Alps2Ocean – Day One – Tekapo to Ohau

Down south for two weeks for Christmas, I was keen to a multi-day ride. Close to where we were, is the Alps2Ocean trail. The longest of the NZ Cycle Trails I’d only ridden the last hundred kilometres a couple of years ago – I was keen to complete another of these fantastic trails that appeared while I was overseas. Adele was easily convinced to join me on a bike adventure for a few days. Somehow we persuaded Dad and Mum to drive the support vehicle and lug most of our camping gear around – this worked well as I’d brought my full suspension mountain-bike with me and wasn’t set up to carry much luggage.

The Alps2Ocean officially starts in the mountains at Mt Cook Village and makes it was down to the ocean at Oamaru some three hundred kilometres later. But the first section has the Tasman River to cross which requires an expensive helicopter ride – so the alternative start at Tekapo is popular. Driving up from Oamaru in the morning we took some scenic roads I’d not travelled before and stopped in Fairlie to buy pies that Adele had been raving about. I followed her advice and got the pulled pork offering. We lunched at our start point on the side of Lake Tekapo, looking at the mountains.

So much pulled pork, delicious apple sauce and the top of the pie was a very large piece of crackling! Also, scenic lake and mountains.

About to go bikepacking (sort of) – on full suspension MTBs, with big slow tyres, few & a narrow range of gears, little luggage and most oddly: wearing a backpack.

Leaving Tekapo through residential streets we soon dropped down to the level of the hyrdoelectric canal (Tekapo A being the first of many power stations the route passes alongside NZ’s biggest hydro network) that we would follow most of the way to Lake Pukaki.

The cross wind along here was horrid, we soon turned west to have it at our backs.

The riding was easy, with a big tailwind we made good progress despite the limited top gear. The mountains came into view.

It was a good thing the riding was so easy, as the mountains were quite distracting. Mt Cook, NZ’s highest – which Adele has summited, on the right. I got a brief lesson in the names of the peaks and various climbing routes.

Passing the first big salmon farm (we saw three that day), the canal pooled before entering penstocks down to Tekapo B. We sped down the hill to the shores of Pukaki.

Following a quiet road for five kilometres, it wasn’t difficult to stop and look back at the Southern Alps.

Just before the climb to the highway, the route turned off to a lovely trail around the shores. A good time for second lunch – Christmas ham & cheese sandwiches.

Crossing the highway, the trail continued on a long gentle downhill to Twizel – the wind still at our backs.

Navigation on Alps2Ocean is a breeze – I had mounted my GPS on my bike, but I didn’t need it at all for route-finding; the signage is extremely good, the moment the thought “a sign would be useful about now” starts to enter one’s mind – such a sign appears.

Bikes pose with some rather dinky earthmoving equipment at the entrance to Twizel. The assortment stands testament to the massive civil engineering project started decades ago and that still provides a large proportion of NZ’s electricity.

Stopping in Twizel, we ate, met Mum & Dad and organised the rest of the day. Initially, we thought we’d have dinner in Twizel and ride into the evening, but the wind was so helpful – it was too early. Supplies were bought for a family picnic dinner where we would camp.

With five or so kilometres climbing across the wind, we were back up at canal level. We turned with the wind again and followed the Pukaki Canal to its junction with the Ohau Canal. Riding alongside the Ohau Canal we were soon on the edge of Lake Ohau.

After crossing the top of the Ohau River, the trail turned to narrower graveled cycle trail.

This ten kilometre section around the lake, in the evening light, was the highlight of the day. The riding was ever so slightly more engaging, there was no one around, the lake was moody, the mountains standing watching behind it. What a fantastic end to the day’s riding!

Mum & Dad, long suffering as they are obliging us with our crazy adventures, were waiting at the Lake Middleton campground (a tiny lake right next to Ohau, that seems to be popular as a family camping spot). We found a suitable site for the tent, ate dinner, set up camp, farewelled Mum & Dad as they drove back to Kurow, and fell asleep reflecting on a rather excellent afternoon’s riding. The wind sure was helpful – almost ninety kilometres with no real effort in less than five hours of riding. Well, there may have been some effort – I slept unusually well in the tent.

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