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Wrong Turn on to the Central Otago Rail Trail - Sports

Wrong Turn on to the Central Otago Rail Trail   by Richard and Elaine Bryant

in Sports    (submitted 2009-11-19)

After pledging to sharpen up and improve our fitness, and it wasn't even New Year, my good friend Val and I had rushed off and bought nice shiny bright red Mountain Bikes from an enthusiastic bike shop owner in the small lake side town of Cromwell, in Central Otago, New Zealand. The owner operator was so caught up in our excitement and long term planning that he threw in water bottles, helmets and a free check up (on the bikes) in the next 4 weeks.

Our first expedition the following week, was to be a short ride alongside the Clutha River from Clyde to Alexandra, both small fruit growing townships in the arid countryside of Central Otago. We whizzed through the ankle deep autumn leaves along the riverside track stopping to watch fish jump, vowing to bring along fishing rods next time, after all we had been to fly fishing courses hadn't we, and spent hours untangling our lines out of the willow trees.

Along the way we explored derelict gold mines and eventually stopped for some lunch, designer bread and a tin of sardines quickly thrown together. The sardine tin refused to open despite much verbal and physical abuse, so it was designer bread only, washed down with warm water. On we rode through the township of Alexandra and onto a section of the Otago Central Rail Trail that was to take us back to the vehicle we had left in Clyde Township - this last leg should have been an 8-10km ride.

The Central Otago Rail Trail had been set up when the train line from Dunedin, on the east coast of the South Island, to Cromwell became obsolete. It was picked up by an enterprising trust after the lines were sold off and the railway sleepers which were, and still are, very trendy garden accessories fetching great prices. This acquisition smoothed the way for a four day adventure bike ride through arid sun drenched countryside; gorges, tunnels, and passing many old hotels and pubs that were alive and well during the gold mining era in the 1860's. These relics of the past have all been revamped, reinvented and provide great sleepover accommodation with delicious fresh local gourmet menus and excellent selections of Central Otago wines, which are world class. So what more does one need?

So off we rode, heads down chattering non stop, until after about an hour we stopped took a look around us, and voila - these weren't the Clyde Hills as we knew them - we had gone blindly off in the wrong direction! The tin of sardines was still not opening, we were literally starving, but we found a laden apple tree and feasted off that whilst deciding which way to go, back or forward.

The decision was to ride on, as we must reach a pub or café soon so we rode on and on getting deeper and deeper into foreign country side. I was booked to go to the movies that evening with friends, so I called my husband (cell phone) to cancel the arrangements as we were lost on the Rail Trail. His comment was "How the $!!?/# do you get lost on a Railway line?" - Well you could, we did and we were.

So it was onto the next tree - the next corner - and yea! around the next corner there were buildings with red roofs. Falling off our bikes with excitement we could hardly walk to the counter of the Chatto Creek Tavern, I will love that place forever. After ordering cappuccinos and chicken wraps, the best we have ever tasted, we regaled the bar with our plight.

The general consensus was to go back the way we had come - but as we could barely make the counter from the bike seat we had to think of smarter options. Then the owner of the establishment came to the rescue. We could take her car the 15kms back to Clyde, collect our vehicle and come back to collect the bikes. Whew - forever grateful we fell into her 'BRIGHT SHINY RED SPORTS CAR WITH THE ROOF DOWN' - driving took on a new dimension; we vowed to exchange our boring grannies cars for one of these - after all our bikes would look pretty smart on the back of one of these numbers, with the designer sunglasses on of course - on second thoughts the bikes wouldn't even fit on the back of one of these delicious little cars.

Back to Chatto Creek and a 'few' chardonnays later we departed for the journey home, best friends with everyone in the establishment and prepared to get plenty of ragging from our partners and family when we finally got home. They didn't let us down!

A few weeks later I dropped into Chatto Creek with a team of organised cyclists, having biked for 2 days solid I couldn't let them pass Chatto Creek Tavern without having one of their very delicious chicken wraps.

As I crossed the threshold a voice bellowed out "WHOEVER LET YOU OUT AGAIN" And that's another story.