holiday Park was our home for the night and we were reunited with our cars which we had left there while completing the trail. We tried to book into the Kingston Corner Cafe (the only place to eat in Kingston) but they were booked out so we decided we would have fish and chips and a drink there. Luckily for us the weather was fine so we sat in their beer garden and the agreed to serve us meals out there. A win-win situation!

Next stop Clyde!

Biking in and around Queenstown New Zealand

Beautiful sunset from our apartment on our first night in Queenstown

Riding the Queenstown bike trails has long been on my bucket list and in March 2017 I managed to tick that off.

Each year  a group of ten keen (average age = 70+) cyclists get together to ride some of the amazing trails around New Zealand – this year we had chosen Queenstown, Around the Mountains & Roxburgh & Clutha Gold Trails

First the Queenstown Trails: We were lucky enough that one of our group owned a time share and managed to book two houses/units side by side, about 5 kms outside Queenstown towards Frankton, for one week.

What trails would we do? The groups pedal power was made up of two E-bikes (scorned by the rest but loved by the owners), five ‘owned’ bikes and three hired bikes from ‘Around the Basin Tours’.

Arriving on Friday March 10th the weather was very unsettled but despite that we happily booked into our wonderful accommodation and enjoyed catching up with everyone’s antics for last year over some good food and wine.

On Saturday, despite some cold and drizzle the two E-Bikes (and their owners) headed out along the peninsula to the Queenstown Golf Club in Kelvin Heights, which is surrounded by the beautiful Lake Wakatipu.  It was a 10 kms easy ride out to the golf club who welcome bikers for coffee or a meal – they have put a sign on the bike trail inviting riders in!  This trail is becoming know as the sculpture trail as several sculptures have been donated by the artists

Local artist Mark Hill’s sculpture in steel -windswept tree

Schist & Steel sculpture by Arrowtown artist Shane Woodridge:- ‘true link to Peak’ framing Walter Peak on apposite side of lake.
Kelvin Peninsula Goats by Auckland sculptor Jeff Thomson
Kelvin Peninsula Goats by Auckland sculptor Jeff Thomson
Mark Hill inspiring sculpture ‘Presence’
Kelvin Peninsula Goats by Auckland sculptor Jeff Thomson

There were four wonderful pieces of sculpture – the first one came across was the Kelvin Peninsula Goats by Auckland artist Jeff Thomson. They are beautifully positioned on a little headland along the trail. The next sculpture was a large schist & steel static kinetic sculpture (see photo) by Arrowtown artist Shane Woolridge called Thru Link to Peak  as it frames Walter Peak on the other side of the lake. The most beautiful one for me and one I nearly missed was Presence by local man Mark Hill made of Stainless & Corten steel.  Described by the artist as depicting a tree spirit, it fits so neatly into the tree line and blends with the colours and textures  ”It almost catches you by surprise as you come across it.’’(artist). There was another windblown tree sculpture by Mark also at the very edge of the Queenstown golf course.

You can start this trail from Queenstown which adds about 5 extra kms, but we started it from our accommodation close to Frankton. The trail takes you along the shore of lake Wakatipu past Frankton beach, over a single lane bridge that crosses the river Kawarau. The scenery is stunning and many of the houses we passed had sculptures in their garden.

This ride is sometimes called the ‘Golf Club Coffee Ride’ by some and I can see why as it is lovely to stop at the club with its amazing views.  It was especially pleasant as were were slightly cold and wet – stepping into warm environment and ordering coffee and soup which we thoroughly enjoyed. 

On trail out to Kelvin Heights

After leaving the golf club we went back down to join the trail and followed it right around the golf course until it rejoined the trail, after completing a full circle.

Riding through Queenstown golf course

Next day all the group ventured out on the same ride . And once again we all enjoyed refreshments at the Queenstown Golf Club.

The Gang – outside the Queenstown Gold Club

We had planned three main rides in the Queenstown /Arrowtown area but had put them on hold as the weather was slowly improving.

Our plan was to use ‘Around the Basin’ shuttles to take us to various points on the trails and cycle back so we booked three days with them – Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday but as weather was inclement we moved our booking back one day which was not a problem for them.

Tuesday morning was cold but fine and we and our bikes were picked up outside our accommodation by Around the Basin shuttles and driven to Arrowtown where the driver gave us maps and a suggestion for coffee!  Off we went to ‘Provisions of Central Otago’ who advertise “obscenely good sticky buns” but we resisted the temptation and only had coffee – we felt we had not quite earned the ‘sticky bun’ yet!

Finally we were on the first of our three planned rides – it was 35kms + 8kms around Lake Hayes.

We left Arrowtown riding past the restored Chinese settlement.  Everywhere we went in Otago we learned about the Chinese goldminers and their impoverished and alienated life driven by the Europeans who had followed the gold -unfortunately Arrowtown was no different.

Arrowtown Chinese Settlement is a recreation (some of it is original and restored) of the Chinese-occupied part of this 19th century gold mining town. In the 1874 Census, there were over 3,500 Chinese workers in the region at that time.

Looking at the huts you get a real sense of the harshness of their day-to-day lives.

In Arrowtown there were 60 Chinese, who were marginalised and kept separate from the European settlers. When they died they were buried in a small Chinese cemetery, or in unmarked graves outside the cemetery walls. They lived outside the town in crude huts, and they had a couple of supply/grocery stores and some gardens so, in effect, it was their own self-sufficient community.

