Thursday 17 January 2013

The road goes ever on...

The Otago Central Rail Trail follows the 150km path of the old Clyde-Middlemarch railway track and has become hugely popular since being opened to the public in 2000 - to the salvation of all the little towns along the route. I cycled just 18km of it today, from Auripo to Omakau along its most spectacular section, through two long and very dark tunnels and over a viaduct and several bridges. Everyone else seemed to be going the other way - apparently you takes your choice between downhill gradient or head wind - and I discovered after smugly avoiding a rain shower in the cosy Station Side café at Lauder that the wind can be so strong here that it cancels out a downhill gradient, so you still have to push those pedals.
However, having just met a family group that included two small boys, the youngest aged 6, who were doing the entire length in five days, camping, it felt feeble to complain. An Irish couple with impressive calves exclaimed over what a feature it was, an American couple lamented not having enough time to do it all, and other family groups skimmed past cheerfully waving, despite the less than ideal weather. There was fresh snow on the hilltops! In January! And the wind from the south was icy.
I was horrified to see two stoats cross the trail in front of me - with the ones we've seen on the road, that's four alive, alive-oh I've seen in just two days, so goodness knows how many there are. Horrible things: they eat geckos and birds' eggs and nestlings. They, and ferrets, were introduced with much effort long ago to control the rabbits that had previously been introduced, for sport and food, which had instantly got out of control. Apparently, nobody thought there was a lesson there to be learned. It also made me smile a bit grimly when we went into the fabulous old Gilchrist's Store in Oturehua, to see a big pack of gorse seeds in amongst the memorabilia there ('Easygrow', indeed). Oh, the painful pleasures of hindsight!

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