Riding the Alps2Ocean Cycle Trail New Zealand - Part One
When the idea first came up to ride the phenomenal Alps2Ocean cycle trail in New Zealand, I admit I hesitated. Ella, aka the Frequent Small Flyer, had only come off her training wheels last year on a trip to Lord Howe Island (post to come), and I was a weekend cyclist at best. Sure, I can cycle to the shop and back for the newspaper, bread and milk with the best of them - no sweat. But tackle the 301 kilometres of the trail stretching from Mt Cook to Oamaru on New Zealand's South Island? Let's just say it took a fair bit of convincing.
My story on the ride is yet to come in Traveller, but I wanted to share some highlights from the early part of this world famous ride. Included in Lonely Planet's 'Epic Bike Rides of the World', this achievable adventure is set in the awe inspiring landscape of the magnificent Southern Alps, cycling past alpine lakes, down a river valley and all the way to the sea.
The trail, or should I say some sections of the trail, are more than suitable to cycle with kids than others. This of course will depend on a child's age, cycling ability and your patience levels. Truthfully, we could not have tackled this adventure without the help of Cycle Journeys. I seriously can't praise this NZ-owned business highly enough. We were given a guide, equipped with fantastic bikes, driven to sections of the trail we could do with Ella; while our luggage and hire vehicle was transported to each night's destination.
So here are highlights of the first two days of our epic cycling adventure.
Day one - Christchurch to Lake Tekapo
We arrive at Lake Tekapo in the late afternoon. We're tired after landing overnight at Christchurch Airport where we stumbled into our motel room and into bed at 3am (New Zealand at the time was three hours ahead of Oz). To shake off travel fatigue and get ready for our awesome adventure, we headed for Tekapo Springs with its hot spools and glacial spa overlooking the lake and snow capped mountains.
Day two - Lake Pukaki to Twizel
Today was all about getting our cycle legs on. We meet up with Cycle Journeys at a carpark along Lake Pukaki, meaning source of many streams. Most of the Alps2Ocean (A2O) is offroad. We cycle both onroad and offroad along this stunning lake, given its distinctive blue tinge because of the crystalisation of rock flower. Seriously, who knew?
After pushing out an easy 10-12 kms along the lake, we make our way to Twizel, the base for Cycle Journeys, and check into Skyscape, a phenomenal 6000 acre sheep and beef farm where you stay in accommodation built predominantly of glass. Skyscape is almost hidden in the landscape by its grass roofed covering. I could (and don't worry, I will) go on and on about this place but I'm saving that for a post all of its own. Suffice to say, Skyscape is extraordinary and so are the people who run it.
Sadly (but understandably when you see it), the accommodation, an A2O partner, is not suitable for kids so unless you're doing the trail sans children, you won't be able to stay here. I'm including it however as lots of people do the trail without kids (obviously). Plenty of other accommodation options for families exist though - everything from B&Bs, hotels, motels, backpackers and hostels - all outlined on the A2O website.
Star gazing and alfresco baths at Skyscape
To ease our stiff muscles earned on the first day's cycle, we fill up Skyscape's incredible alfresco bath and take a soak, glass of wine in hand, as the stars come out to play. We're tired in that good way when you've done physical exertion and we can't wait for tomorrow's adventure to begin.
Stay tuned for part two of the A2O, coming to your inbox very soon!
*Our trip was sponsored by Tourism New Zealand.