Sunday, 10 May 2009

I love it when a plan comes together

Just occasionally something works out well enough for me to feel smug. My plan to cycle the Otago Rail Trail in 3 days was dropped when I saw the weather forecast for the last 2, instead I went for the scenic train trip up the Taieri Gorge, overnight in Ranfurly, followed by a single day cycle on the section of the trail from Ranfurly to Middlemarch.  Very cold, but downhill and downwind, and the heavy showers weren't forecast until the afternoon.  Sure enough, the bus driver who picked me up in Middlemarch said that when he'd driven through Ranfurly (5 hours after I left it) the snow had arrived and was piling up on the roadsides.  I met a few cyclists heading in that direction; I'm guessing they didn't enjoy the trail as much as I did!  It's an excellent cycle route, has apparently done wonders to revive interest in an area that doesn't normally get many visitors.  If only someone had thought to do something similar when the Waverley line through the Borders closed down.

I wasn't the only one to be scared off by the forecast.  The scenic train was busy, but I had the bus to Ranfurly, the hostel in Ranfurly, and the bus the following day from Middlemarch back to Dunedin all to myself.  Not sure the last was a good thing, it meant the bus driver could lecture me on his Neil Diamond obsession for over an hour, at least 55 minutes more than I wanted.

A word in praise of the NZ visitor centres ('i-sites').  I went into the Dunedin one to ask about this trip at 10:45 on Friday morning, needing to be on the Taieri Gorge train at 12:30.  I needed to book the train, 2 separate buses, overnight accommodation, and bike hire (including delivery to my starting point).  All done within 15 minutes, very efficient, which has been my experience of the i-sites throughout.  

Not sure if the weather on the Otago plain has been as bad since, but if Dunedin is any guide, there'll be some miserable cyclists out there.  I'm in an attic room, ideal for listening to rain crashing against your roof and window from all angles.   And a good excuse to spend 2 days huddled in museums, galleries, pubs (Chiefs v Hurricanes was best rugby game I've seen in nz to date) and movie theatres (Star Trek last night, very entertaining).  Venturing out again today for my last chance to see albatrosses and penguins, on the Otago peninsula.  Don't think these guys make it to the North Island, where I'm headed tomorrow, they seem to like this weather for some reason. 

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