You need to be fit for this ride which takes you up into the silent, wide open, hills of Central Otago and brings you down past old mine workings, relics and ruins. You'll travel about 34 km and gain (then lose) 800 metres of altitude. You ride out about 5 km on a sealed road, and then climb for 13 km on a good gravel road. After that it's mainly downhill on the Carrick Track, a four wheel drive trail with panoramic views over the surrounding hills and Lake Dunstan.
Before you go, pick up the walks-rides brochure from the Cromwell visitors centre. It has a map and highlights the history and features of the Carrick Track.
Here's the route... Ride the sealed Bannockburn Road from the corner of Schoolhouse Road. Turn right up Nevis Road in about 5 km. It's a good gravel road that climbs relentlessly about 13 km up to Duffers Saddle. Just before Duffers Saddle take the 4x4 Carricktown 4x4 trail on your right. It's just before a cattle stop. After a long, awesome, panoramic descent, it comes out at Quartzville Road which soon joins the top of Schoolhouse Road which goes down to meet Bannockburn Road where you complete your loop.
You could start from Cromwell which would add 16 km to your ride - 8 km each way. An easier option - the best option! - is to get a lift all the way up to Duffers Saddle and just ride down the Carricktown Trail. A bad option would be get a lift to the bottom of the Carricktown Track and ride up it till you're ready to turn back.
Here is how the trail is described in the Central Otago website: http://www.centralotagonz.com
"Carricktown Trail is an awe inspiring adrenalin-pumping Central Otago bike ride high on the Carrick Range. This trail takes you behind Bannockburn and into another time - the site of another gold town from the 19th century. Unlike some, this area was never very rich with gold but still hundreds once flocked to seek their fortune here. Take a moment to explore the few remains that still exist; stone ruins, a stamper battery, dams and rock walls and expect to be inspired by the magnificent views over Cromwell and the Upper Clutha Valley.
"There are some steep and very rocky sections on this descent with large ruts. This track is very exposed so check conditions at local information centres first and BE PREPARED."