Friday, May 28, 2010

Naseby (NZ part 22)

(NZ part one here)

Eager to get to the even more rural parts of the South Island, Dan and I ride west on Route 87, up the Taieri River drainage, toward the town of Middlemarch, where we will pick up the Otago Rail Trail. The trail follows some of the old line of the Otago Central Branch Railway, which ran from the Otago goldfields to the ports of Dunedin. One section of the rail line is still in use, through the Taieri River Gorge, so unfortunately, we are forced to ride on the roads for this section. Apparently tourist trips on this section are a popular way to see the Gorge.

Once up river of the main Gorge, the Taieri valley is less rugged, and the trail actually provides pretty easy riding (trains don't tend to make quick turns or handle grade changes well I guess.) It allows us to relax and look around more, and I enjoy scanning the Rock and Pillar Range to our west, and the Taieri Ridge to our east. We ride through agricultural land for hours, and cross tributaries with names like Sheepwash and Six Mile Creek. Slowly the hills creep back in on us as we approach the upper gorge, which is really quite tame. The river provides a strip of green, but for the most part the valley is dry and brown. After much low angle climbing, we reach an interesting cut through the hills on the west side of the river, the Hyde Tunnel, which signals the end of the long climb. Before long, the landscape has opened up again, and we are riding between sheep pastures towards Ranfurly, where we will leave the rail bed.

We stock up on camping supplies in Ranfurly, then head on to Naseby, where we have heard there is some good single track riding. Our plan is to camp for a couple of days, and do some riding without the trailers in the State Forest. In Naseby, we find a quiet campground at the State Forest, set up tents, and do some laundry(!) Fortunately there is a screened in enclosure for cooking and eating, as the bugs are a bit thick.

The next couple of days provides for some fun riding on the managed forest roads, which seem to be firebreaks, and also into and around a basin with interesting geology. The soil has an organish tint, and seems to be river deposits around the basin - lots of rounded stones in a matrix of finer sediments. There are many cuts eroded through the ridge of the basin, some of which are challenging downhill lines, others just a little too tight to drop into.

While riding without trailers is great, I've actually gotten a bit used to the feel of traveling with them, and riding around without going anywhere loses it's appeal for me quickly. We study the maps in search for an off the beaten path route north, on to Mt. Cook as our next major destination.

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