Gathan Beaga

along the Hawea River

We’re on our annual holiday-down-south.

This time, we’re going to spend five days with the kids, their grandmother, and another family doing the Otago Central Rail Trail. And so, ignoring the ironies inherent in carting them half the length of the country on the back of our car, we have our own bikes with us. Which means we can cycle about wherever we go.

Having spent a little time on the farm we’re now back in Hawea for a week before cycling the Rail Trail next week, and I thought it was high time I tried out a couple of the new riverside cycle trails between Wanaka and Hawea. These are fairly new, built by the Upper Clutha Tracks Trust and are eventually intended to link up and enable cycling from Hawea right through to Queenstown, away from the roads.

Anyway, the kids wanted to go to the Maze, so instead I decided I’d ride down the track to Alberttown and then on to Wanaka itself and meet them and Rebecca there, via the Outlet Track, about a (as it turned out) 25km ride.

There was a roaring Northerly at my back, which I figured would be a good thing, and soon I was riding along a beautifully formed track above the Hawea River:

Along the Hawea River

There were no roads nearby; very very few people; the only houses were across the river. The solitude was very nice, and the tailwind and the generally downhill aspect made for an exceedingly pleasant ride.

One of the things I’ve always loved about the Upper Clutha Basin (and I’ve holidayed here for 40 years) is the smell of the place. It’s this kind of dusty, dry admixture of pine, briar rose, and manuka; and there was lots of this scent along the track. I breathed deeply.

Eventually the track ran across a river terrace, cutting off a long meander, and as the terrace ended I was presented with this beautiful vista:

Oxbow Lookout, Hawea River

Not that I suppose it is especially obvious from that stitched-up pano but spread out below the terrace edge is a lovely flat area left from a former oxbow loop of the Hawea River, speckled with manuka and just inviting a picnic.

From here it was a short ride to the new swingbridge over the river to the DoC campground, and from there to the Alberttown Bridge, which I crossed so that I could follow the young Clutha to Lake Wanaka. Which I did; this track, the Outlet Track, was considerably rougher and more testing (though still a beginner track by MTB standards) and I’m glad I rode it myself before insisting the kids follow me along (as one Dad I passed was about to do – hope they came through alright without putting their quite young kids off, as they were about to start the Rail Trail the next day).

Then, still following the Outlet Track along the shoreline of Lake Wanaka I rolled into Wanaka town itself, in time to meet Rebecca, score some beers, and pick up the kids from the maze. Hurrah!

Now I just have to figure out the logistics of us all having a ride down the Hawea River track in the next few days. Though if it’s not windy we all should be able to ride down to the Oxbow flat and back.

Time to check the forecasts then.