We had a couple of spare days so trailered the bikes down to Dunedin and on to Clarks Junction. Adrian at Clarks Junction Hotel fed us fish and chips and agreed to let us leave the truck in his carpark so it was off with the bikes, fuel up and go. I'd taken my trusty Honda C50 (I'm a sucker for punishment) and lent a Suzuki GN125 to a friend. The first 10 or 15km was on a sealed surface then it was onto the shingle and into the hills. Up we went onto the tops where tussock and rock stretched as far as the eye could see. After passing Loganburn Reservoir on left we continued to head north towards Paerau. At this stage the 'road' was classified as a four wheel drive track but the going was good, the odd rut or two but not corrugated, so we made good time arriving at Paerau historic Hotel & Jail after a couple of hours riding. The scenery along the was spectacular - mile after mile of rolling tussock crowned with majestic limestone outcrops. The photos don't really do it justice, you have to go there to appreciate the vastness of the area.
"The Old Dunstan Road was the shortest route (as the crow flies) from Dunedin to Central. But travellers had to cross four ranges of high, bleak hills (up to 1000m) and deal with large areas of swamp on the plateaus, not to mention the storms and snow in winter. The Great Moss Swamp has now been turned into the Loganburn Reservoir and used for irrigation. The Paerau valley is notable for its “scroll plain” (rare in New Zealand) – waters draining from the ranges coil across the valley floor in a “serpent-like” pattern, sometimes circling to form small “ox-bow” ponds (billabongs in Australia) – great for fishing/bird watching. This is also a good starting point to explore the Serpentine Diggings. “Living in the Styx” is a colloquial expression for “remote” – and it is off the beaten track here. You can see the old stone Styx Gaol, which was used as a lock-up for the chests of gold, as well as for law-breakers – chains used to secure them both to the wall can still be seen. The Styx Hotel is also still here, but privately owned. It is said that a gold coin was embedded in the bar – according to Greek legend, the coin was needed to pay the ferryman to take you across the River Styx to the Underworld after you died. There is no “Underworld” here, just great country for 4W driving, mountain biking or fly-fishing."
After leaving Paerau we headed south then turned right onto the Lake Onslow Road, once more climbing higher and higher. A cool wind picked up with dark clouds ahead so we pushed on, stopping only for a quick photo session or to open and close boundary gates. The landscape becomes extremely remote, I can imagine it being a harsh environment during the winter. Shelter is minimal with no trees growing at this height, luckily for us it warmed up as we started to get lower and by the time we rolled in to Millers Junction the sun was out and the temperature had risen several degrees. We found a cabin at Millers Flat Holiday Park and had tea across the river at the hotel. And a beer or two. A word about the holiday park - what a great little place. I've driven past numerous times without ever knowing it was there. John and Marise made us very welcome, even providing towels when we realised they'd been left behind. A great place to stay.
The next morning off we set again to complete the loop back to Clarks Junction. We decided to take the 'road' on the east side of the Clutha River down to Beaumont where we joined SH8 for the short ride to Lawrence. The ride along the river was just the best imaginable. Along the way we stumbled across the Lonely Graves Historic Reserve which has a story to it but you'll have to go there yourselves to read it. At Lawrence we had a quick cup of coffee then onto the shingle again for the ride through to Waipori. There we followed the bridge over Lake Mahinerangi and turned left along Lees Flat Road back to Clarks Junction. A round trip of around 220km and lots of fun.
We made this into an overnighter but it could easily be ridden in a day if you got off to a good start. We didn't leave Clarks until around 3.30pm, arriving at Millers around 7.30pm. The next day was around four hours from Millers back to Clarks so 8 or 10 hours should easily be enough to knock this off if you were pushed for time.
Clarks Junction Hotel - will feed you good pub food (and beer), let us leave our vehicle overnight and a wealth of local information. Beds available from $60/per couple for a twin room or free camping in the (overgrown) childrens playground. Phone Adrian 03 489 1461 0r email [email protected]
Millers Flat Holiday Park. Call John or Marise 03 446 6877 or email [email protected]