It seems there were no Chinese women living in this Arrowtown settlement during the gold-mining era

Ah Lum’s store restored

One man called Ah Lum had a famous store and was one of the few Chinese to earn respect from the Europeans, often acting as interpreter between the two, and once saving the life of a drowning man from the Shotover River. When Ah Lum died in 1926, the Chinese community seemed to disappear with him. Ah Lum’s Store was restored in 1986, and has since been designated a Category I Historic Place.

There were many many Chinese tourists visiting while we were there.

We rode on through the prestigious Millbrook Resort which kindly allowed the trail to go through their resort and the trail there is in excellent shape.We rode on towards Queenstown turning into Rutherford Road towards Lake Hayes. 

It was a stunning day by the time we reached Lake Hayes with unbelievable reflections of the mountain peaks in the lake. We rode anticlockwise around the lake and ended up on a hill near the entrance for our picnic lunch with stunning views over Lake Hayes. The trail was undulating with some short climbs which were eased by the amazing scenery around you!.  But you do need to keep your wits about you as the trail is narrow in some areas with a steep drops on one side and the odd cyclist coming the other way!

Lunch overlooking Lake Hayes

We then rode on to Queenstown via the Shotover river bridge with some incredible scenery along the way. and some of us ended up taking a short cut by the water care facility and back to our accommodation.

Wednesday:

Another beautiful day but very cold early morning as we were again picked up by Around the Basin shuttles who again took us to Arrowtown  – this time to ride to Gibbston valley wineries.  Again Steve our driver gave us maps , advice and directions and arranged to meet us for pickup at Gibbston Tavern at 4pm.

Off to ‘Provisions’ cafe again for coffee before we began our easy day ride to Gibbston Valley – 15 kms plus some extra kilometres visiting other wineries.

The Edgar Bridge

On our way we rode over several swing bridges – some were longer than others – the Edgar Bridge is not for the faint hearted or those with no head for heights!

Then on to the historic Kawarau bridge home to AJ Hackett Bungy Centre where AJ Hackett and Henry van Asch jumped into the World spotlight in 1988 when they launched the World’s first commercially operated Bungy Jumping from this site. What slick operation the bungy jumping is – it seems they can do over 200 jumps a day in high season…..at  $195 per adult, per jump. We watched several people throw their life in the air tied to a bungy rope…crazy, mad, not for $1,000,000 were thoughts that were voiced amongst us 70+ group!

The Kawarau River
AJ Hackett’s Bungy Jump over the Kawarau River

The two E-bikes took a detour at this stage to visit Chard Farm Vineyards an old historic farm that is now a thriving vineyard. The famous Central Otago Dunstan Gold rush of 1862 lured Richard Chard from Dorset, England out to New Zealand.  He arrived at the tender age of 14 and worked in the Dunstan and Gibbston areas for several years before settling at the Morven Ferry end of the old coach road to Queenstown, a place that is now well known in the area as “Chard Farm”.  Chard started with a one-acre strip, enough to accommodate a vegetable plot and an orchard.  Richard milked a couple of cows, kept a few hens and became more interested in supplying the miners with food rather than the allurement of gold.  Slowly the farm grew to its current size of 50 acres as small plots were taken over.  The beautifully aspected farm and the qualities of the relatively frost free slopes and free draining soils were recognised early in the development of the Gibbston Valley and Wakatipu areas.  Richard Chard married Emily Green from Woodstock, England in 1884 and they had seven children, all of whom attended the local Gibbston School.

Chard Farm Vineyard

It is now owned by Rob Hay and extended family.  He arrived back in New Zealand in 1985 after studying winemaking in Germany for three years.  He spent the year searching for a piece of land in New Zealand that best emulated the conditions found in some of the greatest vineyard areas of the world.  He, with the help of his family, purchased Chard Farm in 1987 – it was the beginning of the Chard Farm Vineyard.

Next stop the Cheesery in Gibbston Valley winery for lunch and a little wine tasting after a truly memorable ride alongside the Kawarau River through the spectacular Kawarau Gorge. Riding alongside the deep blue Kawarau rive where the poplar trees were turning a beautiful golden colour. Along the way were wooden benches to sit and taken in the beauty of the river and the countryside.

Absorbing the beauty

 After lunch we rode for a short while towards Gibbston Tavern and here our group split – some (mostly male) members opting to have a few quiet drinks in the sunshine at the Tavern and other (mostly women) opting to continue the circuit up to Mount Rosa and along an uphill track taking us back to the Tavern.

We rode past the stunning, international award-winning Peregrine Winery building. In spired by Peregrine (native falcon or Karearea) in flight, it has won awards from London-based Architecture Review magazine and the NZ Institute of Architects.

We stopped at Mt Rosa for wine tasting and liked their Pinot Gris!  Back to the Tavern where we were picked up and taken home!

Thursday: 23kms

Today we decided we would take a shuttle to the Morven Ferry Intersection where yesterday we split to head off to Gibbston Valley. Today we would ride back to our accommodation in Frankton via Thompson’s Hill and over the Shotover River. Our drop off was in the middle of nowhere so we could not start with a coffee but Steve told us about a coffee place at Lake Hayes Estate.

At the top of Thompson’s hill the longest and last hill on this ride, we stopped to admire the view across the Kawarau River up to the majestic Remarkables Mountain range. Every now and then the silence was broken by a jet boat racing up the river terrifying its passengers with boat ‘wheelies’!

Through the Morven ferry countryside

This was probably the most challenging ride to date but the views were well worth it.

One can truly see the attraction of the Queenstown Arrowtown area for all tourists as there is something for everyone and amazing scenery for all.For more information about cycling in NZ  go to www.nzcycletrail.com