The quintessential charm of Mata-Au Lodge is it’s just like your home. Impeccably clean, the décor goes out of its way to make you feel comfortable, as does your host, Jude Gamble. The lodge has five bedrooms, bunks for 10 kids, a self-drive van, 10-seater spa, log sauna and, our favourite, a 10-speed massage chair - bliss after a day’s cycling or exploring Gabriel’s Gully.
“On a nice evening, with the stars out, sitting in the spa pool, a couple of glasses of wine - you can't go wrong!” say’s Jude. “You're in the middle of nowhere and nobody knows you're here.”
The Clutha Gold Trail from Roxburgh to Lawrence is a picturesque ride alongside the Clutha River and through rolling hills. “The cycle trail is amazing. People rave about. It just keeps going and going. We've just recently purchased a new trailer and another van for self-drive tours. So just drive yourself, go and have a day off, go on a wine tour. You know, people just want to have a decent rest when they're away for the weekend or the week.”
Nothing is a problem for people down here. “Some bikers have taken off from here and it was raining when they left. I said, “Look, if you get stuck on the trail, you’ve got my number- I’ll come in and save you, you know, drop them off at the destination, and I'd just charge them the price of petrol to do it.”
“Sometimes people want their dinner cooked. Sometimes they want you to join them, have wine and a bit of a laugh. And some people just want you to cook it and bugger off!”
Jude says she’s been there nearly 30 years and isn’t quite local yet. “Apparently I’ve got about another 20 years to go,” she says. But Jude knows her way around town.
“People come to Lawrence because it's got so much history. Like, I mean, the music for the national anthem was composed there. Gabriel's Gully struck gold 1861. The first bike was made in Waipori. Go into the museum there, I'm learning new things all the time. We had some people stay last weekend and they came for the weekend just to go to the museum to see if they could find some of their family heritage.”
Best of all, Jude reckons, is the pace of the place. “It’s a slower pace, you know, everyone's pretty cruisy. We all just get along and get things done.”
Get a group of your cycling families together and stay a while in Lawrence.