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6 Summer 2023
We gathered in Alexandra in Autumn, four of us and a dog. It’s a great season for biking in Central Otago, not too hot, and the weather is usually settled.

You have to be here…

Miriam Richardson

We gathered in Alexandra in Autumn, four of us and a dog.

It’s a great season for biking in Central Otago, not too hot, and the weather is usually settled. We headed to Clyde to test out our gear and our selves, to buy a passport and take some starting-out photos.Three of us had electric bikes, one was muscle-powered.

Mocha in his Buddy Rider

We all had motorhomes or vans, and our route was planned so that we rode to a mid point then back, moved to the next park up, returned to the mid point then home to our vans again. Effectively we were riding the trail in both directions at once. We were not very fit, so the daily rides had to be under 25km, a planning challenge ably met by our intrepid leader Sue. Mocha, Sue’s companion, travelled in his “buddy rider.”

152 km to cover; twice. We were in no rush: we took a leisurely 11 days. The track surface was mostly good, with some uncomfortable, poorly-repaired places, and though it was never steep, it felt like it at times. Electric bikes are very good for not overworking muscles, but sitting on a bike seat requires its own kind of fitness training; even with our relatively short daily rides the sitting was a challenge.

We woke to a flock of sheep and a closed gate at the free camping spot by the river in Omakau (photo, right), just over the bridge from the town. The overnight fee at Haye’s Engineering, Oturehua gave us entrance to their intriguing exhibits. Eight days in, we were at Waipiata, one of my favourite spots: a lovely domain with free camping (donations welcome), a pub, with superb pies (one now and two for later) a historic village to wander through, and various rail sculptures and memorabilia especially for rail-trailers.

It was here we realised how well we had jelled as a group. Three of us ready to go, standing with our bikes, while our 4th was still making her morning cuppa. She looked out her window, oops — the time is now! We were happy while we waited. Enjoying the morning. No hurry. No sideways looks. Four relative strangers enjoying our journey.

1943 Hyde memorial

It was quintessential NZ to meet a school friend at the Hyde railway accident memorial on our lunch stop. She is now a Wellingtonian and school was over 50 years ago. Middle of nowhere, “fancy meeting you here …” That’s NZ.

The sky, the clouds, the hills, the vista changed as we travelled, but always vast and uplifting.

We struggled sometimes, we had some glitches with our electric bikes. Our muscle-powered companion kept pace, right until the very last stretch, when the threat of rain had her disappear into the distance leaving us way, way behind.

I really lovely ride, well worth the effort.

Sue and Mocha at the finish gate.

Our overnight parks

Alexandra; Chatto Creek at the tavern; Omakau, a free camp by the river (above); Oturehua at Hayes Engineering; Ranfurly NZMCA park; Waipiata in their beautiful domain; Tiroiti a free camp (below), and finally Middlemarch at the campground.

Viewed from the trail, the Tiroiti free camp, above, is a stretch of firm parking alongside a quiet side-road.


You have to be here; you have to feel the deep slow surge of the hills, the cloak of before, the wrench of beyond.

From ‘Van Morrison in Central Otago’ by Brian Turner


Click on the gallery for a full size view

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