Guide To The Central Otago Rail Trail

by Gerald Cunningham, Penguin, 125 pages, $30.

REVIEWED BY MARY-ANNE BAKER
Last updated 10:41 30/12/2009

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If my friends are anything to go by, there are two groups of people; the ones who have done the Otago Rail Trail and those who intend to.

The trail, a 150-kilometre track open only for hiking, biking or horse riding, runs from Middlemarch west of Dunedin to the Central Otago township of Clyde. It follows the old Central Otago Railway line which was built in the 19th century. Originally being a railroad track means the track's gradient is relatively easy, although the guide warns that a cyclist would need to be reasonably fit to get the most out of the ride.

The guide begins with providing some useful general information about the rail trail, how and when to travel, how to get there and includes some of its history and an account of a serious train accident that happened back in 1943.

Cunningham provides some limited text on plants and wildlife, but it is very brief and could be improved with some photographs to aid identification.

He then covers the trail under 12 sections and for each provides detailed locational information about what to see and look out for as well as details about historic events. Information about current issues such as land management challenges posed by rabbit pests, the history of the fruit trees lining some parts of the trail and other tidbits make for interesting reading. It's the sort of detail you'd refer to as you make your way along the trail and which would enrich your experience.

The guide was first published in 2003 and has been reprinted several times, so the information is current and useful.

At the end is a comprehensive and up-to-date listing of services, activities, accommodation and other useful reference material. It includes useful details of web addresses, phone numbers and prices.

This compact guide is peppered with photographs that, if nothing else, strengthen my resolve to "do the Rail Trail" some time soon.

  • Mary-Anne Baker is a policy planner from Tasman.

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