Taste of: Source to Sea
If anyone had said to me 20 years ago 'hey, would you want to ride from Wanaka to Dunedin on fully loaded mountain bikes?', I might have thought less of the offer. Having hatched the idea on a few trips to Dunedin this winter, my workmate, Rossco, and I pretty soon had a tiger by the tail. While we had plenty of bikes, we just didn’t have the right bike. I did once; but I’d sold it a year ago for an upgrade.
With the help of Central Otago Tourism we had dates, accommodation and a jet boat booked. Five days out, my new bike frame arrived. Two days out, my flash-as bike bags arrived. 14 hours out, I was still fluffing around changing grips and a handlebar stem. Then I slept on it. I could do no more.
Thursday we drove to Clyde, parked up and rode along the Clutha River to Alexandra, 12kms. Early days yet, the 3 of us finding our place on the trail, with Ross & Dugald finding the limits of traction with just rear panniers.
Morning tea in Alexandra then it was onto the Roxburgh Gorge Trail. We lose the trees quickly then it is all Schist and Thyme allowing us to ride side by side and discuss the big and small details of our daily lives. Some big work has gone into this trail both seen and unseen and I take my hat off to all involved. It reminds me of the Haast Pass being built – there was a start and a finish and a willing to get there. Where the rocks couldn’t be moved they have gone around, hills tamed with gentle switchbacks and when the red tape couldn’t be shifted – well that’s where the jet boat comes in.
The 10kms glide down the river shows off so many things you’re never going to experience otherwise: Old mining villages, fantastic rock formations and sensational views. Ask nicely and the driver will show you a couple of spins to finish the journey. The bikes are racked & strapped down nice and tight so don’t fret love. I didn’t realise it was on my bucket list but now I’m stoked it was.
Shingle Creek to Roxburgh Dam (largest concrete dam in NZ) is about 12kms and meanders up around the hills more so than the first stretch. I don’t think I can conjure up enough adjectives to make you feel like you’re there on the bikes with us – best you go and experience it for yourselves – like me, you will feel well rewarded. Moreover we met a few folks along the trail, seriously I would not have been surprised of an invite to tea from most of them. One did make scones for us the next day!
It was 31 degrees in the gorge, we deserved a beer before heading across to the Villa Rose for a well-earned sleep in the chalets. On entering the Goldfields Café we were greeted by a local couple and twenty questions. We countered with 18 of our own and polished off a delicious meal. We were still getting into the swing of things - we didn’t leave until 11am after coffee and a Jimmy’s pie for breakfast.
On the trail to Millers Flat, riding is amongst the trees for the most part and flows gently downhill – super kid friendly. We nearly missed “The Lonely Graves”. After riding past the signpost, I called a U-turn on the boys and we went for a look. It was like finding $20 in your pocket – an unexpected bonus. More old reclaimed railway line riding, then a cuppa and biscuits with Ali from Beaumont Jets.
We had a headwind and Scotch mist for the 20kms into Lawrence. The 400 metre long tunnel at Big Hill provided a break from the weather and a fantastic descent – although I will say tackling the wet cattle stops at speed was a leap of faith. Lawrence Townhouse Accommodation turned it on for us big time, the spa pool and massage chair being highlights. Likewise, the whitebait sammie from the local pub will be remembered for years to come.
Like a Politicians speech, we saved our gunpowder for the final day. Damn lucky – it was a biggy. Our earliest start yet; 9am had us buying food for the road and a coffee from a lovely lady with purple hair at Coffee Mine Bar & Cafe, a short stature and tall coffee mugs. I’d been there before and new it was a winner. Our warm up was a 12% climb. It wasn’t just one hill like that, but many. I believe they sealed the steepest parts to stop the gravel rolling back down like a tidal wave. The weather was good to us – if you call a headwind for 80% ok.
The spin through to Waipori Falls was mainly 4WD road through forests which was stunning. Taking the old road to Waihola kept us away from the cars. The 9kms climb to Taiere Mouth was a killer. I’m so glad no one told me about it beforehand, I might well have grumped about in advance. Smashed it out though.
New trails, new bikes & friendly people leave me with memories that will let me dream away the hours until the next adventure.