This is a fascinating and visually stunning section of the Otago Central Rail Trail also popular as a one day ride for those keen to sample only part of the trail. It took 300 workers, three years to build the two tunnels and two impressive bridges necessary to get the railway through the rugged terrain. Here you might also glimpse the rare Karearea, New Zealand’s native falcon.
From Lauder the Rail Trail crosses the curved Manuherikia No.1 Bridge, the longest on the trail at 110 metres.
The trail soon starts a gradual climb into the Poolburn Gorge and then enters the tunnels cut through schist-stone. They are 201 metres and 230 metres long, respectively. A torch is useful for seeing the way and looking more closely at the tunnels’ internal construction. Cyclists and riders should dismount and walk.
Next, the trail crosses the spectacular Poolburn Viaduct. This awesome bridge is 108 metres long and 37 metres high with impressive schist rock piers and abutments.
There are awesome views from Blackstone Hill before the trail descends down, past former station sites of Auripo and Ida Valley. Near Oturehua is the Ida Burn Dam, where curling, an ancient winter ice sport, is played when it is cold enough to freeze over.
Check out the historic Gilchrist’s general store at Oturehua and the old Hayes Engineering Works on the town’s outskirts – famous for inventing tools, including the fence strainer still used on New Zealand farms today.
Key Information & Distances
Lauder to Auripo - 10.5km
Auripo to Ida Valley - 4km
Ida Valley to Oturehua - 8km
Car parking: Lauder Station site, Thurlow Road, Ida Valley and Oturehua Station sites
Information Panels: General and Historic interpretation – Lauder, Oturehua Station sites, topographical (located between Poolburn Viaduct and Thurlow Road), Swamp Road Gangers’ Shed, Ida Valley Gangers’ Shed.
Tip: Bring a torch to explore tunnels