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Previous Day: Day 25 – Invercargill to Alexandra

Day 26 – Alexandra

Otago Rail Trail

Until recently, Alex was a nice little town, but really not much else. Then the Otago Rail Trail opened up. This is an old railway track, that stopped running in the 1980’s. In 2000 it was opened as a bicycle track.

The Otago Rail trail runs from Clyde, through Alexandra, up to Wedderburn at its highest point then down to Middlemarch. As an old rail track, the gradients are easy. There are a number of companies where you can rent bikes, and who will organize everything if you want them to from dropping you and your bike off wherever you want, to arranging accommodation.

Here are three to get you going:

Originally we were going to get Trail Journeys to drop us off at Wedderburn then take a slow two days to cycle downhill to Clyde. Second plan was that Art would drop me off at the top, and I would cycle down, with him meeting me at every place it crossed the road. But as it was so bloody hot, I decided I didn’t want to do it either!


Clyde is a small town between Alexandra & Cromwell. Until the Otago Rail Trail opened, its main claim to fame was the Dunstan Dam, opened in the early 1980's, and the reason for Lake Dunstan. There was quite a controversy when it opened, as it caused quite a bit of Cromwell to be flooded.Art's old boss used to live in Cromwell, and his house is now under water.


after the dam was built, it was found the area was prone to earthquakes, it didn't do much for house prices in Clyde

Clutha River Cruises

So our next option was to take a trip on the Clutha River with Clutha River Cruises

We’d seen this cruise when we were watching the television series ‘South’, with Marcus Lush. He was so enthusiastic about it, and after doing the cruise we can see why.

Steve, our host, is an Australian who is passionate about gold mining, and in particular the old mines and remnants of the mining community down the Clutha River.

He visited over 20 years ago, and has been living here for the last 16. The boat he takes you on is one of the most comfortable and suitable ones I’ve ever been on.

On a fine sunny day it’s just a pleasure to sit on the river and see the scenery go by. The banks are both dry, but the left-hand side (on the way out of Alex) is exceptionally so. It’s not until Steve starts pointing out small piles of what looks like dry stone walls that you realise that – hidden under rocks and in crevices – there are old dwellings. And there are not just one or two, but many. And, due to the effort of people like Steve, more are being found every year.

Steve points out the miner’s huts, the ‘pub’, general store, and the old water races. He shows you the local geology, and tells you of the effects on the various earthquakes and landslips on the riverand surrounding hills. When you get to the main minesite, he stops the boat and you get out and do a short walk through the old mine workings. He even shows you the hut where Marcus Lush spent the night! (Art decided to stay on the river bank in the shade at this point)

He also has some stories to tell along the way, about the people – both in the distant and not so distant past – who have lived here.

Steve is very knowledgeable, and most of the information is in his head. Someone really ought to sit him down with a tape recorder and get him to put it all down somewhere. He has a great dog too, matches, as she reminded me so much of Bindi, the dog on Waynes farm 15 years ago, who Tom (no 2 son) befriended. They are both Red Cattle Dogs, although I think Steves beautiful little bitch is a better pedigree!

Dunstan lake and Dam

Next day: Day 27 – Alexandra to Haast

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terris_travelogue/south_island/day_26.txt · Last modified: 2010/11/10 20:04 by art
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