Its high summer here and high time I hit a trail again. I head for the Otago in the south island of New Zealand. This is to take on a couple of lesser known trails than the Otago Central Rail Trail I did in the spring – These are the Roxburgh Gorge Trail and the Clutha Gold Trail.
As usual my preparation is a louche couple of static bike rides at the gym and then onto my flight, full of optimism I can make the deficit of serious exercise up, whilst on the trail.
The day dawns in Cromwell where I am staying, with a cacophony of ducks quacking on the lake in front, delighted with the heavy unseasonal rain falling.
Fortunately by the time I have packed my panniers, there is a break in the weather.
I plan to head out from the small village of Clyde. I am doing the more difficult of the trails today first – The Roxburgh Trail. Its a grade higher than the last trail I did in the past, nothing to worry about, but more alarming is there are no cafes or shops, not even an historic pub on this trail. We are advised to carry all food and water for the journey.
I panic provision shop in Clyde. There is a gastro pub/cafe there and I order crossaints and cakes to go, with a good coffee and a toasted sandwich for breakfast. I head for the bathroom to change into my lycra bike pants and return to find a sparrow eating my toastie. I have no time to order another so head straight off for the Shebikeshebikes rental near the trail.
My day also has a deadline in it. There is just one jet boat river transfer along an impassable segment of the trail. So time is of the essence to get to Doctors Point for that rendezvous.
I take the riverside trail in the direction of Alexandra. Its part of a 150 year anniversary trail running beside the river. I had read it was a bit taxing in parts with many blind bends and some steep undulating terrain. This was absolutely correct. But it was great fun.
What I didnt plan on, was cycling on a path of riverstones for the most part. This makes for a very bouncy 12 kilometre ride where I was extremely thankful for the gell seat, but rued not wearing a sports bra.
Regardless, travelling through the sunshine dappled by the willow trees draped across the trail, with the fast flowing Clutha River over my left shoulder, was very special.
I arrive at the Alexandra bridge where the Roxburgh Gorge trail commences and a sign in bright orange shouts ‘narrow trail’ with an exclamation mark. So clearly I cant relax too much yet.
The gorge is gorgeous, after a bit of a climb, the trail settles for a while on a slight but managable incline. Sharp schist rock formations poke out of hills and sheer bluffs force me to not look down too often. One bluff is called Nil Desperandum Bluff. There must be a back story to that one.
On a strenuous switch-back climb, I spot a young Australian couple stalled before the crest of the hill, whom I had some banter with earlier on the trail. She is looking very overheated from the climb. They ask me if I know how much longer it took to Doctors Point. I think they were making their mind up to turn back. They only had a day trip planned anyhow.
I didn’t see them again. But there were several baby boomers at Doctors Point already there, when I finally made it to the boat. We jetted off in to the gorge with bikes tied on a bike rack at the stern of the boat.
Our driver, Dave of Beaumont Jet, had lots of tales of the gold mining days along this river. He took us in close to see the remains of little shanties built by Chinese gold prospectors. Well over a century later these little schist rock abodes dug deep into the cliffside are intact.
Less intact is the ‘Doctors’ which is actually a ruin left over from a goldmining-era pub where there was a complete absence of a Doctor. It’s name was simply derived from a saying miners had when they downed their tools, that they were going off to the doctor. And tonight, when I finish this trail, I will be looking for that doctor too.