Today's agenda was simple; relocate from Alexandra to Roxburgh, just 41km and a 30-minute drive away.
To fill in between morning checkout and afternoon check in I took the chance to revisit St. Bathans and places in between in the region around the Otago Central Rail Trail ride.
A bike packing problem...
I hadn't used my gravel bike here so just had to chuck En-Trance MTB and gear in the car and head off. Fitting both bikes needs wheels off and that's when I struck a problem.
The mountain bike's front wheel through axle was so tight I first thought was unscrewing it the wrong way. Had noticed it was a bit tight removing it in Queenstown, after the T7 service, but nothing like this. Got my toolbox long Allen key, used a multi-tool at first, and even that refused to budge it. Had read of through axles doing this if overtightened, maybe I had?
Feared stripping the axle, quite soft alloy, and asked the motel owner if there was a bike shop nearby. There was, and I took it over to Henderson Cycle & Mower Centre, a short ride from the motel. They were busy (like all bike shops in COVID) but kindly offered to take a look. Even with their serious tools it wouldn't budge, but said if I could leave with them, they'd see what they could do. They wondered if thermal difference (I'd first put on in the chilly morning) was a factor, but I doubt ~10°C warmer would make that much difference.
I didn't need if for the next week's riding, smooth trails around Roxburgh, and was returning via Alexandra so that worked for me too. Little did I know...
Fill up and off we go
One bike down I fuelled up the Bravo. It's quirky fuel gauge currently shows 'half full when full' and 'full when empty. I have a replacement tank sensor at home but haven't got around to getting it fitted yet. Not really a problem as I fill based on trip distance anyway.
It easily gets around 600km from a tank, most I've done (with a proper gauge) was 680, but I brim fill around 550km. On this trip it was averaging about 7.9L/100km (36mpg) so far. Not bad considering all the mountain driving...
Heading towards Ophir on SH85, love the 'big skies' of Central Otago, especially on a day like this.
Daniel O’Connell Bridge, Ophir
Took a bit of a diversion to revisit the iconic Daniel O’Connell Bridge, near Ophir.
Was last here in 2007, when rode the Otago Rail Trail with Adventure South.
It looked just the same, albeit sunnier and with no other tourists! It was built between 1879 and 1880, crossing the Manuherikia River, and still in use today.
Back to St Bathans
In 2007 we rode into St. Bathans, I remember it was chilly, snow on the hills in March! Due to the overcast weather the "Blue Lake" wasn't living up to its name.
This time it was hot, sunny, and I had a warm welcome from a resident as soon as I got out of the car!
Blue Lake Walk
I did the shorter cliff-top walk along the stunning Blue Lake. Later learned that my welcoming friend often accompanies visitors on the walk, but suspect it was too hot today.
It is not a natural lake, the remnants of colonial gold extraction as they sluiced gold from the gravel. It is attractive for an industrial wasteland! Despite the mining history the water is clean, you can swim, but I didn't today.
Apart from the scarred landscape there are a few relics of the industrial past.
Hydraulic mining, blasting the loose gravels with high pressure water, was perfected here in the 1870s with an average output of 16,000 ounces/year (~454kg). At today's gold price it would be worth about $44,600,000 (us$28,700,000)!
The Vulcan Hotel
I was glad to find the Vulcan Hotel open. So many country pubs were closed, not all due to COVID, that it wasn't guaranteed. When it opened in 1869 there were thirteen other hotels in town, just the Vulcan remains. Its future was uncertain until new owners purchased it in mid-2021.
Classic Kiwi country pub, no sign of Rose; the resident ghost.
Lunch was lovely, a massive sausage roll, huge wedge of carrot cake and a beer. Their beer garden is across the road, nice shade to escape the heat. The meal was a bit tricky to eat with one hand...
My other hand was a bit dog salivary thanks to keeping another local amused. This fellow didn't mind the heat, insisted on playing fetch the whole time I was there!
Lovely visit, but time to head back to Roxburgh.
A problem on the road to Roxburgh
Now it was the Bravo's turn to misbehave. Driving along, straight smooth road (South Island roads are so good!), and a red light appeared on the dash. It was the airbag warning light, normally only seen during start-up as the system checks the status.
I pulled over and tried the IT Crowd fix. Unfortunately turning it off and on again did not get rid of the warning. The car was perfectly driveable, just a small risk the bags (wheel, passenger dash & seat side bags) might not operate but could live with that until I got back to Christchurch.
The Bravo uses a Fiat fault management system which pre-dates the current OBD2 standards. You need a special plug to connect and unlikely to find one before then. Because the car would be in Christchurch for a few months I'd joined the Canterbury Fiat Club in case some of their events coincided. Was confident they'd be able to recommend a contact once back in the 'big smoke'.
I found Roxburgh Cottages on Google Maps and booked directly on their website. If you can get a direct contact, I find it much better than using any of the web travel/accommodation services.
It is in East Roxburgh, opposite side of the Clutha River and just a short drive/ride from the main town.
I stopped at the Teviot Orchard Fruit Stall on the way; lovely summer stone fruit the area is famous for and apples for snacks.
'Granny Stringer's Cottage' is mostly colonial and shares the site with the owner's modern home. It has its own drive and is private enough.
These two rooms were the entire original cottage, now the living room and bedroom.
The history, the fire, and a random connection
The history is fascinating, once home to a couple who raised eight children here in the 1880s. It was almost destroyed by fire in 2012, restored with a modern utilities' addition. A Warehouse colleague lived in Roxburgh and attended the fire as a volunteer brigade member. Bizarre, had no idea when I booked this as was after finishing work that I decided to stay in Roxburgh!
The new, in 2012, addition has a modern bathroom and small kitchen suitable for tea/coffee. Breakfast is included in the rate, delivered each morning, and as I would find really good. Every Roxburgh ride was fuelled by a lovely breakfast (I had muesli, fruit, toast and muffins, and a pot of coffee. I didn't need my own muesli for this stay!
This small terrace off the addition is lovely in the afternoon sun. Once it has set you see another feature of the Cottage's rural location. If the night skies are clear, the star gazing is impressive.
Separate to the cottage, you also have the use of this full kitchen and BBQ deck area