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
route to your left (best not into a headwind). This is a quiet, partly 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.
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 Danseys Pass Hotel in Kyeburn Diggings, a former goldmining settlement. There
is a simple but nice DOC camping with potable water at the nearby Danseys Pass Recreational Reserve.
Further towards Naseby the road splits. Turning left takes you to the smooth tarmac of "The Pigroot" (Highway 85),
else you can continue straight to Naseby, a 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
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,
he 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...