Alps to Ocean (A2O)

The New Zealand Alps 2 Ocean (A2O) trail is the longest continuous cycle trail in NZ at around 400 km. Starting from the Mount Cook (Aoraki) area in the Southern Alps or the more accessible alternate start from Lake Tekapo, it leads you on a journey through the South Island’s spectacular scenery to the town of Oamaru on the east coast. The cycle trail is divided into nine sections,

Pam and I cycled the first three, we overnighted at Tekapo in a B&B, an hotel at Twizel, the Lodge at Ohau and a motel at Omarama. A "man with a van" moved our cases to the next overnight stop.

The track varies from flat compacted gravel to quite difficult hilly sections surfaced with sometimes largish stones, up to fist sized

Lake Tekapo is about three hours drive south-west of Christchurch. There is a handy daily bus service from Christchurch. The township faces north across a turquoise coloured lake to the mountainous drama of the Southern Alps. Lake Tekapo gets its intense milky-turquoise colour from the fine rock-flour, (blue granite ground up by glaciers) which is suspended in the water. Lake Tekapo is part of a UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve, and a perfect spot for stargazing. In fact there is a small observatory here with fantastic "seeing". Just pick a moonless night!

Quite a surprise to the visitor is this elaborate seemingly over-engineered footbridge over a small inlet on the lake just near the town that seems to go to nowhere in particular. In fact it is not the first, the previous crossing, a suspension bridge, did not survive the howling gales that sometime roar down from the mountains. So a very strong substitute was needed, it took over six years to complete, opened in Dec. 2015.

The multi-coloured lupins are a feature of the area.

View beyond the lake of the Southern Alps — Mt. Cook is in there somewhere! Just a taste of the wind that blows at times, it is not always placid!

This is one of the best places to see the Aurora Australis or Southern Lights in NZ. In fact the atmosphere is so clear here, two observatories close by take advantage of the conditions for cosmic research.

The McKenzie (or Waitaki) hydro canals are a series of man-made canals joining three lakes (Tekapo, Ohau and Pukaki) that, despite their bland appearance, provide many kilometers of outstanding cycling. You will see plenty of fishing for some very large trout and salmon. The canals are are part of extensive hydro-electric power generation in NZ that provides over 50% of the country's electical energy needs.

An expert fly fisherman after trout or salmon. There are salmon farms in parts of the canals that are fed pellets, but the main source of food for the free fish is freshwater snails, commonly known as nymphs, that breed in weed beds.

Crossing a weir on the way to Lake Ohau. There is a ramp over the unusual siphon pipe for bikes and hikers.

Approaching Lake Ohau (pronounced oh-how). Not much visited as the main road tends eastwards and misses it completely. Most visitors to arrive at the town of Omarama are not conscious of the magnificent lake just beyond their view.

Scenic track around a section of Lake Ohau.The only practical way to see much of this lake is by bike, as hikers are not supposed to use it.

Lake Ohau, just brilliant!

View from the main common-room of Lake Ohau Lodge. The Lodge services the Ohau Snow Fields during the season and hikers and touring cyclist in summer. There are varied accommodation options from bunk style rooms to more upmarket en-suites. Very laid-back vibe.

Omarama is a small regional centre for the surrounding farm holdings, now predominantly dairy. Lots of modern motels to accommodate visitors for the fishing and gliding opportunities. Now the A2O cyclists also stay for a well deserved break.

The well-maintained A2O bike paths around Omarama. Quite a contrast to the rather challenging rough downhill track from Lake Ohau Lodge to Omarama.

Taking a break in a leafy glen just outside Omarama at Lake Aviemore

Overall route of the A2O track. The whole trip would take between six and eight days.