Light at end of the tunnel? Day 2 – Otago Rail Trail New Zealand

I am up early for day two. Two reasons – to avoid eye contact over breakfast with the honeymooners who had roomed above me the night before, and second, Ophir is a ridiculously photogenic historic town.

I photograph many shist stone and vine draped cottages, then old civic buildings. Most have been artfully restored since the cycleway has breathed life back into what was a ghost town. You could take enough photos here to make a scenic calendar.

Its a bigger day trip today.  Omakau is soon behind me, I pause on the trail at Lauder, wondering over the German name for this remote outpost, when a couple of fellow cyclists pull up and ask me to get away from the sign as they want to take a photo.

In my haste to get back on the trail,  I forgo replenishing my water bottle, as there are no water stops or cafes for the next 22 Ks.

Its a bit overcast so I don’t worry too much. However new surfacing of a thick layer of rocks on the track makes for thirsty work. I am inhaling my water supply.

The trip turns into another ascent soon punctuated by two tunnels that require you to dismount and walk into the darkness bumbling along the creepy hillside corridor with just a thin beam from the bike headlight.

The rewards are great as you emerge out of tunnel above the Poolburn gorge and more sensational views.

Also on this leg are the legendary high suspension bridges which creak and clank as you ride over them. Fortunately I am focussing too hard on staying on my bike as it bounces over the historic rickety planks, to look down.

Finally the 22 Ks cafe drought is over at the small town of Oturehua.  I dismount gratefully outside the 1902 Gilchrist Store. As I gargle some water down on the seat outside locals walk past offer encouragement.

Then its back on the track for the slog to the 618 metre summit, the highest point on the entire cycle trail.

The climb is manageable but the fresh layer of stones laid on the track for the new summer season, makes for heavy progress and my thighs are screaming in no time.

As I cycle past the 45 degree south latitude sign, I swear to myself, I will return with thighs the size of an All Black rugby player after this journey. Fortunately shortly around the bend is the summit.

Some familiar faces from the track are taking photos by the summit landmark and we go ‘old school’ taking photos for each other to share the moment, rather than selfies.

Then its a race downhill to Wedderburn, tonight’s destination. The others roar off. I am more sedate at a modest 25 Ks an hour, which I increase to 29 Ks as the Wedderburn hotel and the promise of a local beer come into view.




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