MCKEN­ZIE

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The Alps 2 Ocean Cy­cle Trail (A2O) is the long­est cy­cle trail in New Zealand. At a to­tal length of just over 300km, the trail runs from Ao­raki Mt Cook all the way to the ocean, fin­ish­ing up at the sea­side town of Oa­maru. The trail is an easy grade, and

suit­able for ev­ery­one – from grand­par­ents to grand­chil­dren.

To cy­cle the full trail takes an av­er­age of 4-6 days. How­ever, with so much to ex­pe­ri­ence along the way there is no rush. The A2O is more than a cy­cle trail – it’s 300km of at­trac­tions, din­ing, shop­ping and ac­tiv­i­ties. It’s not a race but rather a leisurely jour­ney with plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties to get off the bike and dis­cover the re­gion. Hot springs, giant wa­ter­sides, wine tast­ings, bou­tique shops, pen­guin tours, stargaz­ing, and mu­sic con­certs are just some of the en­joy­able di­ver­sions along the trail.

One of the pos­i­tive as­pects of the trail is that it can be en­joyed on al­most any bud­get: from the ba­sic back­packer level through to 5 star lux­ury lodges. Gro­ceries can be pur­chased in bulk at the start of the trip and car­ried along in your sup­port ve­hi­cle, or you can choose to eat out along the way. It’s en­tirely up to you how much to spend. The trail it­self is free to ride.

There are sev­eral ways to ex­pe­ri­ence the trail. The A2O has a num­ber of Of­fi­cial Part­ner tour com­pa­nies that of­fer sup­ported tours. These tours can be cus­tom­ized to a client’s par­tic­u­lar needs, or sim­ply joined as they are. Some of the com­pa­nies also of­fer lug­gage trans­fer and pick up/drop off ser­vices, thus al­low­ing you cy­cle the trail without join­ing a tour.

For those wish­ing to tackle the trail them­selves without en­gag­ing the ser­vices of a tour com­pany, a handy op­tion is to make Oa­maru your first stop. There are busi­nesses in town that hire out vans, bike trail­ers, child trail­ers and such. Sim­ply find a fam­ily mem­ber or friend who’s keen for a hol­i­day, but doesn’t want to be on a bike and make them the de­fault driver. That

way all your lug­gage and sup­plies can be eas­ily driven to each sec­tion. With the Alps 2 Ocean Cy­cle Trail you’re never too far from a nearby road, so it’s easy for a sup­port ve­hi­cle to cruise ahead and park up while wait­ing for the cy­clists to ar­rive. This sitau­tion is per­fect for those who would like to spend some time fish­ing, read­ing, walk­ing the trail, or even cycling back to meet the cy­clists.

The Alps 2 Ocean Cy­cle Trail be­gins at the bot­tom of Ao­raki Mt Cook, New Zealand’s high­est moun­tain. Af­ter 6km of cycling, it’s time to board a he­li­copter for a short but scenic flight across the Tas­man River. This is a large braided river, with the source orig­i­nat­ing from the glacial ter­mi­nal lake. There are of­ten large ice­bergs float­ing in the lake. Af­ter be­ing dropped off at a re­mote point on the other side of the river, the only way back to civ­i­liza­tion

is by bike.

This com­ing sea­son will see an ex­cit­ing new de­vel­op­ment for the trail. Thanks to Gen­e­sis En­ergy, cy­clists will be al­lowed to use the Tekapo Canal Road (no ve­hi­cles per­mit­ted) as a link up to the main Alps 2 Ocean Cy­cle Trail. Fea­tur­ing new ac­tiv­i­ties, new scenery, and ex­pan­sive views from the paved canal road, this is sure to be­come a pop­u­lar al­ter­nate start­ing point to the A2O ex­pe­ri­ence.

Cycling along­side the eastern side of Lake Pukaki you reach the Tekapo B Power Sta­tion. This util­i­tar­ian build­ing is com­pletely sur­rounded by wa­ter, sit­ting like a mas­sive brick amongst the sur­real turquoise colour of Lake Pukaki. The vi­brant colour is caused by the glacial ‘rock flour’ – finely ground par­ti­cles re­fract­ing the sun­light.

