Cycling diaries day 3 – Otago Rail Trail – New Zealand

The forecast is for rain so I am up early. With 48 kilometres to go today, I am on the trail by 9.  The day despite being overcast is what I can only describe as champagne cycling. The trail base has zero elevation, its chalky smooth and allows an average of 20 ks an hour without breaking a sweat.

I am soon at the rural service town of Ranfurly for a quick break to reload snacks and see a display of the history of local rail in the former rail station building.

Back on the trail, snow capped mountains unfold in the distance with huge prairies of contrasting green pasture in the foreground. I am in my own Graham Sydney painting. No wonder his paintings are so popular. The scenery even without sunshine is stunning.

I am making good progress when I pass some tall trees and something whizzes close past my helmet. It circles back swoops and dives for me again. I let out a scream on the third approach.

I realise its an angry mother magpie challenging me as a threat to her nearby nest. I sprint the bike to shelter in a tunnel ahead. Fortunately she gives up the challenge and flies back to her tree.

I peddle on pensively checking the skies above but have a woolly road block ahead of me instead. Now I am in the stereotypical New Zealand landscape. A flock of sheep herded by two skilful sheepdogs and a laconic farmer part like froth around me enroute to a new paddock up the road.

Blitzing by Waipiata, I start to notice a bit of a push up into a pass or two, but nothing like the slog of yesterday. Today’s gradients sneak up and are gone just as quickly.

The most discomfort today is the prevalence of swarms of sandflies I pass through, which I have to keep batting off my face and spitting out.

Closer to my destination, the Hyde hills still feel heavy with the tragedy of the 1943 train accident here. 21 people died from the crash on the Cromwell to Middlemarch service. The train was reportedly travelling twice the safe speed as it left the tracks. A local in Ranfurly had talked about it to me like it was yesterday.

The welcome sight of the curved suspended bridge to entrance the Hyde village is a cheerful distraction, as is the shared dinner 10 of us cyclists have trading saddle-sore stories, washed down with excellent local pinot noir.



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