This is cruisy cycling beside the gloriously blue, gurgling and swirling Clutha, under trees and beside orchards which a little earlier in the summer would be heavily laden with apricots and nectarines. Talk about temptation!
The trail is on more of the well compacted limestone trails that we met on the Roxburgh Gorge Trail, and is a rural idyll with wide views of the Clutha Valley. For those of us from Auckland used to riding on roads, we boggled at the dedication to keep the trail all off- road, as there is so little traffic on the secondary road near the trail. Look at this for a staunch approach to cater for even the most newbie of cyclists!
The first town on the trail is Roxburgh. It opens itself to strangers only on closer inspection. We started at the famous award -winning establishment of Jimmy’s Pies, which offers a huge assortment of delights to try – my blue cod pie with the lightest imaginable pastry was bliss! Fortified by Jimmy’s gems we toured the main street, including a place that made hand made iron hand forged art works. We soon recognised their work in different forms along the main street, including being the creative genius behind Jimmy with his cat which had first drawn us to his shop.
The local pharmacist had bikes for hire outside his shop and great stories of cycling throughout the year. When pressed, he acknowledged it got a little cold in winter, but said the low rainfall and clear skies made for ideal cycling conditions in autumn and spring.
We stopped early in the afternoon at Miller’s Flat, a tiny village of only 90 people, with a proud history and a well resourced, cherished community. Our accomodation at the Arcadia B & B was in a big garden, spacious and amazingly well set up, and sited right next to the community swimming pool. A key to the pool was easy to gain, and allowed us to enjoy a superbly maintained facility heated to 28 degrees by solar panels. (Apparently the Clutha River is too dangerous for swimming in). The local Four Square shop is also owned and run by the community. Glad we stopped here!
Day 2 of the trail was more relaxed riverside cycling until Beaumont where the local publicans (from Iceland would you believe?) are in the process of doing a makeover of the hotel for staying guests. They were happy to provide a snack of pan fried blue cod (such a treat for North Islanders), and describe their sponsorship of rural events (fishing and shearing). This growth of local hospitality and entrepreneurial spirit is exactly what the Trail is all about, and well worth supporting.
The last part of the ride was on the old railway line, with a tunnel, (always fun for cyclists) and an easy run into Lawrence. After all the care taken to keep the trail off – road, we were surprised the Trail ended a bit short of the town. I have always enjoyed Lawrence as it has a rich heritage of buildings dating from the 1860s. The fascinating museum is a ‘must visit’, with friendly minders who are keen to share the story of Gabriel’s Gully gold find close to the town, which kicked off the Central Otago gold rush. There are lots of eating and accomodation options on hand as well.
Next blogs – Alps to Ocean – days of dramatic landscapes and cycling bliss