The driver, ten bikes, an assortment of vintage athletes, a ring-in and we’re off on our first NZ ride.. The Little River Rail Trail… A taster. The concept of a trailer load of mountain bikes, a list of matching persons and a designated rail trail was all very novel to me so I was prematurely enthusiastic.
Initially the track took us through farmland and grazing areas. It was open country and mercifully flat. Not long into the ride we came across a section where new gravel had been added and in parts it was quite deep. I decided to follow one of the other cyclists and head for the grassy verge. Well! That terminated in a terrifying tumble. How not to impress your new cycling companions! Fortunately the grass was lush and my injuries minor. We continued.
I say fortunately, but we were in for quite a ride. Once out on the open plain, cruising beside a fabulous waterway, Lake Ellesmere, crowded with thousands of birds, the headwind struck. We were buffeted for kilometers. The hardy crew soldied on and even stopped to climb a rock. I stood, shattered, feigning lack of interest.
The last few kilometers and we were on the leewood side of the mountain and pedaled happily towards our destination. We lunched in the delightful garden of the Little River Cafe and Store. It was quirky and the food was fabulous. We completed the day with an impressive scenic drive to Akaroa, a beautiful village with a French colonial history.
The following day we joined the throngs taking the TransAlpine scenic train from Christchurch to Greymouth, a journey of 223km and five hours.
It’s an interesting experience traveling with a group of intelligent, confident and knowledgeable adults basically used to doing their own thing. It can sometimes become confusing. We eventually found our accommodation and settled in.
Initially we all met in one of the rooms for pre-dinner drinks but soon the brewery beckoned. We ate and drank our fill.