Tue 21 February 2017
- Km today: 28
- Total Km: 528
Otago Central Rail Trail
Another early morning departure – the forecast is for sun and it will be dry and hot so I intend to beat the heat. The trail is just around the corner from the holiday park so it only takes moments to cross the river and I’m on the old railway line which now provides the trail direction and surface. It’s a hard packed dirt road essentially. It is wider than the Clutha Gold Trail and has two distinct tyre tracks running in parallel. It would seem at first glance to be a regular dirt road however the tyre indentations are made by countless cycling couples riding in tandem probably chatting about the scenery or wheezing with the exertion, depending on whether they are starting or completing the trail. I myself automatically move into the left hand track as driving law dictates. Cyclists pass on the right hand side. There are plenty of cyclists but no other walkers. We all bid good morning or hi, hiya to each other. Unlike walkers though, cyclists don’t stop for a chat bzzz bzzz. They are on the mission. The terrain is immediately rocky and dry, railway cuttings are cut out of rock. Building the railway must have been slow and unbearably difficult in the local conditions. Thyme grows on any surface it can get its spindly roots into. An occasional warm breeze wafts the thyme scent around me then it’s gone just as quickly. Just as quickly the terrain changes to pastoral flats. There are fruit trees and even fruit stalls. Kids are being taken to the school bus and I can hear a chainsaw in the distance – the short repetion of the saw I guess is someone cutting a ton of winter firewood. After a long straight and a small bridge the scenery changes again – it’s golden grass with rocky outcrops. I have to resist taking multiple pics of similar views.
The shade has disappeared as the sun climbs so it gets well hot. Fortunately many cyclists take my mind off the heat. There is another passport stop at the old Galloway station. All that remains is the Ladies Waiting Room. A forgotten scarf inside is most likely not from railway times. Further down the trail I stop at the Manuherikia viaduct with a couple of cyclists who are inspecting it from top to bottom. The timbers of the supporting structure are marked with Roman numerals in order to put it together like a jigsaw. There is a refreshing river running underneath, it looks like it comes out of a rocky gorge of nothing however flows beautifully away towards Alex lined with willows and the water rippling in the sun. The scenery changes again and the trail winds across parched land. Even the thyme has given up. I hope to reach Chatto Creek soon – it’s too hot to keep up this lark much longer. The tavern comes into view and I drop off the trail into its welcoming garden which is sheltered and shaded by trees. The terrace and interior of the tavern also provide such relief from the heat of the day. I introduce myself as the guy who is tenting tonight. I will be know as the tent guy 🙂 The staff are friendly and hospitable – after all it did win Country Pub of the year recently followed up with a runner up the following year. Time for a beer and a rest. There is even a tiny post office, well at least a post box and nearby is a rare example of a wrought iron truss bridge from 1886.
Later this afternoon I want to walk some more so head out towards Omakau. The text says this section is the steepest on the rail trail with a gradient of 1 in 50 i.e. the trail climbs 1 metre for every 50 metres travelled and is known as a 2% grade. Trains needed to be powerful to ascend such a grade and also have good brakes for the way down! It is a nice walk but I wish my phone wasn’t charging back at the pub as the scenery is captivating. I walk back the way I’ve come and when back at the pub set up my tent, take a shower and have some dinner. The staff have laid breakfast provisions out for the morning. I’m set!