When choosing the overnight option for a Kepler Track Te Anau walk, the anti-clockwise route is recommended. For day-walkers, walking either way is fine. We began a 2-hour morning walk from the Lake Te Anau Lake Control Gates to Rainbow Reach, heading south (direction Manapouri).
The part of the track which runs along the Waiau River, is extremely beautiful. Fewer people walk this way so you’ll get most of the track to yourself. The area is rich with moss that springs back when touched.
The lush native bush is not the only plant life to thrive here. These mushrooms add beautiful pops of colour. Pretty to look at, but not to eat.
After half an hour, the track winds it’s way pass the powerful Wairau River. The sun throws fairy lights across its fast-flowing waters, the effects of which are very soothing.
According to Ray Willett, a legendary local we met on the way, the birdlife has trebled in the past 2 years. There is now an abundance of fantails, bellbirds, the shy little rifleman and South Island Robins. Recent photos of the rare Blue Duck (whio) sighted near the Iris Burn Hut, is great news for bird lovers!
The Wairau River was a feature in the Lord of the Rings movie as the opening aerial shot of The Fellowship of the Ring, showing the forested banks of the Anduin River. How cool to walk in the footsteps of the ‘Hobbits’ from Rainbow Ridge bridge towards Lake Manapouri!
These walks are just a tiny option on what the area offers for hiking options. Heli-Hiking walks up to Mt. Luxmore have become popular, as has floatplane flights to remoter parts of the Lake Te Anau and the Fiordland region.
Those trips open up the region which is so rich in history and pristine natural beauty. And unlike the Milford or Doubtful Sounds, you’ll get a sense of having an entire valley to yourself. How’s that for an enticing option?
Recently, we treated ourselves to a Central Otago Lodge accommodation at Olivers Lodge and Stables in Clyde. Only an hour’s drive from Queenstown, and away from the masses, we enjoyed a special level of comfort after riding the Central Otago Rail Trail.
The new owners of Olivers have totally refurbished the lodge and have added a high-end restaurant, cafe, bar and brewery plus a bakery where fresh bread is baked daily.
We chose the Stable room located in the courtyard. Spending good money on a converted stable may sound strange, but if it’s furnished in a luxurious rustic style with underfloor bathroom heating, who’s complaining? Believe me, after riding the Rail Trail all day, that super-king bed looked pretty darn good.
The stable rooms are located in the courtyard of Olivers and seemed quieter and more intimate. Our room was huge!
For a softer, plusher style, the lodge rooms are an excellent alternative to the stables and have a different type of wow factor.
We shared this beautiful big breakfast table with happy travellers all keen to get out onto the cycle trails. The camaraderie was great. This type of communal dining works only works if you’re prepared to converse with other seasoned travellers. And believe me, it has it’s rewards. Many years ago, we formed a lifetime friendship with a great couple we met here.
It’s not hard to produce home-made cereals and at a certain price level, you should expect it. Michael wolfed down homemade muesli and my gluten-free muesli was delicious. Don’t you just love it when people take a bit of trouble with presentation (yes, that fruit is all real).
Throughout our Southland journey, we were often served by French or German wait staff and their service was excellent. The Olivers restaurant was no exception.
Although the chefs seemed rather tense, this did not detract from their culinary skill. The lamb was excellent.
I think Olivers could best be summed up as a lifestyle experience in which the beautiful little historic town of Clyde should be proud. It’s a unique oasis unlike any other in New Zealand.
Most people staying in the historical town of Clyde have one thing on their minds – cycling the 4-day Central Otago Rail Trail. And most of us start Clyde and finish in Middlemarch.
For a satisfying ‘taster’ we did the one-day cycle ride from Auripo to Chatto Creek (30kms). We had the Autumn sun on our backs for the whole way. I have to say, Autumn is the ideal time to visit a lot of New Zealand regions. Central Otago is one of them – the colours are awesome.
Big thumbs up to the boys at Bike it Now in Clyde. Duncan and his team operate a fantastic bike hire service and leave nothing to chance. Pete, one of the team, drove us 50kms to Auripo. We stopped on the way to take photos. Built in 1886, this building is the oldest operating Post Office in New Zealand. And I call tell you, this region is full of heritage buildings like this.
Pete dropped us off at Auripo and arranged to collect us at Chatto Creek. With Michael leading the way, we set off at a blistering pace. The scenery of the Central Otago Rail Trail demanded constant attention and it was impossile to resist taking photos. You’ll really have to discipline yourself not to stop every 5 minutes.
March, April and May are perfect months for cycling the Central Otago Rail Trail. (Clyde can be very hot in the summer!) The bridges on the trail may be old, but they’re incredibly sturdy. Bit bumpy going over, but that’s half the fun.
There are a few tunnels to go through. Once you’re third of the way in to these tunnels, you’ll be pretty much plunged into total darkness. Cyclists on the Central Otago Rail Trail are advised to walk their bikes through the tunnels and to carry a torch. Luckily our bikes were equipped with torches. Problem solved.
At this stage of the journey, I was having an absolute blast. Even though I hadn’t biked for months, the seat was so comfy I didn’t notice. The pure oxygen gives you energy to spare. Meanwhile, try to look up once in a while. Your fellow companions can very quickly disappear over the horizon. They’re easy to find again – yet another stop to drink in the view.
These are times and places where travellers can seek out a quiet moment. The absence of people can be such a luxury. Makes you forget the advancing years.
The trails are wide and pretty easy but in a couple of parts the gradient does become steeper and slightly more challenging. Having forgotten the golden rule about hydrating, I became very thirsty. Keep hydrated folks. Take plenty of water with you. However there are a few cafe stops in sight if you get desperate. These are a great way to touch base with other like-minded cyclists.
Beautiful scones, muffins and slices are sold at the Stationside Cafe. You really have to rest stop here for a while. As I said, there is a great camaraderie with other cyclists, strongly represented by the fit 50+ generation. Here’s one of them.
Now fully revived after the cafe stop, I scoffed at the very idea of being originally offered an E-bike. These are very handy for the less fit and so easy to operate.
It’s not just scenery you see on the way. Farmers and their working dogs are out tending to their stock. This is such a great way to see the real New Zealand ‘heartland’.
Can you believe this? – a random apple tree growing on the trail. Back in the day, people would throw their apple cores out of the train as it was going through. Guess what, one took seed. Another refreshment stop. How good is my life getting!
One newly made apple core later, I was back on the bike and peddling furiously onward to Chatto Creek. This is a great place to have a sit-down lunch or simply relax with a well earned drink.
Duncan is right on time to collect us. It’s over too soon but on the upside we’ll be back for the full trail experience next year! In the short term, it’s back to Clyde for our 2-night stay at the unique Olivers Lodge, a destination in itself. More on that later.