Riding the Rail Trails around Queenstown New Zealand travel blog

Start of the Roxburgh Gorge track

One of the many switchbacks we encountered

Looking down thr gorge

Looking up the gorge

Loading the bikes on the jet boat

Happy jet boat passengers

Mrs Herron's Cottage

A miners cave

A few rounds of 500 meant that we went to bed later than planned, and then it seemed to take a while for our two teenagers to settle down; it was like they were having a sleepover.

The day dawned cloudy but fine, which was a relief after yesterday's rain. The ride today was in multiple parts; to the end of the Clutha Gold trail at Roxburgh dam, then the first part of the Roxburgh Gorge ride, a jet boat connection between Shingle Bay and Doctors Point and finally the ride into Alexandra.

We were on the road by 9am as planned and it was a perfect riding day. We had all dressed in raincoats in anticipation of a wet and muddy track as we now knew from experience that they could be hosed down at the end of the day. To our relief, the track was in perfect working order, and had drained well after the rains the day before.

We made good time along the river, with the hills visible in the distance despite some low hanging cloud. Before long we sighted the imposing structure of Roxburgh dam, apparently close to being decommissioned but with the hope that ongoing repairs may see it live a little longer.

We cycled across the dam and found the trail to the start of the Roxburgh gorge track. It was steep, and even Lance had to get off and walk, though he claimed this was due to the weight of his panniers lifting the front of the bike.

Some returning runners told us that the trail was great, and even better for riding than running. They assured us that the way was not too steep and with that encouragement, we set off.

As we rounded the bend the views of the gorge were magnificent. We looked back towards the dam where we had stood just a short time before, and the forward down the most scenic gorge. We made our way down the switchbacks, with Simon and I stopping for photos whilst the kids raced on ahead. The boat pickup was scheduled for 12.15, allowing plenty of time to enjoy the views. However, by 10.50, Simon was letting me know that we had only travelled 3 kms in 30 minutes due to all my photo stops. A not so subtle hint to get a move on.

It was not a track to hurry along, with amazing views at every turn, and precipitous cliff drops requiring care when cycling.

We knew that there was one big hill, and it was a good one. The kids were waiting for us at the top, and we were soon rolling down the other side. It was great riding. We made the jetty with 40 minutes to spare, enough time for a cup of tea and a snack before the Lawrence arrived with the jetboat some 10 minutes ahead of schedule. The bikes were quickly loaded and the gear stashed and we were off at speed.

We saw Mrs Herron's cottage, where she and her husband set up a pub and hotel during the 1880s gold rush because she thought it would be the next big town. Instead they struck it rich mining for gold in the nearby creek and built the Commercial Hotel in Roxburgh which is still going today. Lawrence stopped frequently to tell us about the gold mining history of the area and show us the overhangs where miners had used flat rocks to build up the front to provide shelter from the elements as they searched for the elusive gold. It was a fascinating insight into what would have been an extraordinarily hard life.

All too soon we were at Doctors Point and disembarking for the ride into Alexandra. This end of the gorge seemed a little less wild, as we were not perched so high above it. This changed as we reached a point where signs instructed us to dismount and walk the bikes, and we pushed them up a narrow path partly built out from the cliff. An amazing structure for a cycle path.

The rest of the ride was fairly easy and before long we were coasting into town and to the Jottage, our accommodation for the next three nights. Shirley and Ken, the owners were very friendly and we were able to use their much bigger washing machine to give our cycling clothes the wash they needed after the mud yesterday.

After showers we cycled just over 1km to the new world supermarket and stocked up on supplies for the next few days, including some NZ ice cream, a welcome change from custard!

Over our homemade red Thai chicken curry, Jonno announced that he had worked out that he now needed to complete two maths problems a night, meaning a couple of hours of maths a night, delaying our 500 rematch. Gotta love a kid who takes his maths homework on holidays.

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