Sunday, February 19, 2012

Day 10: Ranfurly to Pukerangi to Dunedin. The end of the road.

Today would be our last day traveling on the bikes, and we had a big day planned. We had to finish the Otago Central Rail Trail (62 km) and then ride about 20 km on the road to a little town to catch the Taieri Gorge Vintage Steam Train to the city of Dunedin on the east coast.


We woke early, a bit stiff from that nasty bed and headed to main street for breakfast. We wanted to go the E Central Cafe, but they were not open yet, so we paid $15.50 for two pieces of French toast and ham without the fried banana, because they were out of bananas. Instant coffee came free with this meal. We were left hungry so we went next door to the E Central Cafe, that was finally open, for our usual yummy flat whites, date scones, and cheese scone to go.

Will our early start, we were on the trail by 9:34, a record for this trip. We were happy to be on the Rail trail again today instead of the road with cars, since it was quite foggy.

As the fog lifted, we began to see the lovely countryside south of Ranfurly. There were quiet little streams


Crossed by rail bridges


And lots of farmland. I was surprised to see large scale irrigation using the same brand of equipment as back home in Utah.

Another familiar site: geologic hazards!

We crossed more of the bridges made of hand-hewn blocks of schist today. You can see the chisel marks on the tan colored blocks below the gray capstone in this picture.


And there were more cool tunnels too.


That was all before the planned lunch stop at Hyde. When we got to Hyde, though, the Cokes were $3.90, so we cheaped out and ate a little snack from our now squished and crumbly bag of assorted foods and pressed on.

We were "rewarded", my word, not Drew's, with trail cuts through volcanic ash beds, or tuff.


We were now skirting the base of the Rock and Pillar Range, so named for the pillars (or tors they call them here) of rock poking out of the mountain.


And more little streams.

The next 25 km to the end of the rail trail in Middlemarch was less scenic, flat, warm, and a little bit grumpy for the both of us. Drew was tired of stopping to take so many pictures and read so many information signs, and I was just tired. By the time we reached Middlemarch, we could have used some grand finale to mark the end of the rail trail, but this is all we got,


So I made up for it with a $4.50 Coke to go with the somewhat slimy salami and cheese on our coveted cheese scone.

There isn't much in Middlemarch, but like most towns, they have a pretty church.


From Middlemarch, we thought we had 20 easy km on paved quiet country roads to get the the train station at Pukerangi.

But turning onto the road to Pukerangi, we realized we were going to have to earn our train ride, as the road was washboarded gravel and the previously completely still air changed into a pretty serious headwind coming up the Taieri Gorge in the space of 1 km. when we saw pavement again, we were not happy, because it meant we had to a climb a huge hill against that headwind.


It was a hard way to end the ride, but we made it to the train station with time to spare!


Transition train

Unfortunately, the station was unmanned and more importantly unstocked, so we had to wait for over an hour with only our warm water in our water bottles to drink instead of frosty cold ones. But in time, the train did arrive


So we loaded up the bikes and off we went for a two hour ride on the Taieri Gorge Vintage Steam Train. It didn't move very fast, so it was a good transition back into motorized travel, and it gave me plenty of time to take pictures








And stand on the observation deck.

Why sometimes Lucy should travel Drew's way

It was a beautiful and relaxing train ride. But the relaxing times abruptly came to an end when we stepped off the train in the small city of Dunedin.




There are two types of travelers: those that book their accommodations and activities months in advance, and those that wait until they are in town and see what looks good. Drew is the former, I am the latter. In our 7 years of traveling together, we have always done it Drew's way. With this being our first bike tour and not knowing how far we would get each night, I convinced Drew that we should keep things loose and flexible and not book our lodging ahead. With Dunedin being a town of 110,000 people, I figured there would be at least one hotel room available. how was I to know that there was a Harley Davidson convention in town, plus the National Pipeband Championships, plus it was the first weekend the college students were back in town, and to top it all off, a large hotel had burned down three days earlier, displacing a lot of travelers? After an hour Skyping every hotel in our guidebook, then switching to plan B to rent a car and get our of town but there were no cars available either, so we grabbed a Subway sandwich and pedaled 3 km to the beach and the Dunedin Holiday Park to set up our little tent in the ensuing darkness for $36. The good thing was, we got a spot close to the beach.


The bad thing was, there was a group of college students celebrating somebody's birthday next to us that didn't quiet down until after 11 pm.


We didn't know how we were going to get to Christchurch tomorrow to return the bikes, and the wifi was down so we couldn't figure it out. To top it off, in my flustered state, I even forgot to buy beer at the convenience store, so we ate our sandwiches, took a shower, and settled in for an uncertain night on the hard ground.


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