While on assignment for 360queenstown-wanaka, I had the pleasure of exploring the Welcome Rock and Roaring Lion cycle trail. Described by the Kennett Brothers as “New Zealand’s finest water-race”, I was in for a treat.
With clear blue skies ahead of me I drove from Wanaka to the Nevis road, which took a little over two hours.
Ski hut is the first of three huts, which offer accommodation high up in the hills of the Central Otago high-country. After parking there, I wrote my intentions in the guest book and started riding anti-clockwise around one of the best Central Otago rides today. There were enough supplies for two days with plenty of chocolate and curiosity.
The first part of the trail is a gentle up hill toward Welcome Rock. Smooth berms and corners lined with local schist stone made for fun riding, as I made my way up to the historic meeting point. Welcome Rock was an iconic place of trade over 100 years ago when Chinese miners lived there in search of a fortune. As the story goes, a bottle of whiskey was stashed among the mossy rocks for an emergency drink… After a few minutes of searching, none was to be found!
As I continued along the trail down from Welcome Rock, Slate hut was the first accommodation I visited. With space for 3 guests and a bathtub facing the west, whoever is lucky enough to stay there was certainly in for a treat.
A few corners and rollers later, I was greeted by Tom and his Woofer Marcello. We chatted about the rich history of the area, as well as his passion for biking; seeing people enjoy the trails was an obvious motivation for Tom. It was exciting for me to know that he wants to share this area with other biking and walking enthusiasts. He described it as a 27km intermediate biking and walking trail with beautiful scenery and opportunities for environmental awareness.
I continued along the trail around to the eastern side of the Hector Mountain Range and found my accommodation for the night, Mud Hut. It felt like a step backward in time as I pulled aside the wooden latch and entered the 140 year old refurbished 4-bunk hut. The floor was covered in cool stone rock and the walls an earthy mixture of grass and something special to hold it all together. Otherwise known as Blackmore Hut, it also had a bathtub, which I filled to half way and heated with the gas rings. At 3,000 feet, I was alone and naked, soaking up the wilderness.
That night treated me to one of the best sunsets I have ever seen in the region. As the light faded, the landscape gave a performance of contrasting colours of reds browns and oranges. I was sure to take a couple of photos, then place the camera at my feet. Time to sit back and enjoy the show.
Up at 6am and off at 7, the bike and I were ready for more. I continued along the historic water-race and passed by mining flumes and an array of pipes. The shear weight of these pipes must have caused huge transportation issues back in the day, many pipes had consequently been crushed by land-slides. Waterfalls and the swimming pools beneath them looked inviting, but I had to push on. After a total of 27km and many photo opportunity stops I had made the circuit back to Ski Hut and my truck parked alongside it.
It was good to know that even in the winter months, this iconic trail can still be enjoyed in the colder conditions by snow-shoeing or ski touring. As the entire operation is run by a Trust, visitors are directly supporting the building and maintenance of trails like these and we look forward to seeing the new additions in future.
If you like riding on two wheels, no matter what flavour, you’ll enjoy Welcome Rock. Less than two hours drive from Queenstown, go check it out!