The wind­ing trail at the bot­tom of Lake Pukaki is first class, af­ford­ing ex­cel­lent views of the lake and Ao­raki Mt Cook tow­er­ing above all

in the dis­tance. There are three main colours on the land­scape can­vas: gold (grass), white (snowy moun­tain peaks), and turquoise (Lake Pukaki).

Leav­ing the edge of Lake Pukaki there is a cross-coun­try trail lead­ing over the Pukaki Flats with golden grass and no trees - a wide open ex­panse typ­i­cal of the Macken­zie Coun­try. The town of Twizel awaits, with plenty of ac­com­mo­da­tion, ac­tiv­i­ties, and din­ing op­tions.

Shaw­tys Café in Twizel pro­vides

spe­cially cre­ated packed lunches to help keep your strength up. The Pukaki lunch has more com­fort food and a mini bot­tle of bub­bles, whereas the Ohau op­tion in­cludes low GI and carbo-loading foods to keep you sus­tained longer.

The trail from Twizel to Lake Ohau Lodge is quite easy to ride. The first por­tion is along the canal road, fol­lowed by a very scenic sec­tion along the Lake Ohau fore­shore. This part of the trail is a high­light; a high grade trail sur­face, na­tive bush, and the peace and quiet of the lake. Al­though Ohau means ‘place of the wind’, when it’s not windy the lake is still and mir­ror like. The trail is far from the road; si­lence and seren­ity are the dom­i­nat­ing themes here. There are some pleas­ant iso­lated bays that are

per­fect for a lunch stop.

From half­way up the drive­way of the Lake Ohau Lodge, the trail climbs steadily into the hills. Cross­ing over moun­tain streams and sur­rounded by patches of na­tive beech for­est, this is truly some in­spired cycling ter­rain. This sec­tion has been rated as the top high­light of the trail by the cycling pub­lic, and it’s easy to see why. It’s also worth not­ing that this is the steep­est sec­tion of trail, fea­tur­ing a wind­ing 6km up­hill climb. It’s not ex­ces­sively steep, but there are a lot of ‘false sum­mits’ where the trail reaches the top of a hill and you think that must be the end, only to round the cor­ner and dis­cover it con­tin­ues on­wards and up­wards. This is a good point to take breaks and walk a lit­tle if needed. Crest­ing the sum­mit of the high point the views are re­mark­able and well worth the ef­fort. Panoramic scenery abounds, with un­par­alled

views of Lake Ohau and the sur­round­ing moun­tain ranges.

From there the down­hill fun be­gins, with a 4WD grass track lead­ing down off the hills. You can sim­ply coast without ped­al­ing, en­joy­ing the wind in your face as you cruise down­hill. This is one of those parts that are so en­joy­able - you re­ally want to get back to the high point so you can coast down­hill again!

This sec­tion fin­ishes up in Omarama, the gate­way to three spec­tac­u­larly scenic ar­eas - the Macken­zie Basin, Lindis Pass and Waitaki Val­ley. Lo­cated at the South Is­land’s widest point, Omarama was orig­i­nally an overnight stop for the fa­mous Cobb & Co coaches. Today Omarama is host to a wide range of shops and ser­vices. From an eclec­tic an­tique shop/ movie mem­o­ra­bilia mu­seum to the

coun­try’s high­est pro­duc­ing vine­yard, Omarama con­tin­ues to sur­prise. The area is also fa­mous for the fan­tas­tic glid­ing con­di­tions in the nearby moun­tains. World and na­tional glid­ing records are reg­u­larly bro­ken here, as pilots take ad­van­tage of the clear, empty skies and ac­com­mo­dat­ing up­drafts.

