Thomsons Gorge takes you from the Manuherikia Valley to Bendigo in the Upper Clutha Valley
Distance: 30 km
Fitness: Intermediate level, steep climbs, variable terrain
This Central Otago cycle trail is a mountain bike adventure over the Dunstan Mountains from the Manuherikia Valley to the gold mines of Bendigo in the Upper Clutha Valley.
Stop in Omakau and stock up on refreshments and food (Muddy Creek Café pies are awesomely flavoursome and popular) to take with you on your day’s adventure!
Starting at Glassford Road near the old gold mining town of Matakanui, this trail winds its way up through the gorge and over the 900m saddle into the Bendigo area. Take a moment to capture magical views of the often photographed Hawkdun Range as you look back to the east side – they are unforgettable.
As you follow Thomsons Creek all the way to the top of the saddle, you’ll find reminders of its gold mining past. Just off the main track, you will discover a simple stone hut. Built in 1908, this simple dwelling was a shelter for drovers and travellers on their arduous journey to and from the goldfields and makes a pleasant place to stop for a bite to eat.
At the saddle crossing, there is just a short traverse over the Dunstan Range crest before a vast open space to the west. You will be rewarded with stunning views over the Upper Clutha Valley towards Lakes Wanaka and Hawea, and the Southern Alps.
From this high point, wind down through the Rise and Shine Valley until you join up with State Highway 8 at the Lindis River bridge. Again, you travel through an area rich in history, the gold mining area of Bendigo which was once home to many. Few reminders remain to evoke the spirit of the past but the Come In Time gold stamper, signposted from the trail is well worth a visit. If you have a torch even better, and take a short walk down past the tunnel entrance to the restored stamper battery and be amazed. This magnificent structure remains as a reminder of the scale of the works carried out here.
The bike track is approx. 30km and is a 140km round trip from Alexandra. This is a good surface 4WD track, can be greasy if wet, and yes there are a few small streams to cross and two steep climbs and two fast descents, but it’s well worth it. Please leave all gates open or shut as you find them on this intermediate grade route.
Tarras Country Village is the ideal location to meet your ride back to Alexandra. Explore the museum dedicated to Shrek the sheep, leisurely wander through the Tarras Country Store or refuel at the café after your exhilarating day out in Central Otago.