December 30, Bryan from Waipiata Country Hotel
The Country Hotel is right on Main Street in Waipiata – populatiom 30 at a guess.
Today we had most of our climbing and about half of our downhill. We quickly started off with the Poolburn gorge. Crossing the gorge involved two significant bridges and two 200 metre tunnels. The tunnels were interesting, being unlit. We did have a turtle light along, but it was basically washed out by the light from the end. I steered for the light at the end of the tunnel, assuming the tunnel was straight, and Bethany just had to trust me!
The last half of the uphill got pretty slow – we were both getting fairly sore. Lots of “picture stops”. Many were genuine though – we toured the Hayes Engineering works (inventors of the wire stretcher), an abandoned gold mine, a couple of markers specifyung 45 degrees latitude south (or midway between the equator and south pole). Finally we reached the marker we were waiting for – 618m altitude, the top of the trail. From here it’s almost all downhill. The railway grade makes the downhill perfect. You can cruise along in top gear until you are uncomfortable and then coast along comfortably.
We stopped for lunch at the tavern in Wedderburn, the only business in town. We then cruised down to Ranfurly where we had an ice cream while touring the many buildings in an Art Deco style. We did skip the 15 km side trip into Naseby to go curling which is the home of the only indoor curling club in the southern hemisphere.
Tonight we’re staying at a cottage owned by the Waipiata Country Hotel about 4km out of town. When we got here they gave us directions to the cabin and the keys to their van. So our first experience driving in New Zealand is in a borrowed van! We drove there for a shower and back here for a delicious supper. Luckily we haven’t met any traffic yet – it’s mostly single lane road. Hopefully we rember which side of the road to pull over on if we do meet someone.
Tomorrow we finish the trail and then catch the train into Dunedin for New Years.