The sound of thunder rolling and echoing doing Queenstown’s valley walls woke me at 4am. The accompanying torrential rain just made me shake my head contemplating the awfulness of a day riding in the rain. But it was not to be.
By 7:30 we were on a coach heading North. The trip was highlighted by seeing flocks of helicopters hovering above fruit-tree plantations, acting as enormous hair dryers for the trees. And by seeing the Clyde Dam with its overflow throwing out huge jets of water.
By 10am we had met our bikes and were on the Otago Rail Trail. And wonders of wonders the sun was shining. The ride was absolutely idyllic. The Trail is built on an old railway, so the grade is shallow and there are no cars to compete with. It winds through farms and vineyards against a jagged backdrop of mountains. Because it was a railway, hills don’t stop it – the trail simply, and dramatically cuts through hills in lovely shaded ravines. As the morning progressed it must be said shade became something of a premium.
Frustratingly, the land beside the trail is fenced off so the cool, shaded waters of the river we were following were off-limits to us. The idea of riding in the rain was sounding attractive by the time we reached Chato Crossing and stopped at a sleepy pub for lunch and a cooling ale.
After lunch we swapped to someone else’s legs and mounted horses. The next 13km, which coincidentally are the steepest on the Trail, were brilliant fun as we rode along them. The boys riding skills came back and then leapt forwards again over the three-hour ride. The ride was great but after three hours we were glad to reach our destination and have a shower and dinner.
Stunning first day – 26km on our bikes and another 13km on horseback.