I woke up at 8, congratulating myself that I'd wisely decided not to drink at all the evening before. My companions weren't feeling quite so bright however, with everyone else looking a bit dusty as they shuffled about the place. After packing up my gear and loading the bike, we all sat around for a very humorous breakfast session lasting a a couple of hours. At around 11 we realised we had to hit the road and get on the famed Otago Central Rail Trail. We made our farewells to Chris, Gary, Ross and Carol, before setting out into the bright lunchtime sun of Central Otago.
Breakfast laid out in the dining room at Maniototo Lodge.
Cooked breakfast humour. I almost died laughing.
Chris taking no chances with his aches and pains before the start of the ride. Not sure what the paddle-pop stick is for though.
I rode about 500m into town and discovered my knee really, really hurt a lot. Only one thing for it, dip into the pharmacopia and take two of everything. It's the one advantage of having severe rheumatoid arthritis - always lots of medication on hand to whip up whole new drug-cheat combinations.
Back on the trail, I was once again heading over old ground, having ridden the trail back in 2011. This week, however, we were headed in the opposite direction to last time - meaning the views and experience ended up being pretty different to before. A little way out of Ranfurly, we stopped and chatted to a couple of local people cycling the trail. They asked if we'd ridden up from the start of the trail at Hyde - I told them we'd ridden in over Danseys Pass from Kurow. They started at us amazed, asking "you rode the pass on those bikes?!?!? That's pretty crazy!" With our egos nicely inflated for the rest of the day, we pedalled off towards our lunch stop at the tiny town of Oturehua.
Nothing beats the good old Otago Central Rail Trail for some easy, relaxing riding.
Clear skies and classic Central Otago scenery.
We'd only ridden a little way when we decided to stop at the old Wedderburn station. We only had to ride about 60km in total that day, and we had the whole day to do it in. Made sense to take our time.
Chilling it up with a water and some homemade shortbread biscuits that Gary and Chris from Maniototo Lodge gave us to sustain us on our journey.
Super scenic. Imagine living in that house and seeing that view every day...
At the Wedderburn goods shed we caught up to some kind of Christian youth group out on a group bike ride, and ended up leapfrogging them all day. It was no problem passing them when we needed to, but they sure did make a lot of noise.
Chris approaches the town of Otureha.
We stopped for lunch at the Oturehua pub. Just before getting into town the steerer tube wedge on Chris' bike snapped - a quick dodgy repair later and we were sitting in the warm sun eating burgers and drinking coffee.
Gotta love the country pub bulletin boards where they pin up the LoLz.
I was feeling on top of the world and riding like a pro after my big-pharma bender at Ranfurly - not condoning it but I can definitely see why so many cyclists like the drugs.
This was even more difficult than it looks.
Inside Gilchrist's General Store at Oturehua - NZ's longest running shop.
After lunch the weather started to thicken and light rain began to fall. Chris also started having some pretty severe knee pain on the bike, and was riding slowly as we approached the Poolburn Gorge.
The Poolburn Gorge is regarded as the most scenic bit of the Otago Central Rail Trail, and I tend to agree. It's also the bit with most of the big tunnels and bridges.
Stopped for a snack / big-pharma break at the Gorge. We were both feeling a bit weak on the bikes, however as we sat there we saw some extremely unfit people cycle past at a walking speed. They were in a world of hurt, but still had smiles on their faces. The moral of the story was that we needed to toughen up a lot.
Riding through the two tunnels with no lights was an experience. The tunnels are curved so in the middle it's pitch black. But unlike the Vin Diesel movie of the same name, this experience was actually pretty enjoyable.
Chris approaching the second tunnel for the day. By the time we'd navigated this one through the dark, we were both slightly hysterical and giggling like schoolgirls. It was just the lift we needed to counter the increasingly crappy weather.
Heading out of the Poolburn Gorge towards Omakau.
Classic tourist pose at the tunnel portal.
Well and truly raining by this point, so we gunned it all the way down into Omakau.
A bridge that appears to be made out of a water tank.
Our destination for the day was the famous Omakau Commercial Hotel. I've raved about this place before - and it was even more spectacular this time around.
The big lesson I've learned with cycle touring is try to get separate accommodation whenever possible. It's great riding with a mate all day, but at night it's good to have your own space. And on this day I was lucky enough to be put up in this awesome room, complete with en suite bathroom! I unpacked my gear, had a shower, and spent an hour just sitting around in the warm room before venturing back outside.
The rain had lifted a little, but it was still pretty cold. Dinner consisted of fish and chips in a roadside park. It was precisely what I needed.
A day bookended by dick references. Majestic.
Having an after dinner beer with Chris. The vacant chair was soon to be occupied by a very strange Australian lady complaining about the WiFi reception or something while she obsessed over her iPad - all the while talking loudly to nobody in particular about 30cm from Chris. Unusual times in Omakau, although not quite weird enough to be a repeat of the Brazilian guy.
Even though we'd only ridden for 3 hours, I was exhausted. I turned into bed early to read. After the cold afternoon, the evening was so warm that I was able to lie in bed without the covers on.
Just like last the last time I was here, the Otago Central Rail Trail dished up another day of good, relaxing, scenic riding. I ride the trail so often in my mind, that I felt a bit as though I had come back to my spiritual home. Tomorrow, a fresh adventure awaited us on New Zealand's newest cycle trail - we'd be riding into new territory, so I needed all the beauty sleep I could get...