Day 3: Twizel to Omarama
The Queen Stage. Covering 84km, it wasn't merely the distance but the myriad challenges that made this day memorable.
The day had begun with a small hiccup, as I took a wrong turn until the group set me straight. We set off from Twizel, aiming for Omarama, navigating through mixed and challenging terrain. There were muddy patches at the start, but as we cycled alongside Lake Ohau, the scenery was captivating, especially the stretch from Ohau Weir to Ohau Lodge amidst the backdrop of snow-capped mountains.
The ascent to Tarnbrae High Point proved challenging with its rugged ground, boulders, recent snow, and mud. Navigating the descent on my gravel bike was particularly demanding due to the narrow tires (eBikes and mountain bikes have thicker tires making them more suited to the terrain). Mid-route, we had an unexpected encounter with dive-bombing magpies. Magpies are known around Australia and NZ for swooping during nesting season in September. Despite the challenge, Penny agrees the cycle to Tarnbrae was an epic climb.
We wrapped up at an Omarama pub, savoring a delicious rib-eye steak accompanied by a glass of red.
Day 4: Omarama to Kurow
Waking up in our accommodation, we set our sights on Kurow. Fresh off the challenges of the Queen Stage, another demanding segment awaited us, one that few seem to mention.
The cold, overcast morning started with a twist: a river crossing right before the Sailors to Benmore route. Unfortunately, it meant wet shoes, something I absolutely detest. Pushing on, we tackled the gravel track that snaked between the mountains, offering a mix of steep climbs, cliff drop off on one side and cliffside views.
Some riders didn't feel confident riding this section. The benefit of riding with Adventure South is they always have 2 guides on their tours so we were able to spilt the group up and still accomplish sections that we felt comfortable riding.
Penny: "I skipped the Sailors to Benmore segment as I wasn't comfortable nor confident with riding a rocky, skinny trail with a steep drop on one side. We regrouped with the rest after the segment and rode along Lake Benmore to our accommodation. It was undulating but much more fun."
Henry; Once past Benmore, the ride eased out, leading us through two dams and onto a welcoming bike path into Kurow.
The evening was pure indulgence - wine tasting, a sumptuous local dinner with New Zealand pinot, and a delightful two-course meal courtesy of our accommodation's owner, Kate. Safe to say, Kurow was my favourite town; it was great accommodation, had a pub next door and wine tasting to finish off the day's riding.
Day 5: Kurow towards Oamaru
Setting off from Kurow to Windsor, almost the entire route was on gravel, a terrain that naturally suited me, the puncheur*.
We travelled along captivating paths, with river crossings that were thankfully tame on this day. But not all was serene, as leading the group made me the prime target for a feisty magpie.
Our route was rich in both natural beauty and cultural significance: Maori paintings, a mysterious pitch-black old railway tunnel, the banks of the Waitaki River, vineyards, and a significant Maori rock art site by Duntroon.
The sight of the grand Elephant Rocks and their majestic formations was a visual treat. Riding the old railway line, we journeyed through Raki's tunnel before a downhill cruise to Windsor.
The historic Burnside Homestead was our evening sanctuary. A savory rib-eye steak with pepper sauce at the Enfield pub, a round of snooker with fellow riders, and a surprise celebration for Kate's birthday with French champagne, orchestrated by John and Shelley, made the evening memorable.
*Puncheur: A puncheur or puncher is a road bicycle cyclist who specialises in rolling terrain with short but steep climbs.
Day 6: Windsor to Christchurch
Our final ride to Oamaru was initially easy-going, yet 200m from our accommodation, the first climb presented itself. Admittedly, last night's celebrations lingered in my system and my body protested against the abrupt demand.
The aim was a relaxed Z1 ride to the finish line, absorbing the memories of a week filled with epic rides and enriched connections with a few Kiwis. We regrouped before rolling into the historic town of Oamaru, all of us collectively feeling the accomplishment as we faced the 'Alps to Ocean' finish board.
Penny: "Oamaru is an exceptionally charming little town."
After quick photos and rounds of congratulations, we strolled around town for a leisurely lunch. The drive back to Christchurch subsequently drew our adventurous chapter to a close.
Henry's IG: @unevencranks
Penny's IG: @jeroxie
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