If the Clutha Gold Trail was a goldfield, it would be a claim as rich as that of Gabriel’s Gully. However, the trail is almost undiscovered compared to the rushes of other cycle routes. As the gold dredges once ploughed the river, I am about to fossick the rich heritage along the banks of the Clutha River. This hidden nugget in the former Otago goldfields is experienced by precious few cyclists – but it was to be my golden find today!
I arrived at the trailhead in the early morning, with the long shadow cast by the massive wall of the Roxburgh Dam keeping me lightly chilled. My plan was to head downstream, tackling the trail in one day rather than a more relaxing two. Attaching and powering up the three GPS units, I rechecked my gear before pushing ‘play’ – my adventure was recording at one second intervals. Regular readers will know that I have developed the Great Rides App for all the New Zealand cycle trails, and the gadgetry filling my handlebar represents the field tools of my trade. As the sun rose over the river terrace my hands were finally warmed, and the rays drew a companion shadow riding beside me.
The river terraces glowing golden at my side once held 700 dwellings that housed dam construction workers, but like the old gold dredge abandoned in the river, little remains today of the once thriving village with its workers and buildings – all took off to the next rush, the next construction boom. I ride off the terrace and down to the Clutha River edge, its swirling eddies sometimes outpacing me. This is the greatest-volume, swiftest, and the second-longest river in the country. Shadow companion ‘Eddy’ and I keep pace, and together make quick work of the first trail section.
Before long I pass by the bridge over the Clutha River to Roxburgh – the town known for its stone-fruit orchards. This is the largest of the four main settlements on the route (just pipping Lawrence), the townships being relatively evenly spaced along the trail. I elect to continue pedalling along the