Oamaru, NZ to Duntroon, NZ

34.6 mi / 8.2 mph / 1822 ft. climbing
Home: Duntroon Domain

We got a McDonald’s breakfast, since this would likely be the last McDonald’s until Christchurch. Well, and because we really like McDonald’s. Unfortunately, no, it wasn’t inside a whitestone Victorian building.

We couldn’t resist one more pass down Harbour Street, this time on our bikes (also, it was right on the route anyway!)
The bakery was open early in the morning, so Rett stopped in for some second-breakfast provisions. Meanwhile, a guy with a wooden pushcart labeled “Rubbish Collection” was pushing his cart and collecting rubbish in it. Seriously! I had to look all around me to make sure the song-and-dance scene from “The Royal Treatment” wasn’t about to break out too.

We had continued up the coast to Oamaru partly to see Oamaru, but also because it is the start (well, really the end) of the Alps2Ocean “Great Ride”. It’s a multi-day mostly-off-road bike route that would return us to the mountainous spine of the South Island. Ideally we would have spent another day enjoying Oamaru, but the wind was much more tolerable today than it would be tomorrow, so off we went.

The official start/end of the Alps2Ocean was on the pier right next to our campground, and then it ran through the city gardens, which we had not seen yesterday. Every central-city park/gardens that we’ve visited in New Zealand has been amazing, and this weaving linear park was no exception, particularly the Chinese section where we entered.

While the riverside garden path delayed our climb out of the city (which again seems protected by steep hills on all sides), it did not eliminate it, and once we reached the top of that first climb Rett immediately had to strip down out of her culottes and into shorts for the rest of the day.

The trail started with some dumb “let’s put these people on crappy gravel right next to an empty paved road” stuff, alternating with “oh, you say you don’t like being next to the road? Ok, we’ll send you on a big out-of-the-way-loop for no reason”. Argh. So we spent some time swapping between trail and road and guessing at which would save us the most effort.

A section where staying on the road was the correct guess, as we eventually met the trail down there to the left, but could fly much faster on the paved downhill.

Eventually though we cut off through areas far from any roads. The trail in this area crossed private farmland, and interestingly, it didn’t just hug property lines, but took a curving, zig-zagging route right through the heart of these farms. On the one hand all the curves made it a bit slow, but on the other, it was a unique way to see what the interior of these vast landholdings are like, an opportunity we wouldn’t have gotten any other way.

Rett riding along a creek on somebody’s farm.
Generally there were fences lining the trail through these private lands (probably more to keep livestock off the trail than to keep us on it), but not always.
Several times the trail took us right under active irrigators (if you look closely you can see the water spraying just above and to the right of Rett’s head)! It was a bracing and refreshing thrill, like riding through a sprinkler. Proof that “you can run your trail through here, but I’m still gonna run my farm”. Fair deal!
Back on a bit of pavement above those irrigated farmlands.

At some point the route hit an actual “rail trail”, where it became straighter and smoothly-graded like the rail line that had once cut through here.

The way the trail cuts through these hills tells that we have some rail workers from 150 years ago to thank for making our lives easier.
Yeah, now there is no doubt that we owe a debt to those rail workers!
The tunnel wasn’t super-long, but it was definitely helpful to have our lights on when riding through it.
Immediately after the tunnel we faced a 300-foot 8% climb (on not-the-greatest gravel), so clearly that was the end of the “rail trail” section of the route!
Cattle filling the hillside looked more like a flock of birds.
“Yeah, I’m standing up on this 1000-foot ridge. What of it? So are you!”
Even though we were going the “wrong way” (Ocean2Alps), the signage was still good in our direction. A group of no-load e-mountain-bike riders asked me to take their photo here, because this was their first view of the ocean. Funny how we didn’t care about the ocean at all, since we had been sleeping right next to it just 5 hours ago. But those Alps ahead of us…
Yeah, those Alps. Here we’re on an open-to-vehicles gravel road (not that there were any vehicles), so the route uses any means necessary to stitch itself together.
The view from our lunch spot, right on the trail, in the (rare) shade of pine trees behind us just like those on the rock table hundreds of feet above us.
Sometimes the trail not only puts us on a better route than the road, it makes it clear that it’s doing so.
A black-and-white castle rock, almost like nature was trying to replicate the much-photographed black-and-white buildings in Dunedin.
Here the trail narrowed and sucked right into the shadows of these bluffs.
Golden grain, black cows, brown mountains.

The photos (and my memories) make it look like an incredible ride, and I think when Rett sees this post she’ll agree, but on the day in the moment it was draining. Fighting through rough surfaces, up steep grades, with little shade for miles and miles was a shit-ton of work, especially after a similarly-tough ride two days ago. There were a decent number of e-bike/tour-group riders on the trail, and a couple times they asked how it was going, and on a normal-tough day, Rett would have regaled them with the myriad of challenges we’ve faced. But today, she was essentially not responding at all. Uh oh, this better be the last hill!

Yes, this was the far side of the last (big) hill of the day.
#FindRett high above the Maerewhanua valley.
“Hey dummy, we see you’re still going up!”
Ok, now back down again for real.
A form we haven’t yet seen on the route (or nearly anywhere!): a set of 6 or 8 super-tight switchbacks (even I could only half-ride down them) that allowed us to essentially drop down a cliff-face to a hidden-valley floor. Thanks A2O people for including this!

The town of Duntroon (the first bit of civilization since leaving Oamaru 35 miles back) doesn’t have a grocery store, or at least I think it doesn’t, but I can’t really say because the trail essentially led us to the campground at Duntroon Domain. “Domains” in New Zealand-ese, seem to be big public parks, and some allow camping. So it’s kind of halfway between a primitive DOC campsite, and a private “holiday park”, though with a full kitchen, lounge, and showers, this one was the best of both worlds: holiday park amenities, and a NZ$20 DOC-campsite price. Yes, the amenities were charmingly dated (we spent the evening in plush pink armchairs, and the showers were weirdly off of the lounge, while the toilets were in a whole separate building, but c’mon, it had showers and a lounge!

Camping at Duntroon Domain. Everyone is set up around the edges, while earlier in the evening there was a youth-group cricket match (or practice?) happening in the center.
Our spot under the nice trees, not that we even really needed the shade as the afternoon cool came on.


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