For a moment I might be forgiven for thinking I am in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, or some other bicycle-crazed city. I am gazing at a vast bicycle park with more cyclists continually arriving or departing. In reality, I am in a tiny Central Otago town, Hyde. A sea of people are taking a break on their various journeys along the famed 150km Otago Central Rail Trail. I am heartened by the smiles confirming enjoyment more so than attempts at serious pedalling. Participants are mostly middle-aged and many obviously new to cycling. The off-road trail, completed in three or four days, is attractive owing to its freedom from road traffic and many opportunities for coffee stops and something stronger at day’s end. The choice of accommodation caters for a variety of tastes. I chat to people from several countries as well as many from New Zealand. I am heartened to see the bicycle trail being well wheeled. As a New Zealand attraction it is proving its worth and providing abundant business opportunities. Some time ago Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, John Key, appreciating its success instigated a project for a network of New Zealand cycleways. Several are poised to open during 2013. In time, New Zealand will become an increasingly popular destination for an expanding choice of outdoor adventures. I will expect a spin-off for many tourist providers including our Welcome Aboard Christchurch company.
It is my fifth trip to the trail, this time accompanied by my aviatrix daughter, Kirsten, and partner, Haruko. It is Haruko’s fourth trip. Kirsten is on her first cycling tour and looking the archetypal veteran. She is also very fit, frequently setting out on 100km rides from her Melbourne apartment. Haruko is a cycle touring veteran of many countries. I struggle to keep up. The trail has become like an agreeable long-time friend. I know what to expect along most sections, enjoying the many high bridges and the three dark tunnels. I enjoy meeting friends operating accommodation venues I have previously supported. Always impressive are the expansive Central Otago skies. Changing wind directions (not always kind to our progress) result in amazing cloud formations, almost sky art. We spend three days pedalling from Middlemarch to Clyde. Most trail travellers are going in the opposite direction. Kirsten agrees my choice of direction is better. The accommodation, choice of beer and sights improve each day. We finish at the Post Master’s House accommodation in Clyde. It’s an upmarket establishment incorporating a relaxing beer garden and excellent restaurant. A bottle of Central Otago pinot noir is a wise end-of-trail choice.