Tekapo to Omarama and Beyond

Tekapo to Omarama (88k)

Tekapo has numerous tourist and sightseeing activities. (Church of Good Shepherd) But most of the best is free. Take a walk in the blue evening and see this glacial fed lake in the fading daylight; memorable.

When you leave Tekapo, avoid the main road south and take the canal On the Canal Road route to your left (best not into a headwind). This is a quiet, sealed route that runs alongside the blue canals south and gives you unbelievably beautiful views of Mt.Cook, New Zealand's largest peak. There is a DOC camp en route with basic facilities (see useful links). The canal road takes you within twenty or so kilometres of Twizel. Given the road is generally downhill, cyclists who stay at Tekapo make their next campsite Omarama.

Omarama is at a main junction. There are tea rooms, bars, restaurants, store and camp ground. A pleasant spot, Omarama is a place where decisions must be made. There are three ways you can go: Oamaru, Cromwell, or St. Bathans...

Omarama to Oamaru & the East Coast (120k)

This is generally downhill and an easy day through Kurow and Duntroon.

Oamaru is a lovely old town with many old white sandstone buildings and a nostalgic wharf area. The place is redolent with a colonial New Zealand atmosphere and something of an older, perhaps kinder age. The camp ground is alongside a stream and the town park has acres of trees, lawns and rose gardens. A pretty Victorian style place that echoes Katherine Mansfield short stories.

Oamaru has backpackers, supermarkets and bike shops. It is also close to a wonderful sweeping coastline road that will take you south toward Dunedin. If you do decide to head toward Oamaru, take a right hand side route at Duntroon and mosey through the sealed roads past Tokarahi, Ngapara and Enfield. These largely empty towns show something of the old abandoned roller mills that used to service the grain industry during Oamaru's heydays (no pun intended). They died away once the railway was torn up. Small remnants of stone culverts and raised embankments remain to remind us of once thriving and wealthy communities linked by rail. Now and again you glimpse a grand colonial homestead, a reminder of the early settlers who found wealth in sheep farming and grain. Quiet winding, rural roads take you through an older, gentler age of sad, abandoned stores, old schools and shepherd's huts.

Duntroon to Naseby via Danseys Pass (65k)

You may decide, if you head toward Livingstone (another quiet and largely uninhabited old township), to head over the Dansey Pass to Naseby (a days ride) and into North Otago. There is a motor camp south of Livingstone as the road climbs toward the pass. A longish, steep and isolated highway along a mostly gravel road. You can stop for a break at the old pub at Danseys Pass, a former goldmining settlement, then head on to Naseby where you will find a rather beautiful, old historic gold town with a good store, campground and back packers.

Omarama to Cromwell (120k)

Once you get through the Lindis Pass, mostly downhill cycling through a long and lovely curving road that takes you up and through to Otago, you get your first glimpse of that loveliest of barren landscapes, the dry tussock land and brown hills. It's a magical country and has that semi-arid desert feel and clean air that makes you tingle. Get in closer and you will discover small lizards (harmless) and a large number of colourful alpine plants.

Take a side road into any unpeopled valley and you will always find traces of the pioneers and the gold diggers. Stone huts, mines and water races, all empty and abandoned for the most part. Iron pipes, once used to blast the hills apart to look for gold, lie rusting in the fields. But if you are feeling adventurous, try the following third route... over the Ewe Range and down the Hawkdun Runs road toward St Bathans.

Omarama to St Bathans (65k)

This isolated, rural route is a steep uphill track through private property. Ask at the pub for the local farmer and, providing you ask politely and promise to close all gates securely, Ewe Rangehe will likely let you through. The views back to Omarama are magnificent and after a long uphill push over the Ewe Range with Mt. St Cuthbert to your left, and a bit of uphill cycle, you make a sudden turn around a curve that abruptly opens up to views south and east across the Hawkdun Range with the Southern Alps to your right and rear and the high ridges and flat valleys of the Maniototo before you.

You will be lucky to see another vehicle, and the downhill trail to St Bathans is a glorious adventure of crossing crystal streams, long valleys and grasslands into what will probably be the deep shadows of the afternoon hedging toward evening. This is a sweet moment. I crossed this on a hybrid bike with panniers and my companion on a mountain bike with panniers. Neither of us are young and both of us were set up for touring rather than mountain biking, but some roads are made more beautiful by a bit of effort.

As the day ends you will find yourself at The Vulcan Hotel, a sod brick pub creaking with character, low beams and a warm welcome. St Bathans is a grand place. Ask nicely and they may let you camp, (for a small fee) in the field beside the pub. They serve meals and there is access to a shower etc. Negotiate with the landlord and see what a good heart and a bit of diplomacy can get you.

Don't leave St Bathans too quickly! The town is small and folksy with a large blue lake that is good for swimming. Small paths lead you to the abandoned school house and various historic places. This is an old gold town founded by Irishmen in the 1860's and it still has some of that Irish magic in it. Ghosts and odd coincidences they reckon...