by Jodi Bryant

Things often happen in threes and when Terry Andersson cracked three ribs, followed by a mysterious itchy rash, before undertaking the 152km Otago Rail Trail, he was probably wondering if and what the third thing would be.

It happened but let's rewind back to the first incident.

Four weeks before the event, the 72-year-old retired grandad had chopped a tree down on his Onerahi property when he tripped over the small tree stump, landing in the rockery.

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"I had the chain saw in one hand, it was on but it wasn't turning, so I thought the best thing was, the chain saw goes one way and I go the other," he recalls.

The result was three cracked ribs for which he was given pain killers. But then came a mysterious and nasty rash up his arm.

"Even the doctor didn't know what it was from, if it was a reaction to the pain killers."

He was given a steroid cream but then began the extreme itchiness, the likes of which he'd never known.

"It was two weeks of itching. I was getting up at 2am and having a cold shower. I'd have taken breaking three ribs over this itch, it was terrible. You can get pain-killers but you can't get itch-killers."

As a result of his injuries, Terry, a keen cyclist, didn't do any training four weeks prior to the Otago Rail Trail, which he'd planned to do with two friends and his daughter Joe.

By the time they set off in February his injuries had healed and, while the rest of us in Northland sweltered in record-breaking humidity, Terry and co enjoyed glorious days of 24 degrees and 14-degree nights.

The 152kms is a four-day organised trail on a compacted gravel pathway, which was the former railway line. Bikes, maps and accommodation are provided and the group started at Middlemore, covering between 40-50km a day and finishing at Clyde.

"It was an excellent ride," says Terry. "I'd recommend it to anybody. We went through fabulous scenery and there were many people on the ride of varied ages.

"I found the South Island very interesting and very honest as well. There was no need to lock the bikes up overnight – they were just left outside!"

Following the rail trail, the group did a tour around the area before undertaking one last riding stint; a two-day Roxburgh trail from Alexander, following the Clutha Mata-au River to Lawrence.

The middle section of the trail is not accessible by bike so riders and their bikes travel by boat for 12km down the river, before continuing.

"It was the best bike ride I'd ever done. The scenery was just stunning but the problem was I started to look more at the scenery than the track. It was a gravel track and I had been really high up and was coming down and got to the bottom near where the river was and went around the bend. It was such a wonderful sight of the Clutha River and consequently there was a little ridge in the track and I came off."

The stunning scenery was rapidly replaced with close-up gravel as Terry connected and skidded along it.

The rest of his group, 50m around the bend behind him, heard the commotion and expletive which followed.

Covered in gashes and grazes and with no cell phone coverage, after the shock subsided, he had no choice but to carry on cycling the rest of the 15km to Roxburgh where he was treated, bandaged and given pain killers in a medical centre.

"That 10km was the hardest ride I've ever done I can tell you, it wasn't easy. But there is no doubt my accident would have been much more serious if I hadn't worn a helmet. I was very disappointed because I was really enjoying it so much. But I had absolutely fantastic treatment at the medical centre – they said it was the most interesting thing to happen in months - and the camp ground owners, where we were staying that night, came out and collected me."

Amazingly, a brave Terry mounted his bike the following morning to carry on the remaining 45km to finish the trail.

So, has this deterred the courageous grandad from future cycling endeavours?

"My wife was a bit shocked when she saw me," says Terry. "But I've healed up now. Actually, I'm going to do a four-week bike tour of Europe in June from Amsterdam to Budapest."