It is the last day of the cycle ride and I find it difficult to roll out from under the warmth of the duvet. There is a chill in the early morning air as we are collected and driven back to the Hyde Cafe for a delightful cooked breakfast.
As our ride weaves it way back to the Hyde township I capture the homestead looking beautiful in the morning light. The cycle will be short today so we relax and enjoy the smell of freshly roasted coffee, sizzling bacon in the pan and the friendly murmur of other cyclists preparing for the day.
The gravel road leads us out of town passing derelict train carriages rusting from neglect. The crumbling wood and metal turns into a playground for us. We stop to explore, climbing in and around the skeleton carriages like energetic children on a climbing frame.
Back in our saddles we pedal through overgrown fields pausing at the Hyde Memorial to learn about the Rail disaster where 21 people died. In 1943 the Cromwell to Dunedin passenger train derailed on a curve some three kilometres south of Hyde station.
The mountains painted in the foreground envelop the land like a green velvet coat. The land is rugged and wild as we cycle through the abandoned space where the crisp leathery grass sweeps the air and fat fleecy sheep ignore our presence as they greedily devour grass.
Jagged outcrops of Schist rock begin to appear like lumps of play dough left to harden. Empty and alone, the derelict huts stand forgetting that they are in the fine company of the majestic Otago mountains.
With a determination to reach the end. Our bicycles hobble over the hundreds of tiny rocks as our legs push onwards only slowing to avoid lazy sheep resting on the trail.
A clash of drizzling rain and grey clouds releasing golden shafts of sun highlight our arrival. We proudly pedal into the wide open streets of Middlemarch.
To celebrate the end of the Otago Rail trail we cycle down the main road to the local dairy ( corner store ) for a delicious Deep South ice-cream. We hear the purring of engines and see that we are not the only strangers in town as a small succession of classic cars cruise into town looking suited and booted – gleaming for admiration from others and easily getting it.
We hand our muddy, dust-covered bicycles in at the bike shop and join the proud classic car owners at the local eatery for a spot of lunch. Sadly, our cycle journey has ended, but our day is not over yet!
We have one last big journey to undertake which will take us all the way to the historic city of Dunedin. The final leg of the trip is to take a ride on a train – the powerful machine that use to travel along the Otago rail trail all those years ago.
When the time came we were driven to the tiny station of Pukerangi to catch the train. This train would take us through the famous Taieri Gorge on a railway line that was carved by hand over 100 years ago.
I stood out the back of one of the bright orange carriages with the cool wind in my face eagerly enjoying the slight pull on my long hair as it twisted and swirled in the clasping air. The train chugged us along immense wrought iron bridges, through lengthy dark tunnels, over massive crevasses and past towering slopes of earth as it followed the river flow far below.
It is so exhilarating to have nature looking so dramatic and wild while cooling you with her icy fingers.
What a ride and what a journey!