January 26, 2015 by Katie Harrison
We started the Alps to Ocean ride with a gnarly 5hr bus journey up to the mountain resort of Tekapo. We have become completely comfortable with the concept of bike / bus touring now. Any slight cringe or feeling of stepping over to the dark side is immediately elevated when you spot a tourer slogging up the highway with our bus skimming inches away.
We hop off the bus gob smacked at the most ridiculously blue lakes you have ever seen. It looks like a Disney impression of water. We later find out it is due to the copper mineral content in the water flowing off the glaciers.
A rest day in Tekapo (after the exhausting bus ride) we are introduced to the famous westerly winds. A cycle up the hill we find the observatory cafe in mid lock down as 100km winds rattle the windows. Luckily by a chance of mere seconds we secured our order of chocolate fudge brownie before the next customers were turned away. Utter disappointment of dragging a bike, sometimes horizontally, up the hill was avoided.
The entire Mount Cook national park is a dark sky reserve, supposedly the second best in the world. This basically means as low light pollution as possible and downward facing lampposts. It was pretty incredible to look up at the night sky and see the Southern Hemisphere Milky Way sweeping the opposite way across the sky with a naked eye. A night spent under the stars, me freezing half asleep, Jordan scurrying around making tripods out of wood secured some epic snaps.
The Alps to Ocean route is a 300km mostly off road track that starts in the heart of the Mount Cook National park and finishes in the coastal town of Oamaru. Which we can’t stop saying in a shooting stars impression voice. Omaruuuu. It is a mixture of wide 4×4 jeep tracks, carved single track and some road sections.
The landscape changes from Alpine snow covered 3000m mountains and crystal clear lakes to rolling, golden farm hills and forests. The last 1km popping you out through botanical gardens.
Cycling below the Mount Cook plateau we are treated to head winds that are completely not-rideable. At one point we had to get off the bikes and turn around to take a lower path, on turning around the wind easily pushed you fast up-hill without peddling.
Being a popular route there are plenty of other bikers for company. Some are part of organised tours staying in stunning B&Bs and having their bags dropped off each night. We try not to judge and be-friend them regardless. Others are seasoned tourers meeting us at the camp site each night to share stories and photos. We particularly adopt a kiwi couple Patrick and Dolorus. Incredible friendly and fun, we spend the last two evenings of the ride together in Omaruuuu indulging in Pizza and Beers. They are about to go on a tour starting in Istanbul, through Eastern Europe and over the pamir mountains.
Oamaru is a port town built in the Victorian era. It has recently reclaimed its past and created a historic quarter with Victorian style shops and people in incredible costumes and penny farthings dotted around. Also a steam punk (re-cycled metal turned to art) museum that was mind boggingly creative.
The coast here has colonies of blue and yellow eyed penguins. Some we’re nesting under the kitchen area of our camp site so we got to watch them waddle in after darkness, which was cute. Tourists chasing them with flash photography, not so cute.
Heading further south now to Dunedin to explore the Otago peninsular and then join the next trail. This is another 300km off road route following an old rail line through Central Otago. Still loving New Zealand.