Trail opens up big riches
I am not much of a cyclist.
I don't own bike shorts, bike gloves, or trendy lycra gears.
I don't even know how to properly use bike gears.
In fact, my bike has been dangling from the garage rafters for more than a year with childseat still attached.
So as I squeezed into my husband's bike pants I contemplated how I was going to manage a 34km bike ride across the Roxburgh Gorge Trail - let alone make it in time for the Prime Minister's official opening.
I shrugged off any feelings of self-doubt until I arrived at the breakfast prior to the opening and saw the other cyclists I did not fit in.
My fear of failure obviously betrayed me and when I met the organisers they immediately introduced me to the ''Tailing Charlie''.
I biked to the start of the trail from the Monteiths Brewery Bar and thankfully could see a group of cyclists gathering under the Alexandra Bridge.
With ceremony of ''hear-yee, year-yees'' and bell ringing from the town crier and a quick cut-of-the-ribbon from the Central Otago Mayor Tony Lepper, the cyclists were off.
The first thing I noticed was how wide and well-formed the gravel cycling track was.
You takeoff on a downhill, which gives you a slight build up to basically a slow and steady climb up the gorge.
A welcome distraction from an increasing burning in the legs and tightness in the chest are the views.
Little glimpses of the Clutha Mataua River can be seen through lush greenery until all of a sudden the river in all its vastness and beauty is exposed.
As you climb higher, the terrain quickly changes to the barren, rugged mountain ranges the region is famous for.
I am glad I was a slow rider because I got time to really take in the majestic beauty of this terrain that to many has been hidden because of inaccessibility.
While stopping to take a picture of the trail, sure enough I spotted ''Tailing Charlie'' coming up behind me, but instead of hurrying me along, he told me to take my time and just enjoy it.
I felt epuhoric and energised.
It turns out I wasn't the only slower rider - some were a little less fit than others and some were simply stopping and taking photos of the scenery.
I found a lovely riding companion in Debra Morris, of Alexandra, who wanted to be part of the opening.
''I am a social biker and have done the Otago Rail Trail and some of the Alpine to Ocean - this trail is up there with that.
''It is stunning and very scenic. I think if an overweight middle-aged woman can do it - anyone can do it.''
I managed to pass someone along the way - Fergus Sutherland - who had travelled to the opening from the Catlins with his wife.
''We really support this. It is a great concept and it is going to be one of the top trails in Otago and Southland. It is spectacular countryside and the track is so interesting.''
About 10km inot the trail, you reach Doctors Point where you are taken by boat to Shingle Creek and carry on a 12km journey to Roxburgh Dam.
I was lucky enough to get on a boat driven by trail trustee Barrie Wills who beemed with pride that the track was open.
''This place is amazing. The history and heritage - it is great to be able to open it up to people.''
The boat ride not only gives the legs a rest, but it offers variety and different views of the scenery.
He points to where he envisages the trail will continue once landowners reach a settlement with the Crown and Roxburgh Gold Charitable Trust.
In the meantime, people have to pay for the transport, which will unfortunately be a put-off to some, with people having since paid $95 per person for the ride.
Shelley Gabites, from Adventure South in Christchurch, who as at the opening, thinks tourists will still be drawn to the trail.
''Cycle tours are our biggest growth area and we can incorporate this trail into our business.''
The last 12km is full of many ups an downs...it felt like more ups.
Luckily there wasn't only a blustery trail wind pushig me along, but as I reached a particularly nasty hill and my legs were shaking, chest was heaving and I was cursing out loud telling everyone who past me I was a mother-of-two-young children who was out of shape, a shove from behind propelled me foward.
A lovely man from Wanaka Bill MacDonald, decided to help me along and get me up those last few hills to the end - just in time to get to the dam for the Prime Minister's offical opening.
- The Mirror