Poolburn Gorge – Otago Central Rail Trail
This ride from Oturehua to Lauder includes Poolburn Gorge, the most popular section of the Otago Central Rail Trail because of its spectacular historic bridges and tunnels.
Distance: 23 km
Ride time: 2–4 hours
Oturehua is a little village worth exploring for an hour or three before your ride (see Don’t miss below). From the village the trail heads southwest along the broad Ida Valley. Every few kilometres you will pass a gangers shed, or an historic station with are information panels.
After 12 km, about halfway into the ride, you’ll reach Auripo Station. You can start from here if you wish to shorten the ride. From Auripo you’ll leave the Ida Valley behind and enter the Poolburn Gorge. This section is an engineering feat that took three years to build and was completed in 1904. The outstanding features are the 108 metre long Poolburn Viaduct, soon followed by two tunnels, both over 200 metres long and cut through schist rock. After leaving the gorge you have yet to cross a 110 metre long curved bridge over the Manuherikia River.
Two kilometres later you’ll reach Lauder. NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) has a station here because and because of the clear, unpolluted skies it is one of the most important places in the world for atmospheric research.
At Oturehua you’ll find a fascinating window into the past – T. Gilchrist & Sons – the oldest continually running store in New Zealand. And not far from town is Hayes Engineering museum (open 8am to 5pm daily), the ultimate temple for lovers of sheds and all the potential creativity they represent.
Cafes: At Oteruhua there is the Ida Valley Kitchen, phone 03 444 5030.
At Lauder try the Stationside Café for highly rated homebaked cooking, or the Lauder Hotel for traditional pub fare.
Bike Hire: You can pick up bikes from Shebikeshebikes in Omakau, phone 03 447 3271, or visit www.shebikeshebikes.co.nz.
If you enjoyed that, you can continue riding as much of the Otago Central Rail Trail as you like. There are enough services along the way to make this 150 km trail a week-long series of short easy rides.