A Travellerspoint blog

May 2012

Saddle sore sightseeing

A painful but beautiful 160km bike ride along a disused railway

View Just a big holiday on ClareAndTom's travel map.

The website for the Otago Rail Trail recommends you take four days to complete the 150km off-road journey. As we’d cycled 60km in half a day before, we thought we would be bored if we took that long. Tom thought we could do the journey in two days; Clare trusted him.

The sun was setting over Wild West scenery, as we made the long drive from Dunedin to Clyde. We stopped at one of the many fruit farms on the way – a lovely old guy gave us a dozen nectarines for free as we didn’t need to buy a 3kg box of them

Early the next morning we packed our panniers with lots of snacks to sustain us over the next two days. People kept saying to us “Wow, you’re doing it in two days, you must be fit”. We weren’t – we hadn’t been on a long bike journey for six months. We were getting a little worried. We had 100km to cover in the first day.


The old rail track was gravely and surprisingly hard going but luckily mostly flat. We were on high plains studded with rocky outcrops. Distant mountains surrounded us in all directions

Old stations were dotted along the route – each had a stamp to prove we had passed through


We were blessed with spectacular weather – blazing sunshine and intense blue skies


Not content with covering a crazy distance, we took a side trip from the rail trail to visit the historic town of Ophir. It was a refreshing change to cycle on tarmac for a few kilometres! New Zealand’s lowest temperature of -21 °C was recorded here in 1995 – a far cry from the 30 °C we were experiencing.

Ophir’s historic and still functioning post office

We stopped in Lauder for lunch – a dusty place with one café. We sat in the shade as the UV index was off the scale, meaning “cancel all outdoor activities and remain indoors”. We put on some more sun screen and set off again…

These little red huts used to provide shelter for the railway workers. We were glad we didn’t need to use them to shelter from any rain


Ever the risk takers, we cycled through a couple of long, dark tunnels where you were advised to dismount – we didn’t have any time to waste!

We were getting a bit tired and this part of the track stretched endlessly before us – quite demoralising as it felt like we weren’t making any progress

We stopped at the tiny outpost of Otureha where we checked out New Zealand’s oldest continuously operating general store!

The interior was largely unchanged from when it opened

Another latitude landmark – we were now at 45° south and at the trail’s highest point


This old station still had some of the original furniture in the ticket office. It was a welcome stop for our now quite weary legs. We broke into our chocolate here to power us through our last 13.5km for the day


We arrived in Ranfurly, tired, having covered 100km and just under nine hours in the saddle. Tom later confessed that just after lunch when we had slowed down he didn’t think we were going to make it this far

Like Napier, Ranfurly had lots of Art Deco buildings, which looked slightly out of place in this one road town

We had dinner in the Ranfurly Hotel bar – it was very blokey with lots of guys wearing work boots and vests and also incorporated a bookies and a bottle shop

After dinner we retired to our ‘cabin’, little more than a shed, and were asleep by 9.30pm. We had some impressive short and sock marks from our day in the sun. The next morning we were up early as we had 60km to cover by 2pm. It was incredibly cold so we donned our thermals, hats and gloves and very tenderly got back on the saddle – our bottoms were feeling a little delicate despite our padded shorts.


A breakfast pie sets Tom up for the day

Retired bikes resting along the trail. Did their owners not make it? We pressed on

A chilly start to the day

It was a beautiful still morning with low cloud drifting across the valley

Tom made friends with the locals along the way




We made it to the end of the trail!

As we got to Middlemarch early, we rewarded ourselves with a cold beer. It was good

Posted by ClareAndTom 03:41 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

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