Stepping up our Rail Trail game, we went international. After a few years of trying to get away once or twice a year for a few days for a family bike tour on a Rail Trail, this time it was an overseas trip to New Zealand for a four day ride along the Otago Central Rail Trail. Minimising luggage by staying in motels or cabins and mostly eating out, we organised an itinerary through She Bikes He Bikes and had them do the logistics – hiring us a tandem, carrying a 15kg bag with half our luggage and transporting us and my bike between the ends of the trail and Queenstown.

We flew into Queenstown on Sunday, spent Monday morning being tourists, then were collected by the Jim in the van for the drive to Clyde.

Otago Central Rail Trail - day 1 - Clyde to Omakau
Otago Central Rail Trail - day 1 - Clyde to Omakau

I think that if I’d been a little more organised I would have ridden from Queenstown to Clyde myself – there’s only the one road and the traffic isn’t too bad, and at 85km it would have made a decent start, and it would have saved us a considerable amount on bike transport and person transport! As it was I didn’t really think of it until we were in Queenstown and by then everything was organised and it was easier to just sit back and be transported.

A continental breakfast in our B&B at Clyde as a light rain fell, then pack up just in time for the 9 o’clock pickup to be driven all of half a kilometre to the She Bikes He Bikes office at the Clyde railway station to collect the hire tandem, hand over the backpack for transport, and arrange panniers and luggage on my AWOL. Seemed to have way too much luggage, even if half of it goes in the van.

AWOL and “the Thyme Crusher” ready to roll out of Clyde

A safety briefing and final check of the tandem – huge fat tyres and tractor bars at the rear – I’m not sure what that style of handlebar is really called. Then finally off along the trail, flat and gravelly to Alexandra where we stopped for the first coffee on the trail at a very popular stop full of mums and young kids with run-bikes and small bikes everywhere.

Bike parking at Alexandra

Detour into town for a look around and to buy salad rolls for lunch and check out the suspension bridge on the way back to the trail.

The shaky bridge in Alexandra
Otago Central Rail Trail; gravel, rocks and thyme

A good ride through gorges and rugged country then out into farmland and increasing headwinds. In the gorge country the wild thyme covered the hillsides, leading to the nickname “Thyme Crusher” for the tandem with its giant go-everywhere tyres. Lunch was had at the side of the trail, sheltering as best we could from the wind near low bushes and gorse.

Jo and Cam and bike touring lunches beside the Otago Central Rail Trail

The long stretch to Chatto Creek was slow going, then a blissfull section a few kilometres further on as we curved around and finally had a tail wind. Arrived in the very small town of Omakau and quickly found our B&B in the old Post Office residence. As with nearly everywhere we went over the week it had a very green, very English, cottage garden full of flowers and bumblebees.

A fully loaded AWOL in the garden

Unpacked and got comfortable, then Jo and I went out for a walk around town – which did not take long – then adjourned to the pub for a beer. A short interruption while Jo went back next door to the Post Office to collect Cam and it was time for dinner, one of the typically enormous pub meals that we came across during the week.

A boy and pub dinner of a very large slab of pork belly

Day one, a success.