New Zealand is more than the land of the long white cloud – it's also the land of the long cycling holiday. Or short cycling holiday.
The Journey Begins
In order to cram as much of the trail in on the day - as well as sample some fine food and beverages - Andrew drove us out from their shop front in Central Nelson to one of the main features of the Rail route. Located in Belgrave, south-west of Nelson, Spooners Tunnel was unveiled as a new addition to the Great Taste Trail last year, repurposed for foot and cycle traffic after 60-years of disuse.
The tunnel is 1.35km long and was dug by hand in 1893, with two teams of men that worked with the purpose of meeting in the middle. Created as a connection between Nelson and the West Coast, the project was disbanded in 1955 despite a significant protest, and the tunnel was boarded up and left to become dilapidated.
The tunnel itself is a slight descent if travelling eastward, back towards Nelson, and entering the dark arched entry is eerily cool and somewhat otherworldly - as if you had been transported back to the 19th century, and were experiencing a newly opened tunnel nearly 130 years ago.
Popping out into the light at the other end of the tunnel, an information board explains all of the history and maps the GTT route. Bring a vest or warmer clothing for this part of the ride, as the tunnel is cold regardless of the weather outside. Thankfully the Trail Journeys guys had some foresight to pack some flashing lights as we rode through.
We pause to read about, and immerse ourselves in the presence of the tunnel, before heading to Belgrove Inn, a few kilometres towards Wakefield, for a sneaky drink, and languish in the sun in the beautifully manicured gardens.
To The Brewery
With so much more to do, our Belgrove Inn pit-stop was a flying visit, before we headed onward on our journey. We rode through Brightwater and Richmond and then reached our second stop of the day in Stoke - McCashin’s Brewery Kitchen and Bar. This portion of the route does include some sections of road at this stage, although an off-road cycle path is expected to be completed in 2018.
We had worked up a bit of an appetite, as much with the cycling as all the banter, photographs and scenery-watching in the region, and it was time for lunch. Thankfully, McCashin’s didn’t disappoint. This brewery is a beer-lover’s mecca, with tastefully decorated interiors, a sunny, welcoming beer-garden, and in-house brewing. It’s all a discerning beer and food lover could ask for.