Day 31: Chatto Creek to Lauder

Wed 22 February 2017

  • Km today: 24
  • Total Km: 552

Otago Central Rail Trail

Last night I could hear an opossum trying to get into one of my water bottles that I had left outside the tent. Rather than get out of the tent in the darkness I reached for my headlamp and blinded myself with its light before turning it more effectively to the outside. Did the trick and fortunately the bottle was still in good nick. It had been windy during the night but carried no rain which is a relief when packing everything up in the morning. Also no heavy dew, as I experienced before. Dry is definitely the best start to the day. Breakfast had been thoughtfully laid out for me – muesli with peaches and toast with a assortment of spreads. I opted for local honey and mixed berry jam. I might have given the cat some milk too. Big friendly cat that didn’t meow but instead made a sound like ‘ekk’. The back lawn of the pub adjoins the trail so I was on it in no time. It’s a cloudy day, might even be a shower in those dark clouds. I am just happy that it is a cool morning. Shortly after setting off I could hear a quad bike coming up from behind. The bike went off trail and pulled up beside me. It is Ray Hill who does pest control for the farms and stations in the area. After introductions he asks if I want a lift up the hill? I consider this quickly and decide to accept the offer, after all I had already walked this section twice yesterday. I snuggle myself onto the side of the bike, the foxy none to pleased to be pushed off her pew and off we shoot up the incline. When we reach the road crossing I dismount and get the gate for Ray into the paddock. He heads off towards the hills where the prey are and I continue my ascent of this section. The incline doesn’t bother me however I still stop often as the views across the valley keep wanting my attention. Again I have to stop myself from taking the same picture from different angles. It is pleasing to see the Otago Central Rail Trail provide bench seating when there are views to enjoy across to the Dunstan Range. TA take note. A couple of kms and a few plucked apples later I crested Tiger Hill and was on the downhill run to Omakau which lies in the Manuherikia Valley.

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The trail was a straight line so walking and taking in the scenery was a breeze. A group of American cyclists of certain age rode past, cheerful and bright as ever in their hi viz tops. One tail ender said I made her day when I told her it wasn’t far to go before it would be all down hill. She did look a bit pooped. The dark clouds were forming above the Raggedy Range and I could see showers across on the Dunstans, but rain held off and it was a pleasant walk. Shortly I reached a couple approaching – they too were walking – there had to be a story here! Turns out they lived up the trail and were doing their morning walk. Certainly is a great location for it. I didn’t pass anyone else after this and within a short time I arrived at Omakau as the heat was starting to put it on. First stop was at Shebikeshebikes where I arranged the transfer of my pack across the rail trail and organised a bicycle for the last long day from Ranfurly to Middlemarch – 60km too far to walk in a day. This means I can catch the Sunday Taieri Gorge train to Dunedin which leaves from Middlemarch once or twice a week. That sorted I started off to Ophir (pronounced like ‘O fa’ which is 2km away. Ophir has a history which began with the discovery of gold in 1863 and many restored buildings from the turn of the 1900th century. A tourists dream really. It was the Black brothers that had the first claim so the town was originally named Blacks however this was officially changed to Ophir in 1875  when the population had grown to 1000. The pub and the old school still retain the name Blacks. The name Ophir comes from the biblical place where the Queen of Sheba obtained gold for King Solomon. Ophir would have been more substantial (and possibly ruined) had it not been for the railways decision to take the railway on the opposite side of the river, making Omakau the main centre instead. I highly recommend visiting the post office where Val does a tour of the premises. Post card purchased, I visited the gaol out the back before walking to the historic O’Donnell’s suspension bridge named after the 19th-century Irish nationalist. There must have been a fair swag of Irish locally.

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Once back in Omakau I walked out past the local primary school to the Gothic looking Catholic Church and the Omakau station yard. It was still early afternoon so I thought I would cover off the walk to Lauder rather than doing it tomorrow. So I walked half way there and back giving me another 7km. It was a straight and boring walk through countryside and I didn’t see another person. It did rain for a short but intense time. Fortunately I was near a willow tree which I stood under for cover. They don’t provide the best rain cover as the branches and leaves are not dense plus I didn’t have any wet weather gear on, so I did get quite soaked. Never to mind, the rain cloud rolled away as quickly as it had come and was replaced by blue sky and gosh that heat was back in force within minutes.

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By the time that I got back to Omakau I was hot and sweaty.The commercial hotel beckoned so I went in for a beverage. It was a quiet afternoon with a couple of locals and some cyclists. Sitting outside in the one spot where there was shade I got talking with a girl about the weather as you do. I mentioned that I was staying with my friend Liz. Well it turns out that they are best friends and off she went inside to announce the ‘walking guy’ is here. So suddenly I meet Sarah and Christine plus I’m driving one of their vehicles back to Moa Creek this afternoon. Others arrive for a pint or two and discussions revolve about the upcoming Cavalcade which is arriving in Omakau next weekend. From what I gather there will be a lot of beer. And food of course.

We hit the road, me in Sarah’s Nissan out to Moa Creek. The road crosses the Raggedy range and descends into the Ida Valley. It is stunningly beautiful in the afternoon light and I have to concentrate on keeping on the road while also trying to take in the views. On the flat we motor to Sarah’s place, a mere 10,000 acre station called Bonspiel – meaning a curling tournament. Sarah and her mum Sue run Bonspiel Lord of the Rings tours as it was the film set for Rohan in the trilogy. Without even seeing the set, it is evident in the startling scenery at every angle that the Ida Valley would have to feature in the movies. Tonight I spend with my dear Liz and her partner Dean. We met all those years ago when working in Monaco. Liz and Danielle were managing a villa and I was on a motor yacht. Oh how young and beautiful we were with our Cote d’Azur tans, 20 something bodies and joie de vivre. We did some fabulous catching up and star gazing until time to turn in at 1am.

3 thoughts on “Day 31: Chatto Creek to Lauder

  1. Leeann Smith says:

    Hi Mark

    When do you hit Dunedin? I have been following you since day love reading your blogs. I’m involved with St. John her in Dunedin it is a great thing you are doing

    Kind regards
    Leeann Smith

    Like

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