Cycling the Clutha Gold & Roxburgh Gorge Combo

Day 1 – Lawrence to Millers Flat

After spending a few uneventful wet and cold days in Dunedin I hopped on a bus for a short ride to the start of the Clutha Gold trail in Lawrence. The Clutha Gold & Roxburgh Gorge combo is a relatively new series of rides in New Zealand. New Zealand actually has a national cycling initiative to create a network of trails that would allow folks to ride the entire country all on purpose built trail. The idea is to create a sustainable form of tourism focused on revitalizing the small towns all throughout the country with cyclists who stay the night and have a meal and a beer or two at the local pub.

I think this is a great initiative. Especially given the trend of people who want an active vacation or retirement. Judging by the pub owners and pensioners I’ve talked to on the trail, it is working.

Anyway, I’m already a bit stressed as I get on the bus as I’ll only have two and a half hours to get to my accommodation for the night before sunset. Plus, it is cold and raining. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I thought about not doing this ride and just hunkering down for a few more days in Dunedin. However, New Zealanders have this saying of “just get on with it”. When it comes to the outdoors there isn’t any complaining about the cold, getting your feet wet or anything like that. They just get on with what is ahead of them. I suppose it’s a bit contagious.

So I got on with it — as the bus pulls into Lawrence 45 minutes late. Meaning I have a little over 1 hour and 45 minutes to do 45k before I lose daylight.

Day 2 – Millers Flat to Alexandra

Just as in Oraturea it was hard to get out from bed with that heat blanket going. I had a 1.30 jet boat to catch, but it was only about 45k away so I figured I could leave at 10am and have a nice leisurely day and not have to rush it. The ride started out really cold, but this time I had to stop to put on a few layers. It was another overcast day, but the trail was nice and rolling next to the Clutha River, so I couldn’t complain.

I got to talking about my upcoming rides with a lady I met while walking down the street in Wanaka and she told me to make sure I stop at Jimmy’s Pies in Roxburgh. Pies are pretty big over here – a pie is basically a small pie as you would think of it, but filled with meat, eggs/bacon or even sweets.

So I pulled off in Roxburgh and popped into Jimmy’s for a egg/bacon pie and a flat white. After a cold few hours it was just what I needed. Reenergized I headed back out and came across a guy with a jersey with maple leaves all over it. Assuming he was Canadian as well we started talking and since I still had plenty of time to get to the jetty, I rode with him for the next 10k. Similar to me he had always wanted to spend ride around New Zealand, so for his 55th birthday he decided to go do it. He was getting towards the end of two months and had done a lot of the rides that I wanted to do so it was great to get some insight into the West Coast and Nelson area trails. He was stopping at the Roxburgh dam, so we shook hands and headed our separate ways. When you are traveling on your own, these small encounters are helpful to keep your spirits up.

After crossing the dam I switched over to the Roxburgh Gorge Trail and had about 15k to go to the jetty. A short jet boat trip is required to connect to the other end of the trail as there is a 15k section that is not yet complete. I had about an hour and half to get there, so I figured I had plenty of time. As I came off the dam, out of the corner of my eye I say a dirt trail pretty much headed straight uphill. I thought, no way this is where I’m going, but a Is turned I quickly realized this was my trail.

The next 10k was through a beautiful valley, but the trail was constantly rolling up and down and I wasn’t making good time. I had to catch this boat, so the leisurely ride out turned into a pretty aggressive ride. I rolled into Shingle Creek 5 minutes before the boat, so perfect timing I guess. Lesson learned, make sure to look at the elevation in addition to distance.

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I had the entire boat to myself and we quickly got underway. The driver made a few stops along the way to point out some relics of the gold rush that was actually pretty interesting.

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I jumped out of the boat down the river and had an easy 10k ride into Alexandra where I actually started the Otago Rail trail a week earlier.

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