In my last post the story ended with Francelle and I arriving at Cowboys Paradise – a scene right out of a Western movie, except instead of dust’n’dirt there is lush green bush and horses take the form of bikes! We pulled up, got off our ‘saddles’ and entered the saloon where we were greeted by a young student wearing jeans and a t-sheet with a German accent (yep – a real western mixture here). “You must be Peter, we were wondering where you got to.” Apparently we were the last in for the day. “Let me show you your accommodation.”
So what kind of accommodation would you expect in the wild west of the South Island? How about a shipping container converted into a hotel room with on-suite? Yep – it’s called kiwi innovation. But just look at the view we had! We sat down on the deck and talked about our day. As the sun lowered over the hills it sent long shadows creeping into the valley. Following a hot shower we headed into the ‘saloon’ for dinner. Francelle made a B-line to the heater in the middle of the room while I got to know some of the other travellers. I met Grahame, who was most talkative and eager to meet new friends. He lost his wife to cancer a little over a year ago. His son encouraged him to head down to the South Island to try out some of the bike trails. His first one was the Otago Rail Trail. “Then I got the bug,” he said. We guessed what that might be and wondered if we might catch it (after the trip we learned we had). “I’m not that fast,” he said (Grahame is 78), “but I get to see a lot of places and I like meeting different people.” It sure beats sitting at home missing your wife and feeling miserable, I thought.
“Dinner is being served,” Francelle said, “And I’m ravenous.” Looking at the line of people, it appeared she wasn’t the only one. I peered around the line to see what was being served – roast chicken and lamb, potatoes, kumera and fresh beans. I looked at the stack of plates. “Heck, these are huge!” I said. “I think there’s a good reason for that,” Francelle replied. Sure enough, the plates were getting piled high, even by some of the kids. At our table we met some other people – a builder and his wife from Nelson and a family of five from Australia. I was curious about this. “Where did you get your bikes?” I asked. “Surely you didn’t bring your own all the way over?” It turned out they did. And it wasn’t the first time. “But aren’t there good trails in Australia?” There are, but they just love what’s available in New Zealand. So they make the effort to get here. I was impressed.
Francelle started yawning. That was her hint she was about to head off for bed. I don’t know what it is about watching someone yawn that makes me feel tired, but it happens all the time! We both crawled into our nice cosy bed and it didn’t take long before we were both fast asleep.
The next morning we were woken by a Weka scratching at our door. “Pesky things,” remarked Francelle. I pulled back the curtain and looked out the door to see mist floating above the valley. “Looks like another great day on the way.” I made a good strong cup of coffee for us both and sat outside and read Psalm 65 which speaks about God’s care for all the earth:
9 You visit the earth and water it abundantly,
enriching it greatly.
God’s stream is filled with water,
for You prepare the earth in this way,
providing people with grain.
10 You soften it with showers and bless its growth,
soaking its furrows and leveling its ridges.
11 You crown the year with Your goodness;
Your ways overflow with plenty.
12 The wilderness pastures overflow,
and the hills are robed with joy.
13 The pastures are clothed with flocks
and the valleys covered with grain.
They shout in triumph; indeed, they sing. (Psalm 65:9-13)
God speaking, God showing, God sustaining the earth he created right before my very eyes. This is another reason I love experiencing the outdoors – away from traffic, away from buildings, away from phones and computers and everything else that makes us deaf to the wonderful creation around us.
It was time to gear up and ready ourselves for the day. I paid the ‘cowboy’ our tab, we mounted our ‘steeds’ and were away. The ride down to the riverbed was stunning. The path weaved gently back and forth along the hillside, giving us magnificent panoramic views up and down the valley. We stopped from time to time so we could enjoy it. As we rode the sun came up over the hills and began warming things up again. By the time we got to the river we were down to short-sleves. We looked down over the side of the bridge – the water was crystal clear. Good enough to drink out of, I thought. There was very few evidences of pollution here.
If you’re thinking about doing this trail, the downhill run from Cowboy’s to Hokitika is a blast (and definitely worth the uphill climb the day before). We loved the stretch between Lake Kaniere and Hokitika, where the trail follows an old mining sluice canal which weaves back and forth in thick bush. If you speed through this (as we did) just make sure you mind the trees – they come at you very fast!
I’ll leave with a short video I captured on my phone while speeding down one of the metal roads on this leg. It’s pretty rough but it gives you an idea of the kind of scenery we enjoyed (might be time I invested in a GoPro):
 An addictive illness one develops while on a bike trail, usually in remote areas. There is no known cure.