Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rail Trail Diary - Day 1 (The Real One)

So, it was time to turn talk into pedal pushing - I've no doubt we all sized each other up and came to the conclusion that none us were carrying any extra ballast.
Our genetics had been (predictably) fortuitous - but what about the fitness? Had we maintained the regime of the committed cyclist?
"Oh, I haven't done any special training", sayeth George, but eyeing those chiselled calves, one could tell he was no stranger to the saddle.
And Dave?... Well, he was a six-pack on legs. (Guinness, probably...) After all, his favoured at-home wheels were the super skinny kind, and he wore lycra without shame.

Itinerary: Sunday, 29 November  
Pick up Bikes (as-new Giant Sedonas) at Trail Journeys in Clyde
Set off to Lauder  

We kitted up the very capable looking vehicles with what was necessary for the day ahead (Trail Journeys carted our bulky gear to pre-arranged stop-overs - very civilised). "What was necessary" entailing, essentially, snacks, jackets and cameras - we were going to see a lot of them.

The first stretch was to take us to Alexandra, 10km or so away. We could either go the strictly 'rail' route - fairly straight and uninteresting we'd been told - or we could cross the Clyde River and follow a more adventurous, undulating path, weaving around the trees along the banks. 

An easy or hour or so ensued, humming 'round gentle curves and up gentler inclines watching the scenery change surprisingly spectacularly, until we hit a traditional watering hole - The Chatto Creek Pub. A couple of brethren had already hitched up, including a family with a little kiddy-trailer. Cruising down the traffic-worn track, high up, with fork suspension is one thing... but either side, where the unsprung trailer wheels travelled, was pretty rough - and you'd have Dad's bum for a view for 4 days!
And look at that weather - spoilt, what?

Anyway, we were greeted with the lashings of charm and hospitality we were already getting accustomed to, snarfing down about the best toasted sandwich I can remember - superlative.

Historical note - Chatto Creek is home to NZ's smallest (and almost certainly most miserable) Post Office - still set up just as dear old Millie Allsop (or whoever it was) serviced it all those years. Isn't that interesting?

Setting off satisfyingly fed & watered, we ambled (not so competitively after all) on until we reached the bustling metropolis of Lauder ("Lorder") - our first stopover. We had booked into a converted (they love converting in these parts) old schoolhouse - dead charming. Eeh - I 'ad a trike just like this when I were a lad...

How does the urbane-sophisticate-about-town occupy oneself in Lauder? Why a rubber or two of Boule at Ye Inne, of course. I think the publican said we were the first to try out the new... er... rink. He hadn't been sure how they were usually constructed and had gone for a bed of inches deep gravel. We ended up playing on the grass.

After settling on the pub as our dinner venue (yes - the only actual option) we enjoyed a hearty meal before settling in with Day 2 to greet us in the coming morn.

PS: I had intended to include some gripping clips of the Trail so far, but Blogger won't let me bloody upload 'em.

PPS: As you can see, I got a couple up!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Rail Trail Diary - about bloody time

The Mission - 3 crusty old cronies who went their separate ways after surviving 5 years of Papanui High School in the 70's get together to mark their 50th birthdays (!) with a 4 day ride on the Otago Rail Trail.

The protagonists: David, George & Your Author (whom we shall call 'Bruce' - for it is he)

Truth is I'm pretty inexperienced at organising a mission like this, particularly an overseas one - but ultimately it was rewarding to have an itinerary fall into shape. Everyone I contacted, from bike hire to accommodation, could not have been more helpful.

Itinerary: Friday, 27 November
David & Bruce fly out of Kingsford Smith
Flight EK 418
Depart 10:15 am
Arrive CHCH 3:15pm

Snow-covered alps! And a long white cloud - one's dusty old NZ recognition neurons start to fire up...
Have a good look at the old Control Tower ("Control Tower" - incidentally, being my first words - in English - apparently) - it's being superseded by something new that couldn't possibly be as stylish.

Itinerary: Saturday, 28 November

David, George & Bruce drive to Clyde in Finchmobile

Starting the expedition proper, we load up the "Capsicum" (as I believe the green Corolla is nick-named), pick up George and head across the Canterbury Plains. After constant typically gloomy rain on the flat, we climbed up Burkes Pass and burst out into a brilliant sun-soaked vista.

The glorious weather showed off Lake Tekapo at its most picture-skew as we stopped for a lunch of fish (sorry "fush") & kumera chups - yum!
A spectacular drive followed with the clear air giving us a grand view of (the now 20 metres or so shorter since the landslide) Mt Cook (or "Aorangi" to the types that call Ayers Rock "Uluru").

We arrived at Clyde in the early arvo to find an unbelievably quaint and charming olde town situtated an unnervingly short distance downriver from a dirty big dam.

Our digs, Ye Hartley Arms, was the epitome of charm and a jolly pleasant end to the day was spent in the sun-dappled garden.