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About 40,000 people have cycled the Otago Central Rail Trail in the past 10-and-a-bit years. Not bad for a disused railroad in a depressed rural area boasting more sheep than people.
Not unlike the gold rush that brought flashmobs of miners and a boom for supporting businesses, the Rail Trail has revitalised the Otago uplands' rural economies and made international resorts out of hydro and orcharding towns like Clyde, Alexandra and Oterahua.
Great timing, then, for this great-looking and well-written book, which captures the atmosphere and the characters of the region that the 150-kilometre trail bisects on its gently graded arc from Middlemarch to Clyde.
Dunedin writer Sorrel, whose most recent book was about Moeraki restaurant Fleur's Place, collaborated again with photographer Warman and made about eight visits to the trail during 2010.
Thus their record captures the photogenic blue and gold landscapes in most of their seasonal variety, and acknowledges the characters who have become legends to the visiting hordes. The photos and stories remind riders of the schist canyons, bone-rattling bridges and broad gravel tracks that host their memories.
That places the book firmly in its time. With the number of visitors to the region increasing at 30 per cent each year, there is still significant expansion to come, and this album will be an authoritative and important historical document of the trail as it is today.
Highly recommended, whether you've cycled the trail or are planning to.
TRAIL: Riding the Otago Central Rail Trail, by Paul Sorrel and Graham Warman (Penguin, pb $50).
- The Dominion Post
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