Leav­ing Omarama on the of­froad trail you reach the top of the Chain Hills. The trails skims along the Lake Ben­more fore­shore, with plenty of se­cluded spots for quiet con­tem­pla­tion. Af­ter reach­ing the town of Otem­atata you cy­cle to the top of Ben­more Dam, New Zealand’s largest solid-earth dam. The en­gi­neer­ing in­volved in the hy­dro­elec­tric scheme is very im­pres­sive, and on a scale rarely seen these days.

The trail fol­lows the Te Akatarawa road on the north­ern side of Lake Aviemore - a pop­u­lar hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion, with plenty of car­a­vans

and boats tucked up amongst the trees at the lake’s edge. This is a fan­tas­tic sec­tion to ride dur­ing the au­tumn with im­pres­sive fo­liage on dis­play. This sec­tion fin­ishes up in Kurow, a town blessed with two lo­cal winer­ies - Pasquale Kurow Win­ery, and Ostler Wines. Both are mak­ing am­ple use of the cool cli­mate, warm sum­mers and long, dry, au­tumn sea­sons to pro­duce wines with a dis­tinc­tive min­er­al­ity and com­plex­ity of fruit flavours.

Af­ter Kurow comes the vil­lage of Dun­troon, long since dor­mant but now awak­en­ing as an in­flux of busi­ness comes into town in the form of cy­clists re­quir­ing food, drink, and a place to sleep. Dun­troon is ris­ing to the chal­lenge, with new busi­nesses pop­ping up to cater to the re­quire­ments of the cy­clists.

Just past Dun­troon are the Ele­phant Rocks, a bizarre col­lec­tion of large weath­ered lime­stone rocks, stick­ing out of the ground like they were thrown about by a giant. This is a fun place to wan­der around for awhile. Climb­ing some of the rocks is a pop­u­lar ac­tiv­ity.

The trail then me­an­ders amongst ver­dant green pad­docks, onto gravel roads and then back onto off-road trails. There are a few sand­stone tun­nels to cy­cle through. Lime­stone cliffs rise out of sheep-mown grass, and you be­gin to see glimpses of the ocean far off in the dis­tance.

The closer one gets to Oa­maru,

the more tan­gi­ble the pull of the ocean be­comes. The effect is al­most ti­dal, sweeping one away into a zone of com­plete ab­strac­tion, with the only sounds that of your wheels cruis­ing along the trail. It is a beau­ti­ful ex­pe­ri­ence when you reach Friendly Bay, and step lightly into the sea foam. Some­how, words are not needed for a mo­ment such as this.

Oa­maru is an at­trac­tion unto it­self, a charm­ingly ec­cen­tric town. The beau­ti­fully pre­served his­toric Vic­to­rian precinct abounds with in­ter­est­ing arts, crafts, and din­ing es­tab­lish­ments. Steam­punk HQ is a cu­ri­ous ex­am­ple of “What the past would look like if the fu­tur had hap­pened sooner.” Steam­punk works are of­ten set in an al­ter­nate his­tory of the 19th cen­tury’s Bri­tish Vic­to­rian era or Amer­i­can “Wild West”, in a post-apoc­a­lyp­tic fu­ture dur­ing which steam power has re­gained main­stream use.

Then of course there are the

pen­guins. At the Blue Pen­guin Colony you can sit in the stands and view the pen­guins in the evening, as they ar­rive home from their days fish­ing, walk up the stony ramp in front of you and cross into the breed­ing colony.

The last­ing im­pres­sion of the A2O is the sense of hav­ing achieved some­thing re­mark­able, yet within easy grasp of any­one with even a mod­er­ate level of fit­ness. This is New Zealand, in all its colour and beauty - from the high­est moun­tain, past great lakes and rivers, down to the ocean. The mem­ory of com­plet­ing such a jour­ney will stay with you al­ways.

Ben Ohau moun­tain

Near Lake Ohau

Lake Ohau

Lake Ohau

Jol­lie River carpark

Ele­phant Rocks

Lake Ohau Near Otem­atata

Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki stream

Church in Dun­troon

Clay cliffs Earth and Sky Astro Café

Oa­maru Sailors Cut­ting

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