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Digital Subscriptions > Lonely Planet Traveller (UK) > October 2016 > EPIC BIKE RIDES

EPIC BIKE RIDES

In our new book, bike-loving writers pick their favourite two-wheeled adventures across the globe, from a southern-hemisphere mountain odyssey to a gentle pedal around an idyllic French island
The trail starts at the foot of Aoraki/ Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest peak – mountain bikes are advisable as many sections are roughly surfaced

ALPS 2 OCEAN CYCLE TRAIL

New Zealand’s longest cycle trail serves up colossal, colourful vistas on its way from the Southern Alps to the Pacific Coast town of Oamaru.

NEW ZEALANDERS have long been mad for mountain biking. But when, in 2009, the government injected NZ$50 million to build a nationwide cycle network and it was supplemented by NZ$30 million from community groups, it was diggers at dawn in the battle to become the world’s ultimate off-road cycling destination.

The fruits of this funding are the New Zealand Cycle Trail’s 23 Great Rides, ranging from day trips to multi-day epics, some following old byways and others cutting new paths through previously inaccessible wilderness. I have now ridden 22. The South Island’s Alps 2 Ocean (A2O) is one of the best – an instant classic that can be enjoyed by almost anyone.

Stretching over 187 miles from mountain to sea, divided into nine sections ridden individually or in full over four to six days, its merits are many and varied. First up, there’s the starting point: at the foot of New Zealand’s highest peak, Aoraki/Mount Cook (3,724m), amid the splendour of the Southern Alps. The A2O heads down the lower Hooker Valley and soon meets an impasse at the Tasman River. It’s a quick helicopter hop to the other side, from where the trail recommences through fairly rocky terrain along the Tasman Delta. The broad, braided river channels are a spectacular sight, backdropped by the Ben Ohau Range that remains in view downriver to Lake Pukaki, where the trail follows the smoother Braemar Road towards Twizel.

There’s an alternative start at Lake Tekapo, from where the trail parallels the first of many powder-blue hydropower canals through golden tussockland to meet the main trail on Braemar Road. Lake Tekapo itself is a must-see, the almost impossibly turquoise jewel in the heart of Mackenzie Country. Above the lake is Mt John Observatory, the focal point of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, a magnet for astronomers and amateur stargazers alike. But big skies, day and night, are a constant on the A2O.

The town of Twizel was established in 1968 to serve workers on the Waitaki hydroelectric power station. Defiantly surviving beyond its use-by date only to play second fiddle to the national park village of Aoraki/Mount Cook, today it’s undergoing a bit of a micro-boom. Close to major crossroads, it’s a solid service town for passing A2O riders, and a pleasant base for day rides on and around the trail.

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About Lonely Planet Traveller (UK)

Book for your ferry for an island-hopping trip around the Cyclades, hop on the legendary Sunset Limited train for a cross-state American adventure from New Orleans to LA, join us for some epic bike rides, learn about the final resting place of Noah’s Ark in Armenia, and book in for a cosy autumn break in our pick of the season’s best hotels.
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