Departing Wedderburn Cottages saw us head into our longest day on the trail, with a ride of 48km to Hyde. We were feeling pretty good in the knowledge that for the next two days our path should lead us downhill. The climbs were now behind us.
I tracked our ride with “strava”, and it was interesting to note that whilst much of the day was certainly downhill, we also climbed 389m. Whilst on the topic of climbs, please don’t be put off by the seemingly big numbers. Although the Otago Rail Trail topped 618m above sea leave, the maximum gradient during the four days was 1 in 50, meaning that the steepest parts of the ride gained 1 metre in height over 50 metres in distance……that’s not too hard at all.
Before we get any further, let me answer the question I left you with in my previous blog. Lamb, hogget and mutton are all terms used to describe the meat from sheep. Lamb is up to 12 months old, hogget is between 12 and 24 months, and mutton is older than 2 years.
After the summer snow and chilly conditions we had experienced on the ride up to Wedderburn, it was wonderful relief to head out into a day where the sun was shining and the sky clear blue, although the morning remained cool and crisp, with a need to wear full fingered winter gloves.
It was a relatively short ride to Ranfurly, by which time the gloves had come off, the coats removed and we were looking forward to our morning latte and a wander through some of the Art Deco buildings the town is renowned for. The wonderfully restored Centennial Milk bar now houses the Southern Hemisphere’s only Art Deco Museum – well worth a look, and don’t forget to leave your gold coin donation for the privilege. I felt a little nostalgic, finding an antique Alfa-Laval Cream Separator proudly on display. I recall my late Grandfather (Frank) telling us as kids of his emigration to Australia from New Zealand in 1921, and selling Alfa-Laval Cream Separators to dairy farmers on the south coast of New South Wales.
As the sun climbed higher, and a remote section of the ride lay ahead, we decided that today was the day we would picnic for lunch. In anticipation of finding an ideal spot to stop, we filled our saddlebags from the Ranfurly Four Square Store with cheese, crackers, dip, cold meats, and a mix of olives and sun dried tomatoes. Lawrence was still carrying a couple of tomatoes and a shaker of garlic salt, so we were set (I’m salivating again as I write just thinking about it). We found a gorgeous spot by a stream under the shade of a lovely green willow and tucked in.
A short ride out of Ranfurly we discovered a site to behold. Placed at very close intervals along the fence top, adjacent to the trail, was a local hunters trophy display – a number of boar skins, with hoofs still intact, drying in the sun. A unique site indeed.
Whist the day remained sunny and warm, as the afternoon descended upon us, so too did the wind. Although the final few kilometres ride into Hyde was downhill, the head wind that greeted us was a bit of a challenge. It didn’t defeat us and we dismounted our bikes for a well-earned cider at the Otago Central Hotel. Just as we were relaxing into our cider, we realised it was still a 300m cycle uphill to our bed for the night at the Hyde School Units. So, it was just one cider, but later complemented with another delightful local pinot noir and cheese platter, as an entree to our home cooked meal by Tania at the Hyde School House. Gosh……I’m thankful for the riding during the day, otherwise the kilos would be adding up.
The final day of our ride greeted us with another sunny and clear sky. Whilst day three was the longest, day four was the shortest, with only 29km to Middlemarch. The route to Middlemarch was really downhill. Strava only recorded 10m of climbing over the day. Not far from Hyde on the trail is a small section of track, and a couple of rail carriages which have been left in place so riders can get a sense of how things were before 1990 when the last train departed the station. As much as Lawrence tried, he couldn’t get the carriage to budge. Lucky for the damsel who had been tied to the track.
Our experience of four days on the Otago Rail Trail was fantastic, and being able to share it with Mary Ann and Lawrence was a huge bonus. It has given all of us the motivation to ride more, get out more, spend more time with friends and enjoy what the world has to offer.
As we rode into Middlemarch and snapped a photo at the final route marker, we all felt proud of what we had achieved. Watching the faces and smiles of those other riders finishing the trail bought us additional joy, as we knew exactly how they were feeling.
Not far behind us were the “Men-Oh-Pause team”. If we felt good, I can only imagine their joy at conquering the trail.
Be thankful for what you have.