Adventures in Te Waipounamu

Tanya has just returned from a stunning adventure in Te Waipounamu …here’s her story and pictures…

It began with an unexpected invite from our younger generation of Cumbos – Barney, Jo and 8-year-old Ellie – to my older brother,  Garth,  and me, to join them on a cycling adventure (A2O: Alps 2 Ocean) in the Aoraki/Mackenzie country .

So on Thursday 14th January our small whanau group, aged from 8 to 78 years old, set off  from Tekapō (with some trepidation) , on our sturdy, hired mountain bikes (us oldies, Garth and I, had the assistance of electric bikes) to ride three sections of the  Alps to Ocean (A2O) bike trail  from Tekapō to Ōmarama (135 kms) – passing  Power Stations, dams and weirs (all part of the mighty Waitaki River power generation scheme), along straight, gravel, canal roads , swooping down to  beautiful winding stoney shoreline tracks around Lakes Pukaki and Ohau, with the ever-present snow covered majesty of  Aoraki (Mt. Cook) on the distant horizon.  And we were lucky to have four sunny blue days,  with only  light breezes, for the duration of the ride.

[ngg src=”galleries” ids=”66″ display=”basic_thumbnail” thumbnail_crop=”0″]Standing out in my memory are the colours of this amazing landscape – the powder blue of the open skies with their puffs of white clouds, the turquoise of the canal waters, the deep blue/greens of the lakes, the tawny golden  browns of the rolling tussock country, the slatey greys of the mountain rims with their stark white snow streaks and caps. And then in our group the hot pink dot of Ellie’s riding gear on the track ahead, often leading the pack! And of course the clear dark starry night skies were awe inspiring.

[ngg src=”galleries” ids=”67″ display=”basic_thumbnail” thumbnail_crop=”0″] Food becomes even more important than usual when we’re sweating it out on these challenging outdoor adventures – with regular stops for great gulps of water, handfuls of home made scroggin, barley sugars and chocolate, and chunky sandwiches at lunchtime. We  looked forward to cold swims in the lakes or streams at the end of our rides and sometimes soaks in hot tubs, too, plus dinners, drinks and a comfy bed in a motel or lodge at night to enable us to replenish our energy before the next big day.

Garth, Joanna, Ellie and Barney celebrating on the deck.

Lake Ohau Lodge offered us all of these- and fantastic views..

Sunrise from Lake Ohau Lodge deck

The last day was our big challenge, winding upwards from Lake Ohau , over the lower slopes of Ohau Range on a steadily rising , bouldery track for 11kms  to the high point, Tarnbrae, 900 metres above the lake, with its stunning views back across the basin to the Ben Ohau Range.  Celebrations up the top, before a rolling descent, crossing flowing streams enroute, to the 100 year old Quailburn historic woolshed for a picnic lunch and then on to Omarama township.

[ngg src=”galleries” ids=”69″ display=”basic_thumbnail” thumbnail_crop=”0″] 

 Mission successful!  And Barney didn’t have to use a rope to assist Ellie up the steep incline. She excelled herself, and was definitely the champion of our ride. But all of us managed remarkably well – having to keep a keen focus on the track ahead all of the time.

I understand that this A2O track is one of the legacies of the former Prime Minister, John Key, and his cycle track creation projects.  It is financed by MBIE and maintained by Mackenzie and Waitaki Councils with other support organisations.  It is a superb accessible bike trail, and the company Cycle Journeys which organised our ride is professional and supportive in the management of their clients. We recommend it to others wanting to explore the Mackenzie country.

The only gap in the experience for me was not being able to access a Maori interpretation of the landscape along the way. And I do wonder how Kai Tahu feel about bikers crawling all over their sacred land and mountains and rivers?  Maybe one day they will create their own experience for introducing visitors to these beautiful Aoraki lands and waters, as they are doing in other areas of the country.


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