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April 7th 2010
Published: April 8th 2010
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"For these were the men who led the way
To the quiet valleys we know
The hero band of this rugged land
The diggers of long ago.”

A roadside tribute to the gold diggers of the 1860s, many of whom found their way to the Otago goldfields via what is now known as The Old Dunstan Rd from Dunedin.The route is 170 kilometres long, some of it sealed, but the majority gravel or 4WD track.

Tough as Old Boots

Spare a moment for those miners. I did on a 300 metre climb not far from the Lammermoor Range and even closer to something called the Great Moss Swamp.
I had the advantage of a modern 27 speed bike, clothing that could keep me warm even when it was wet, a feather down sleeping bag and a lightweight tent. The lack of such items never stopped those men though - driven as they were by the desire for gold.

Thanks, but No Thanks

I heard a vehicle behind me and a moment later two farming types in a ute pulled up alongside
Weird BehaviourWeird BehaviourWeird Behaviour

Maybe it was that wide, open landscape or the strange rock formations.
me. When one asked me how far I was going, I told him I was making for Paerau where there was a reserve where I could camp.
‘It’s a long way from here,“ he said and offered me and the Beast a lift part of the way. “You don’t want to be stuck up the top at night, it gets pretty cold.“
In a moment of stubborness I refused the offer but thanked them both. As I did so, I knew I was never going to make Paerau, it was going to be dark in less than a couple of hours, I was still at least 30k away and making painfully slow progress uphill.

Perfectly Cool Campsite

I found a place to camp by a creek at 900 metres altitude. No sooner had I got the billy boiling than the steam was turning to ice on the inside of the tent fly. At 7.30 I crawled into that down sleeping bag. Wearing three layers of clothing, I spent the night just barely warm enough but woke to a stunningly beautiful, frosty morning. So much for all the modern high-tech gear, those old miners
Heavy FrostHeavy FrostHeavy Frost

The previous night, steam from my billy was icing up the inside of the tent fly.
must have been a tough breed, alright.

Downhill Slide

The ride to Paerau was magic. I climbed for another 100 metres or so, before a rough but delicious descent - twisting and snaking my way down the gravel track. I was greeted by a sign warning of private property, but I found a way along the edge of the Taieri River to an historic building described as a jail. However, one account I‘ve read said it wasn‘t used to lockup prisoners but to lockup gold - keeping it safe for travellers at night.
In their book “Classic New Zealand Mountain Bike Rides”, the Kennett Brothers take cyclists cross country here, but at the turnoff I found a locked gate and little sign of a track. I decided to stick to the road, even though it was a bit longer.

Shall I Go or Shall I Stay?

The scenery remained stunning - big, wide open landscapes. At Poolburn Reservoir I was tempted to camp, but it was school holidays and there were signs of life at the few baches, so I pushed on for the last 45k to reach Alexandra as darkness arrived.

Two days later, I’m here in Queenstown and the ride is finally over. The Beast will get its first wash in weeks, I’ll order a new bracket for the handlebar bag (the second one broke on the Dunstan Trail) and enjoy some red wine. Easy stuff, and much easier than digging for gold.

Additional photos below
Photos: 17, Displayed: 17


My Campsite Was At  900m AltitudeMy Campsite Was At  900m Altitude
My Campsite Was At 900m Altitude

But it was early April. Surely we could have a bit more summer?

There were plenty of signs warning car drivers the "road" was unsuitable for them. In fact, it's closed to everyone over winter.
The Jail At PaerauThe Jail At Paerau
The Jail At Paerau

Was it to lockup prisoners, or keep miners' gold safe as they travelled from the goldfields?
Central Otago Rail TrailCentral Otago Rail Trail
Central Otago Rail Trail

I joined the rail trail at Alexandra and did 8k to Clyde. There I found a coffee shop and a 72 year old cyclist to chat with.
Roaring Meg Roaring Meg
Roaring Meg

I've always liked the name for this little river (on right of picture) that flows into the Kawarau. A sign from where this picture was taken offers a couple of explanations. One of them is that the river was named after Maggie Brennan,"a turbulent and voluble red-haired barmaid from the nearby Kirtleburn Hotel." These days Roaring Meg powers a small hydro electric station upstream.

8th April 2010

great moss swamp
I know that area well Mike - I used to shoot duck regularly on the Great Moss Swamp. It is indeed beautiful country...and that landscape was to have been covered with wind turbines. A couple of years ago when I was down there curling the temperature dropped to minus 19 Ophir. You were lucky you only got frosted way up there. Good to see you knocked the bugger off though. Cheers
8th April 2010

Great blog dad, love this one and all the pics - stunning scenery! x
8th April 2010

Well done
Fantastic, Mike...Congratulations on an amazing journey and diverse experiences. Have loved the blogs...'you done good!' Hope you and Judy have wonderful weather and more fun!xx
8th April 2010

I don't want you to finish Mike. I want you to continue cycling and blogging all the way back to Auckland. Surely there are roads to be ridden and views to be photographed and posted along with your whimsical commentaries. Oh alright then, come on home. See you in Auckland. (I've loved every golden mile and word.)
8th April 2010

Thanks Chris!
For your kind words. Yes, there are lots of byways still to be cycled, but there's also an income to be earned. I've loved every moment (well, almost every moment) of the past few months, and I've been delighted to find others who've enjoyed coming along for the ride. See you back in Auckland before too long. Regards, Mike
8th April 2010

Thanks Lesley!
And I certainly don't include Ford vans in my criticism of camper vans/motor homes (what is the difference anyway?). A lot of these people need to get off their backsides and join the world - what are they afraid of? There they go: averted eyes, windows tightly sealed, photo stops without getting out, bikes hanging off the back that never get ridden - oh dear, i must stop before my prejudices run away with me. After all that, glad you've enjoyed the blogs - it's been fun doing them.
8th April 2010

Thanks Merran!
Looking forward to that catch up.
8th April 2010

The Great White Hunter!
Hi Gordon, I thought this might be the area planned for wind turbines. Don't call me a greenie, but I must say I'm glad it's being left the way it is - it has a mood all of its own up there. I can imagine the shooting was enjoyable - much more appropriate use for the land. As for the weather, here's a wimpy Aucklander that can't even comprehend what it must be like in the depths of winter. Cheers, Mike

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