But we hadn't got around to doing the actual "Rail Trail" package.
We decided folding bikes would simplify the logistics of the Rail Trail, so a fine spring morning saw us hopping on the Terns at Queenstown Airport, next to the bike assembly stand that bizarrely needs a notice asking that it not be used as an ashtray. We had most of a day before the shuttle left for Clyde, so pedalled around the Lake Shore to Kelvin Heights, passing the Kawarau Falls bridge: due to become a cycle bridge when a new road bridge is built to hasten tour buses on their way to Milford Sound.
|Marg and (sculpted) wildlife, Kelvin Heights|
From Kelvin Heights it's only a few hundred metres across the water to the Queenstown side, so we phoned up the water taxi; although we lost the "they're baggage not bikes" argument, costing us $40 for the short trip with our folding bikes. After a coffee at the elegant Victorian Bathhouse on the Lake shore, it was time to get the shuttle, again not being able to persuade the driver that the Terns were baggage. Lesson: always pack the folding bikes in their bags. However it was a fine trip through to Cromwell and Clyde, enlivened by our driver's efforts to dob in a driver "of Indian or Pakistani persuasion" who was travelling at less than the speed limit and occasionally touching the yellow line. The gale blasting down Lake Dunstan made us glad we hadn't tried riding to Clyde from Queenstown, instead starting by riding down the river trail on the true right of the Clutha from Clyde to Alexandra.
|River Trail to Alexandra|
|"Snow" blossoms on the river trail|
|Gents toilet, Chatto Creek|
|Toy car, in its own garage, Hayes home.|
|Pitches Store, Ophir|
|Ranfurly Manse, 1960|
|Wall mural, Ranfurly|
|War memorial and hotel, Hyde|
|Fencepost bikes, Rock and Pillar|
So we've finally done the Rail Trail. Surprisingly, it didn't feel like an ideal trail for beginners. Although the surface, gradient and services are easy, the monotonous straights could be a barrier for those unused to biking - particularly if going against the wind. The busy bike hire businesses to some extent recognise this by including options to just do the interesting bits of the trail. It will be interesting to see how other trails such as Pureora develop: will they acquire the same level of services that the Rail Trail has, or will they retain their wilderness feel?