A clearing southerly, my father always says, is the best weather in the mountains; clear skies and little wind. So on one of these magical clearing southerly days, we headed off from our holiday home to ride a section of the Alps to Ocean (A2O) cycle trail.
This newly constructed trail is one of the government’s ‘great rides’ initiatives which links Aoraki/MtCook (the Alps) to the Pacific Ocean (the Ocean) at Oamaru. After four years of planning and construction the Alps to Ocean cycle trail was officially opened in February 2013. The idea is that you can take 4-6 days to ride the entire 300km, or pick a stage, as we did. Three stages are off road, but much of it is still on roads and there is continued fundraising, to get all of the trail off-road. There is a very good website for the Alps to Ocean cycle trail and it has information on cycle tour companies who can help tailor your ride.
Two of the most popular sections are Twizel to Lake Ohau Lodge, and Lake Ohau Lodge to Omarama. We did the first of these sections, where the trail runs along the shores of Lake Ohau. With my parents as support crew, they deposited us at the end of the Ohau Canal, where the gravel road starts, and we rode from there to where the trail meets the main road near Lake Middleton, which isn’t far from Lake Ohau Lodge.
Wind turned out the be the problem, REALLY strong wind, so that the lake was more reminiscent of a surfing beach. The southerly had cleared in the morning and menacing weather was rolling in from the west. The littlest one struggled to keep his bike upright when he was standing. My eldest, not particularly phased by the wind, headed off and we caught up to him only twice. The A2O trail starts on a gravel road and follows the shore of the Lake Ohau to the weir, which can be flooded so you need to check the A2O website before setting off. From there, you head round to some pretty stunning scenery and the newly constructed A2O trail. Oh, and in case you were wondering, they have strategically placed toilets along the trail – I was impressed. The trail is in excellent condition and is nicely winding with little gradient. Easy for both my sons, it was just the wind that was the problem for my youngest. My lovely father walked in and met us with more water and chocolate biscuits to sustain the boys (good old granddad!). We loaded the bikes and took our little cooker and sausages for a late lunch at Lake Middleton.
For those of you who have swum in any of the hydro or mountain lakes in this region, you’ll know they are COLD. Lake Middleton isn’t, it’s sheltered, small, pretty and above all warm – the boys were in heaven. There’s a raft they could swim out to, and it is very shallow with a sandy bottom. We tucked into our picnic of sausages, bread and tomato sauce and the boys happily swam and kayaked in the lake.
Our take on the A2O cycle trail: excellent bike trail, particularly the off-road sections. Highly recommend for all ages and you don’t need to be super fit to enjoy it. A beautiful part of the country which the trail lets you explore from a different perspective than from the road. Next time we’ll do the section from Lake Ohau Lodge to Omarama.