With another 100 miles to go but no deadline on my final day, I allowed myself a little extra sleep after the previous day’s effort. Starting around 7, I headed east from Cromwell to ride a stretch of the Otago Central Rail Trail. It is New Zealand’s longest rail trail at 150km (a little less than 100 miles) and is part of the fabulous new New Zealand Cycle Trail network, which will include about 1500 miles of trails when completed this year. Although mostly a packed gravel surface (not ideal for a road bike), I wanted to try a section.
As I headed to the trail, the terrain changed again, becoming arid and rocky. This is gold rush country, much of the area being settled in the 1860s.
The trailhead is in Clyde, yet another quaint little New Zealand town.
After a few miles on the rail trail, which is a popular family ride at a casual pace over a few days (great idea for a return trip to New Zealand!), I turned back west towards Queenstown, my thoughts turning to the finish of the tour.
This part of New Zealand is a popular wine growing region, and there are dozens of wineries in the area.
The road entered the Kawarau River Gorge, yet another new landscape. Climbing the hills that wind along the gorge was no longer a hard effort, after several days of climbing mountain passes.
Continuing past Queenstown, the last road to ride was to Glenorchy. Unfortunately, I ran out of time to ride the entire distance, a shame since it is another road of amazing scenery, featured in many TV ads and movies- including James Bond chase scenes.
Like the first day’s ride, the road was nestled amongst trees between The Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu, but is much less traveled.
As I turned around and pedaled the last few miles back into Queenstown, finishing up a 4th straight day over 100 miles, I was left with a sense of accomplishment, looking forward to seeing my girls the next morning back in Sydney, and the thrill of having experienced such an amazing place.
I cannot think of a better 4 days of my life that weren’t spent with my family.
Even before I left, I long to come back to New Zealand. The world is full of places I have never seen. Given a choice, I rarely visit the same place twice, preferring the unknown. Even after 450 miles of riding, there is so much more to see just on the South Island. There is Doubtful Sound, which is much larger than Milford Sound, and requires driving, then a boat ride across a lake, and then a hike to reach. I’d love to go hiking on a glacier, ride some of the new Cycle Trails, and explore more of the coasts and historic small towns. It is a beautiful country, definitely one of my favorites of the 30+ I have visited.
And I need more goals to continually be challenged- such as longer rides and more of them. Above all, I want to do a cross-country ride, and I hope I can find the right purpose and motivation for it.