Thursday, 28 February 2013
On the Taieri Gorge Railway
Into Central Otago
From Dunedin I planned to take the train on the old Central Otago line up the Taieri Gorge Railway. This is a tourist train, that goes up and back again, but I'd heard that you could take your bike one way and then cycle through the old gold country. The train didn't leave til the afternoon, so I spent the morning in town and the 'Settler's Museum'.
When I arrived at the station, a bit early, I was surprised to find the train was just coming in. The staff told me that it had already been up the gorge that morning with passengers off a cruise ship. She suggested that I could take the train, for free, down to the docks and back instead of waiting on the station. Great. I did this and was amused to chat to the passengers who had been treated to a massive banquet, including champagne. Their was plenty left so I tucked in, enjoying the ride at the same time.
The journey up the gorge was spectacular and all those on board were amiable and chatty. The train consisted of restored coaches, but the engines were a pair of relatively modern diesels. At the head of the gorge, where the valley opened out onto a plain the train terminated. This was truly the middle of nowhere, with a dust road connecting to the main road several miles away. It wasn't even a village, just a single hut in the wilderness. This was Pukerangi!
On the train I'd met two cyclists, Rick and Jim, from Newcastle, and we rode the twelve miles of so to the nearest village. Here we found an overgrown camp-site. No-one else was here, in fact a small girl told us the price and her Mum would be along later. There was also a dead sheep in the field. very smelly. But at least the toilets and showers were clean.