Day 2 was scheduled to be the “big day”: a one hour bike-taxi ride to Clyde, then off on the start of the Roxburgh Gorge Cycle Trail, comprising an initial riverside ride from Clyde to Alexandra, a 10 km ride along the true right of the river, then a 40 minute jetboat ride between Doctors Point and Shingle Creek, before the final two stages, from Shingle Creek to the Roxburgh Dam, then on to Roxburgh village for the pick-up and return to Queenstown.
So 8:00 am and Pete from Bike It Now in Clyde was at the door ready to go. Bikes on board, and Pete proved to be a very informative tour guide, with a steady supply of information and advice on local attractions and history – including a stop at the Cromwell lookout, and history lesson on the creation of Lake Dunstan and partial relocation of the town of Cromwell. Thanks Pete.
Clyde to Alexandra
A detailed briefing about the trail by Duncan of Bike It Now, followed by a late breakfast at Olivers at the Victoria Store, then off across the bridge and onto the first stage of the ride, along the river to Alexandra. This stage is relatively easy, although narrow in parts, and winding around between the trees. The shade was appreciated, on what promised to be another hot day.
With Duncan’s warnings about the need for extra water and sustenance, a quick stop at Alexandra to pick up extra supplies, the onto the Roxburgh Trail itself.
Alexandra to Doctors Creek
For the most part this section of the trail is wide and smooth with several moderate climbs along the way, and many historic rock dwellings for early miners scattered along the hillsides. The track narrows and steepens at (the aptly named) “The Narrows” as the trail works it’s way around a bluff on a spectacular section of scaffolding. The official recommendation is to dismount and walk down – a recommendation studiously ignored by Paul and Kev. The rest of us took the recomendations to heart, and enjoyed the scenery as we walked around this section.
Jetboating on the Clutha
These early signs of previous habitation were just a taster. The second section of the trail – from Doctors Point to Shingle Creek – is by jetboat, skippered by Laurence of Clutha River Cruises. Laurance clearly has a passion for the history of the area, and throughout the 45 minute ride entertained with his commentary on life and the harsh history of the region and the gold mining era, all with the backdrop of the most stunning Central Otago scenery viewed from the Clutha River, the largest river in New Zealand by volume. Certainly a different perspective from that gained from astride a bike.
The boat ride was also a good opportunity to relax, preparing for the final assault on the promised switchbacks on the final section of the Trail. It was also important to be vigilant and hold onto your hats – as Steve found out when his cap (borrowed from Kev) disappeared into the wake.
Shingle Creek to Roxburgh Dam
After being dropped off at Shingle Creek Jetty we stopped for lunch at the old hut above the jetty, then continued down the river for the final 12 km. This part of the ride soon turned into a steady climb up out of the gorge. Not surprisingly given the heat of the day (driver Pete subsequently reported temperatures had been above 30 degrees) this stage was taken slowly, with regular stops for people to catch up and take on water. Those extra water bottles carted all the way from Alex certainly proved their worth now.
Once at the top the trail winds back down towards Lake Roxburgh, with the steep rock walls of the gorge giving way to farm land – and thousands of rabbits – and the swift currents of the river entering the much quieter Lake Roxburgh. A final climb over a seemingly never-ending switchback section leads to high point offering views both backward (over the trail) and toward the Roxburgh Dam.
Roxburgh Dam to Roxburgh Village
The final stage is a compartively short 9 km, starting with a quick run over the top of the dam, then continuing on the true left of the river, winding in and out of the trees. After the challenges of the the last stage, the absence of steep climbs and open country was welcomed, with the riverside trees providing some shelter from the heat.
Not much to report on this section however, as the ride was incident free, and – being largely under the canopy of the trees, offered only glimpses of the river on one side, and various farming enterprises on the other.
Even so, Pete’s van was a welcome sight just outside the village – particularly when he reported the high temperatures of the day. His offer of a quick stop at the local supermarket for cold drinks was also welcome – a 1.25l bottle of icy water barely touched the sides.
A switch of driver back in Clyde, and Fletch took us back to Queenstown, offering more history lessons, stories about the various cycle trails, and active contributions to the daily quiz (didn’t help overall though – still only managed our daily average of 11 from 15).
A great ride, with the added bonus of a jetboat ride and several history lessons. Certainly recommmended if you are in the area. Many thanks to Pete, Duncan and Fletch of Bike It Now for their driving, briefing and history lessons.