All anyone on a bike wanted to talk about today was the wind yesterday. And we got the chance to talk to a lot of people on our journey from Omarama to the Monument Hut up the Hopkins River Valley, for finally, we had reached the Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail, a route that links Mt Cook Village at the base of the Southern Alps to the ocean at Omarau. We intercepted the route halfway and were thankful to be off the highway. It seemed like everyone got shelacked by the wind in one way or another yesterday…it wasn’t just us.
The traditional way to ride the route is from the mountains down, so we got to intercept a lot of people since we were going the uphill direction on it and no one had a kind word to say about the gales.
A guy from Dubai who had a second home in Cromwell, a British sounding fellow on a two month tour of the island, an older German couple with tires far too skinny for the gravel who were going to complete the route and keep going south, a German woman who was heavily loaded and had thoughts about riding the AZT in the future (we recommended a lightly loaded bike), and dozens more. Some doing just the segment, some doing the whole trail, some, like us, using it to link two places together.
The A2O is definitely a big thing there. With towns or lodges every 30-45km, it’s easy to break up into day rides with accommodations in between. We ran into a group doing it on e-bikes and loving it. The NZ government definitely did something good when they poured money into these routes. It’s put small towns on the map and created a lot of guiding jobs. So yay for that!
Us? We enjoyed the shifted wind. Overnight, what was a heinous wind from the west turned into a gentle but significant breeze from the south east, and since we were traveling north west, we couldn’t believe our good luck.
Gravel road turned into wide single track which had the sense to climb high enough to provide expansive views of Lake Ohau and the Southern Alps. It was fun and easy riding.
From the top, we were treated to a 12km descent, nearly chainless-able, and nearly brakeless-able. It really was lovely.
The trail deposited us at the Ohau Lodge, where we could have camped for $16, but instead, we opted for coffee and a “high country platter” that we’d heard about.
It’s in the running for the best food we’ve eaten in the country.
We left the lodge with our eyes set on a hut up the valley. The forecast called for a rainy night and morning, and we wanted to be under a roof. Once at the hut, it was looking like we might have the place to ourselves…and then four trampers appeared in the distance.
It’s always a roll of the dice of they type of hut neighbors you get. These four ranged from 17-22 from Christchurch and were, umm, loud when they walked through the door. And they were absolutely hilarious.
With little to no tramping experience between them, everything seemed to verge of disaster. From getting their car stuck halfway in to an exploding liter of milk to getting/treating water with iodine and iodine taste neutralizer, Scott and I could only look on in amusement.
We’ve all been there, having no clue what we’re doing but pretending the best we can.
When they’d successfully fed themselves, we all got down to the serious business of playing games. First, a few rounds of Mafia, which I’d never heard of but somehow ended with me getting killed by the Mafia in the middle of the night, twice, then Articulate, which is basically Pictionary but verbal…I know we have the game in the States, but the name escapes me. Anyhow, Scott and I sucked at it and got whooped solidly by both other teams.
Scott tells me that this isn’t because my brain is getting old.
It was a lot of fun. A lot of trampers here in NZ take their tramping very seriously, and there was nothing serious going on in the Monument Hut that night. And somewhat miraculously, when 10pm rolled around, everyone wanted to go to bed. And because they were all so young, nobody snored.
It was all in all, a fantastic day of talking to and hanging out with people doing fun things. Getting out in the wilds and having a great time. I like that.