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Guide to the Otago Central Rail Trail: Book Review


Reviewed by's Steph Zajkowski

Fresh off my bike after a four day stint on the Rail Trail, I feel fully qualified, if not saddle sore, to review this book for you. (Check out the story of that journey here)

Unless you have been sheltering under a rock, you will have heard of the famous Otago Central Rail Trail - a hike and bike trail that follows the old railway line built through Central Otago in the late nineteenth century.

150 km's long, the rails have been ripped up and the trail developed for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.

The trail is hugely popular, and this book has been reprinted several times since it was first published in 2003.

This re-released guide has been completely updated with the latest information on accommodation, packages, routes and contact details - to one of New Zealand's most scenic and historic routes.

Author and photographer Gerald Cunningham is a Central Otago resident of Lauder, a village which lies beside the Rail Trail.

He has written several books on Central Otago and is well placed to bring you the "local knowledge" which is often missing from guide books.

It is a totally independent guide, written without influence from any person or organisation affiliated with the trail.

This guide divides the trail into 12 easy to complete sections, for example, Wedderburn to Oturehua, and is very fact-filled with what terrain to expect at each stage and what interesting features to look out for.

Other chapters on the history of the trail, the best times to go, wildflowers, plants and birds to see on the trail, and a full list of service providers add to this comprehensive book.

My only quibble is that Gerald chooses to "start" his guide in Middlemarch - despite the fact that most people consider Clyde the starting point for the trail.

A local at Wedderburn (half-way point on the trail) told me that about 75 percent of Rail Trailers do the Clyde-Middlemarch ride, so it perplexes me as to why this guide would go against the accepted route.

Thus his 12 chapters on what to see/expect and do all read "backwards" for me.

If you are cycling/hiking/horse-riding from Middlemarch to Clyde, this book makes a good companion to tuck into the back-pack.

For those of you "doing it the other way", it is still provides a useful source of info about one of the country's top outdoor experiences.

Rating: 7/10

Title: Guide to the Otago Central Rail Trail
Author: Gerald Cunningham
Publisher: Penguin
RRP: $30.00
Available: Now!