Lake Ohau, NZ to Twizel, NZ

23.1 mi / 10.8 mph / 108 ft. climbing
Home: Twizel Holiday Park

They’re pretty organized at the Lake Ohau Lodge. I suppose they need to be in order to serve the 30+ people here with the limited staffing available at such a remote location. Last night at dinner they told us to return to the same table for breakfast, which means we got to share our meal with friendly Canadians Cathy and Bruce once more, and hopefully not instill too much fear in them for their ride over the rocky mountain today (they have proper mountain bikes, and are unloaded, so it should be much easier for them).

Sunrise over our standalone wing at the Lake Ohau Lodge.
Sunrise over Lake Ohau.

Today’s prescribed day on the Alps2Ocean route looked like another impossibly easy one (23 miles, mostly flat, mostly paved) compared to yesterday’s glorious beast. But it still involved a section of gravel trail, so rather than maximizing our motel room time until 10am checkout, we rolled out half an hour ahead of that.

Yesterday we soared north high above the western shore of Lake Ohau, while today we would return south, but right at lake-level this time. Since the lodge is nearly on a dead-end road, it was nice to be able to ride for a stretch of the A2O route that was both paved and nearly car-free.

Lake Ohau showing off its turquoise water in better light than we saw yesterday.
Riding a nearly-empty road that circles the south end of Lake Ohau.
This alignment of sun and statue likely caused a trap door to open the bottom of one of the canals, sending the turquoise water crashing through an underground riverbed where it hasn’t flowed for a thousand years, re-floating a mystical ancient Maori war canoe that will send the white colonizers fleeing the island in terror.

When the road climbed southeast away from the lake, that’s where the gravel trail began, clearly the better route in this case, as it continued tracing the water’s edge. The gravel was much better than yesterday’s, so it was a painful irony that Rett took a spill on it when she was just ahead out of my view. Luckily nothing incapacitating, but definitely more painful bruises added to her constellation, and maybe worse, she caught herself on a spiky bush that embedded some burning thorns into her fingers. Due to the heavy rain yesterday, navigating around (or through) large puddles was a new challenge we hadn’t yet faced on these trails.

One of the annoying anti-motorcycle gates, where I need to push and Rett needs to pull. At later gates I realized I could walk through on the left while pushing the bike myself, and felt dumb that I hadn’t realized that earlier. But now looking at this photo, I see the idiot wasn’t me: the installers didn’t leave enough space between the staple-shaped bar on the left and the one perpendicular to it! At least at this one the bikes slid through without obstruction. At some, the horizontal bits were too low and we needed to take the rear panniers off, at some they were too high and we needed to awkwardly hoist the handlebars above them, and at one the staple shape was high enough to just send the bikes under that.
Looking back north along the length of Lake Ohau to the cloud-shrouded mountains at its head.
Ben Ohau is the cone-shaped mountain that rises straight out of the lake, and apparently it likes to sometimes wear a chef’s hat.
A closeup of one of the veins running down Ben Ohau’s flank, leading to the lake’s fluorescent water.
An unexpectedly awesome mirror of Ben Ohau, or a mountain-sized alien space-clam.
Rett navigating some of the skate-patk-like dam infrastructure that the trail uses.

Much of the remaining ride was along canals, also something new. The crazy thing was that in this country where pavement is laid as sparingly as possible, these canals had barely-used, relatively-wide paved roads on both sides of the canals! I guess the power company (who presumably laid the roads) has different theories than the NZ highway department.

A canal road where parking bikes on the pavement is no problem. Also note the canal water is as bright as the lakes.
Three or four horses all came over to this corner to say hello to Rett, and after a moment moved on to let the next one have their turn.
Rett crossing the Pukaki Canal.
The water in his canal comes from Lake Pukaki (which we’ll see tomorrow). Its water is supposedly even more fake-looking than the two lakes on either side of it, and that appears to be true in its outflow too.

Since most of the ride went well, we got to the Twizel Holiday Park just after noon. In the midday lull it was quiet, but our lunchtime planning session in the camp kitchen made us realize that we had unexpectedly returned to an area with near-Queenstown levels of tourist domination. We had hoped to do a multi-night out-and-back ride up the length of Lake Pukaki to Mount Cook Village, but were facing challenges finding accommodation. The DOC campsite at Mount Cook was fully-booked for tomorrow (first time I had seen that), and then literally nothing would be available to house us on our return to Twizel besides this busy holiday park, on a day where weather might be an issue.

I messaged two WarmShowers hosts, we got advice from a Brit-turned-Kiwi who said Mount Cook would  be nice (if it’s not cloudy) but the trails would be just as crowded as the accommodations, and we explored a million combinations trying to make it work somehow.  It was a huge stressful pain in the ass, and we walked over to a Thai restaurant for dinner (the quiet, cheap, small towns we’d been staying in the last several nights certainly didn’t have any Thai restaurants!) where we finally made the call to skip Mount Cook.

It was disappointing, but we can’t see everything in New Zealand even if we were here for six years, and forcing it might have cost more in stress and our future riding than we would have gotten in benefits. So tomorrow we’ll continue on directly to Lake Tekapo, which will hardly be a return to the low-key peace of the last few weeks. Like here, a sun-baked overcrowded campsite will be the only option.

Rett demonstrating the most-unusual running track I’ve seen: a (dried-out) grass surface, with the lanes burned(?) in black.

Back at camp, we had two other cyclists and about five Te Araroa thru-hikers sharing our now-cool and shaded space (though even the hikers were bikers today, since it’s a long stretch of nothing and the trail guide recommends taking advantage of the A2O infrastructure and doing a one-way bike rental from Lake Tekapo).

The well-filled but not-overflowing hiker/biker area at Twizel Holiday Park, with another tree telling us that fall is coming to the Southern Hemisphere. Along with the chilly breezes, it made for a stark difference from the hot-as-peak-summer afternoon.


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