A Kiwi's Point of View: Elaina Culbert's First Guided trip on the A2O

Lake Benmore | Elaina Culbert
Lake Benmore | Elaina Culbert

Elaina won a place on our 6 Alps to Ocean Cycle through the Banff Mountain Film Festival. She would have placed herself in the self-guided category before this, but after cycling the a2o trail with Adventure South NZ and her partner Tina, it's safe to say she's had a change of heart. Read her day by day recap of her A2O trip with us as well as some of her stand out moments.


Lake Pukaki |  <i>Elaina Culbert</i>

Alps to Ocean Day 1 and my Word is #Hot

We drove in sweltering heat and started our first ride not far from Fairlie and ended the day riding around the Tekapo bike park plus got to have a favourite Emerson’s pilsner on tap! We are travelling with two lovely Aussie guys and our tour guide is amazing!


Lake Pukaki |  <i>Elaina Culbert</i> All smiles on the a2o |  <i>Elaina Culbert</i> Tekapo Canals |  <i>Elaina Culbert</i>

Alps to Ocean Day 2

Day 2 took us from Tekapo to Twizel with a bonus explore towards Aoraki/Mt Cook. Stunning scenery and enjoyable once out of the insane wind!!.


Alps to Ocean Day 3 and my Word is #Celebrate

What a way to spend a birthday! We departed Twizel in high spirits. About half hr in the rain came. We made it the first 20k where our amazing guide was waiting with a hot cuppa and a bday cake surprise. What a great team we are with. Smiles all round. The ride around lake Ohau was stunning in the misty, majestic scenery. The track flowed beautifully. The rain came harder. We celebrated making it to Ohau lodge and it was a relief to have a complete change of clothes. A beautiful platter was served and we celebrated again with a bday bubbles.

Next was the big climb over the saddle. It was a day of determination. The rain set in harder and the temp dropped. We were soaked to the bone and freeezing. As we descended the other side the track became a steady stream of water. By this stage we just had to have faith that the ground underneath was solid!

Finally made it to the next meeting point where a warm van was waiting. We had done 60k by now and celebrated our achievement. Did we decide to pull out and take shelter? Hell no, “let’s knock this off” Tina grins, so off we go for another 20k of swallowing mud! It was the best feeling to arrive tired, numb and cold, celebrating once again. Our thoughtful guide had already sorted our room and bags were waiting for a hot shower.

We had beautiful salmon for dinner, a well earned drink and a soak in the wood fired hot tubs. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate my bday!!


Cycling around Lake Ohau |  <i>Andrew Bain</i> Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail |  <i>Elaina Culbert</i> A relaxing end to the day at the Omarama Hot Tubs. Would highly recommend. |  <i>Elaina Culbert</i>


Alps to Ocean Day 4 and my Word is #Burn

Incredible scenery and riding today around lakes and dams from Omarama to Kurow. A cool start and sun was shining. A lovely picnic lunch by the lake (we have been so spoilt by our guide who is an absolute gem). The off road tracks were fast and smooth, just magic. Our accomodation tonight is really unique and we have just had the most amazing meal (eating like kings and queens). Oh and the wine tasting was superb... and the burn... well that’s sunburn on my left leg and .... chaffing.... lets just say only cold water provided relief there.

Lake Benmore |  <i>Elaina Culbert</i> Benmore Dam overflow, alps to ocean cycle trail |  <i>Elaina Culbert</i> Waitaki Braids Lodge, a2o |  <i>Elaina Culbert</i>

Alps to Ocean Day 5 and my word is #Peaking

After a fabulous night in Kurow staying at the gorgeous Waitaki Braids where we enjoyed luxurious accommodation, outstanding food, beautiful wine and the warmest welcome, we set off for the next day of adventure. I was peaking.

Fully into the riding, loving the company, a good nights sleep was had (snoring apparently!), the fresh air and scenery was energising and happiness levels were right up there. A realisation that the body and mind was having some solid time being in the present moment aaaaah.

The riding today took us into new scenery along the fast and high flowing Waitaki river to the farm lands of Burnside Homestead... magic.

Pasquale Kurow Winery |  <i>Elaina Culbert</i> Duntroon Gaol, a2o trail |  <i>Elaina Culbert</i> Farmland of the alps to ocean |  <i>Elaina Culbert</i>

Alps to Ocean Day 6 and my word is #Exceeded

The last day of our trip riding to Oamaru. We had to back track a little bit to start off where we stopped the day before due to rain. The high from yesterday wasn’t quite as high upon waking to very cold and drizzly weather. Luckily our guide Jan was able to give us all a pep talk to awaken the spirits!

We set off from elephant rocks and 20mins into it I was wet and muddy and grinning ear to ear. Once out there loving it again. The trail was a dream to ride with lots of little ups and downs. We had some fun on the downs, what a blast!

The scenery on this final day was so interesting. I feel like I’ve seen NZ  through new eyes this trip and learnt so much thanks to Jan’s exceptional knowledge. After the last stop with only about 10k to go we gave it everything and sped along the track, adrenaline pumping with the finish line so close!

What an adventure! A special thanks to Jan and Adventure South NZ. I knew I would love this trip but the whole thing totally exceeded my expectations in every way. Would do it all over again in a heart beat. We will definitely be back to do another tour with you! Thank you so much!

Drying our shoes by the fire after a wet day on the trail! |  <i>Elaina Culbert</i> Woohoo, we made it to Oamaru! Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail. |  <i>Elaina Culbert</i> An Adventure South NZ support vehicle in all its glory! |  <i>Elaina Culbert</i>

Our Stand Out Moments

  • Stand out accommodation was Waitaki Braids (we would definitely go back there, it's not just a bed, its an experience).

  • Biking along the Lake Ohau track, the scenery was magic.
  • Enjoying the experiences outside of the biking like the meals together, the hot spa pools, the picnic beside the lake, wine tasting, photography.
  • We found the tour guide highly flexible so that we could adapt when the weather wasn't right. This made the trip much more enjoyable.

  • We thought the trail was extremely well built and lovely to ride.

Benefits of guided travel in New Zealand - Even for Kiwis

  • Having the time and taking the time to stop at places we never stopped at (as we were always on route to a destination)

  • Seeing NZ through fresh eyes, through the eyes of a tourist. Exploring small towns we haven't been to in many many years.

  • Not having to drive!! For me, who is normally driving, I loved relaxing and looking out the window. I saw things I would never usually see.

  • Not having to worry! All we had to think about was getting up and biking! Everything was so well taken care of, it was lovely being taken care of and not have to worry about the minor details.

  • Not having to take the time to preplan the trip

  • Being able to explore cycle routes that started and finished in different places (self guided and we always have to finish where we started)

  • Having a guide meant finding out about places, gaining knowledge we wouldn't have if self guided.

  • It really felt like a holiday and it was great doing something we wouldn't normally do.

  • Would be a great trip with a group of friends


It was our pleasure to host you Elaina and Tina, we look forward to seeing you on the trails when we can start exploring again.

See our 6 day Alps to Ocean Classic Trip details here.


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