11.20pm the old post office backpackers, Ranfurly
I’m sat near a glowing log burner with a cup of tea, sampling Whittaker’s
dark orange chocolate and feeling warm and dry. Bliss!
Feeling dry is quite a contrast to most of today when I’ve been soggy and wet! Wet but happy to be on Rex again as we continue our south island adventure.
Looking out of my Griffindor common room window this morning at the driving rain I quickly dismissed the fleeting notion of postponing my journey yet another day. I was itching to get on even if it meant a drenching. I certainly did get a drenching getting to the station. It was raining so heavily there were torrents of rainwater cascading down all the steep streets of Dunedin. I was allocated a seat in the buffet carriage Q where I was the only passenger but this was where all the staff were based so it was great to meet Tony, Allan, and Cathy who were regulars on the train crew plus two girls who were working for the summer season. One was the Easter bunny!They all made me feel at home and I got to hear all the internal radio messages, shared some banter and learnt the gossip!
Tony was the most relaxed and easy to listen to announcer ever as he narrated the journey at regular intervals throughout pointing out the amazing natural features, informing about the history of the railway commentating on the area in a chirpy knowledgeable tome. In between we chatted about England and he loved all the restorations of “classic” British engineering be that trains, cars, radios, kitchen appliances and he was a subscribing member to a UK based restoration magazine. He’d traced his ancestry back to partly Devon , some Irish and a spell in Aussie before his kin arrived in NZ. He loved his job and had been working for the trust since it was set up in 1991 (the public railway closed in 1990).
I was allowed to enter the Easter Bunny drawing competition as the only adult. I didn’t win the overall prize (an 8 year olds was better) but I was more than happy to receive my certificate and adult category Easter eggs.
An Aussie couple who come to NZ regularly gave me a “rail trail” passport to get a stamp at each station. We nearly didn’t get to Middlemarch. The rain had swollen the streams and the Taieri river and excessive run off had caused a few landslips. A gang of workers had gone ahead to check and clear the line so we had to wait until they had removed mud and debris before proceeding gingerly on. The gorge was amazing, more so with it being in flood. The dark brown river was breaking its banks, waterfalls had sprung up and travelling over the viaducts and bridges was even more exciting.
We arrived about half an hour later than usual and disembarked at Middlemarch, the end of the line. Allan thought I may make it to Hyde about 30km away but I was thinking more like the 60km to Ranfurly. Most people headed for the only cafe open in town which then became heaving, so after a lamb and mint burger from the BBQ at the station (which was raising money for a new play centre) I hit the Otago Rail Trail forgetting to get my Middlemarch station stamp in my enthusiasm!
At least the rain had eased to a shower or two, there was rainbow which must have meant the sun had poked out its face somewhere. The trail is easy going with nothing steeper than one in 50 gradient, it is well signposted and has lots of info boards. I enjoyed collecting the stamps in the passport. Great concept and well done to all those non doubters who made it happen.
I got to Hyde after couple of hours and went into the Hyde hotel/cafe. Only one other customer and at least 6 staff! I spoke to the manager guy who said he’d taken on extra staff because of the anticipated Easter rush but no one had turned up because of the shite weather. I’d only seen about 5 cyclists in total on the route. He offered me a couple of pies which were going to get thrown out which I gratefully accepted.
Ploughed on in the drizzle and saw how high the river was getting where it had flooded the fields and road below, fortunately the railway was built higher up! I arrived in Ranfurly about 5.30, wet, coated in gritty mud, poor Rex was crunchy around his gears too.
Found this really nice backpackers , the old post office (its brill how former buildings, and rail trails, can be recycled…pardon the pun) and met Bill who was very considerate and sorted out a hose down for Rex and a drier for my wet clothes by this heavenly fire. I looked to be the only guest but Chak and Aaron turned up a little later. They are both doctors from England (Chak was born in Sri Lanka but moved when he was 3) and are working in Invercargill hospital. Apparently not many kiwi doctors want to work in Invercargill so half the doctors there are British. We all went to the pub together and bought a round each while watching the Hurricanes beat the Blues in what was a really good atmosphere at the hotel with loads of people eating and enjoying themselves.
I’d done something stupid and not slowed down at a crossing point. The impact on a big hole broke my rear pannier’s securing toggle in Rex’s wheel so I had to do some make shift replacement using bungy cord. I apologised profusely to Rex as I know today had been particularly tough for him.
Bill has suggested Margys backpackers in Alexandra tomorrow
According to a local we met at the pub the Cromwell area is the record holder in NZ for the following
Being furthest away from the sea
Having the lowest rainfall (until last couple days that is!)