Day 24: Lawrence to Beaumont

Wed 15 February 2017

  • Total Km: 20
  • Total Km: 413

Clutha Gold Trail

It is time to set off again and the weather is definitely playing ball. It’s cool in the morning, actually quite chilly in the wind but the sky is clear with the promise of a great day. Emma drives me through the valley between the Pisa and Bendigo ranges. It should be bleak and dry, parts of it are, however wherever water has been applied the land is green. Pivots make perfect giant verdant circles and immaculate rows of grapevines line both sides of the road where they get sustenance from irrigation, the terroir and the bright Otago sun. Familiar tipples that I’ve imbibed over the years are revealed in the vineyard signage. I like to know a wines provenance and now I have even seen the actual Wooing Tree of a favourite blush wine. At Cromwell I bid farewell to Em and join Marg and Barb for the ride through to Lawrence. They were enroute to Dunedin so I am most fortunate to enjoy their company. The Clutha Gold Trail commences in Lawrence and essentially it follows where the Roxburgh branch line lay before rail operations ceased in 1968. The trail is in excellent condition maintained by a team of volunteers since its construction. The trail is wide and made of compact gravel. Fencing borders the track from adjoining farmland and the stream crossings use solid bridging. The quality is evident in every part of the track. It is a massive testament to the all those who contributed to its opening in 2013. From Lawrence the trail follows the rail embankment away from the main road into the countryside. Apart from the embankment, little of the railway is evident any more, although there is an old stock yards in excellent condition alongside the old station at Evans Flat. It harks back to the produce that the railway carried in its heyday such as livestock, wool, fruit and flax from Evans Flat which was used for making twine.

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Even so it isn’t difficult to imagine the trains which would have been crucial to daily life in the past chugging along this track. The wind is warm and quite brisk. I wonder how often sparks from the stream locomotive sets fire to the dry grass alongside the line?

I put the feet to the peddle as I know there is something special coming up in a few kms. The trail rounded a corner and there was the portal to the Big Hill Tunnel. Did the same person who gave us North Island and South island also name Big Hill I ponder as I step into the tunnel. The other end is just over 400m away so that light is definitely at the end of the tunnel with this one and I don’t bother putting on my head torch. It is chillier in the dim light and I’m pleased not to hear the patter of tiny brown feet. If there were any wetas I wouldn’t have been able to see them.

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The trail descends down to the valley floor and meanders alongside the state highway 8 verge. People actually wave from their vehicles along this road which is pretty cool. I arrive in Beaumont – it’s tiny. I cross the one way wooden bridge and my home for the night will be the tent in the holiday Park adjacent to the Beaumont hotel. I’m sharing it with a group of guys who are possuming in an effort to eradicate TB locally and some French backpackers who I think are woofing. It has been a great day.

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