February 14 Valentine’s Lunch (Day 140)

Yesterday on our train ride through the Taieri Gorge at the stop at Hindon Station we noticed a gravel road across the Taieri river and wondered how to get there. It looked so peaceful along the river, a great place to have a picnic lunch. So today we figured out how to get there! There is no route through the gorge, but there are lots of rural gravel roads up in the hills around the gorge, leading to all the stations (farms, or what we would call ranches) scattered across the landscape. The main road is paved, but narrow and winding, up and down the hills.

The lowest point on the road is a stream crossing, probably a ford when it’s raining. Very lush along the stream, but the hills are brown and dry.

About 60km (37 miles) from our Airbnb we reached the Hindon Station site, coming down a steep hill past several buildings that are private residences now, but were town institutions like the school and railroad employee housing back in the day (1870’s to 1890’s)

There is an interesting railroad crossing here, a shared railroad bridge and road.

As Robert drove the car over the bridge, I took some pictures. The road turns to the left while the train tracks turn right and enter a tunnel behind me

We pulled into the only shade available on the flood plain along the river and set up the grill to cook some sausages for lunch!

A little berm was a great spot to set up the grill. We got our lawn chairs out, but had to be careful because there was a strong wind blowing through the gorge.

After lunch we took a stroll and cooled our feet off in the shallows of the river.

We packed our picnic supplies up and drove back up into the hills out of the gorge. We continued north on a main road through Central Otago towards the town of Middlemarch. The scenic train used to travel to Middlemarch, but was discontinued in 2019. According to the Dunedin Railway CEO;   “The key factors influencing that decision for us is the extra demand around cruise ships – we’ve had to increase the number of cruise ship trains. In addition, we’ve got greater demand for passengers wanting shorter trips. And the challenger for us is the length of the Middlemarch trip – six and a half hours plus – and most tourists don’t have that amount of time to spend when they’re in Dunedin.”

It was evident to us that this decision has had an adverse effect on the Middlemarch railway station and the environs around it. However, it is where the Central Otago Rail Trail begins (or ends),  the original Great Ride of NZ! The Strath Taieri Hotel across the street from the station has probably lost some business, but it’s 2 sentinel statues indicate the real value in the community!

The Ram and the Ewe with Lamb are what’s really important in this rural area that is very reminiscent of the Columbia Plateau back in Oregon!

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