12ODR Alps to Ocean cycle trip

By Andrew Willmott | Posted: Thursday September 22, 2022

As part of the Year 12 Outdoor Education course, students had to plan, execute and evaluate a multi-day trip in an outdoor environment.

After establishing that this would be Mountain Biking, using the Alps to Ocean cycle trail, the students formed their own groups and began planning a section of the trail to ride. Here is an account of what the classes did:

The biggest hold up was getting the rental vans in the morning. This was a positive start for a trip that was largely planned by the students. Everything else was prepared and ready to go so once the vans pulled up, the group were able to quickly load up and drive through to the first day’s section of the trail.

With the phenomenal amount of rain the MacKenzie District received in the previous month a number of sections of the Alps to Ocean trail were still under repair. This was something the group leading day one had been monitoring. Fortunately, in the proceeding days, we were given the all clear to ride across the weir between Lake Ohau and the accommodation in Twizel. The lead group were then able to focus on delivering their briefing and taking the group for the planned section of the trail.

Leading day one is a tough ask as you become the standard against what all the other groups measure their performance and don’t have the opportunity to learn from others’ failings and short-comings. In saying this, the group did well. The only negative being a double puncture by one of the ride leaders!

Day two we woke to better conditions but the knowledge that this would be our biggest day. Approximately 30km from Lake Tekapo B Power Station across to Lake Tekapo, and a swim at the Lake Tekapo Hot Springs. The day couldn’t start worse for some with a steep 2km hill to kick-off the ride. However, once everyone had biked (and walked) to the top it was largely sealed road and flat riding to our destination. With a lunch stop en-route the group planning the day did a great job in managing the group and almost meeting their timings for the day. The biggest negative was a strong head-wind for the last 5km at a stage when legs were tiring and the nicely sealed road gave way to gravel, again. By the time we arrived in Tekapo the Hot Pools were a welcomed chance to recover and wash up.

Day three saw a drive through to the trail start, at Aoraki/Mt Cook. The difference this time was that the group planned for a walk up the Hooker Valley before our ride. This was to give everyone’s backsides a rest while allowing the group to experience an amazing part of the country. Again, we were lucky to have a clear day and while there was snow on the ground it had all but retreated to the mountains by lunch. The group on day three showed good awareness of how the group were feeling and decided to reduce the days ride. They also organised for the ride to start at the top of the hill as many had struggled up the day before. What a way to start! The group then continued their fast pace down the lake-side track to the Information Centre at the base of Lake Pukaki. Despite the accumulating tiredness many still found the energy to stay up and watch the Bledisloe Cup rugby match later that evening. It was great to share this experience along with the riding.

It was an early start to the final day as we first had to clean and vacate the accommodation. The group then drove through to the Aviemore Dam to begin the ride. This was another change made by the planning group, this one forced by track closures, as the other side of Kurow was flood ravaged and un-rideable. It turned out to be an excellent choice of trail to ride with some good scenery and a variety of terrain to negotiate. It was the busiest section of trail we had ridden, encountering several other groups along the way. The leaders though were able to successfully navigate the group around them.

Having returned to school and debriefed the efforts of each lead group, the students are now working to complete a report looking at what and how they planned their day, how successful they were in executing their plan, and evaluating how successful they were. Having established some desired outcomes at the start of the process, including being able to improve bike riding skills and being able to plan a successful section of trail riding, the groups can be satisfied with their efforts. Hopefully, they will also have gained the experience to feel confident to organise their own multi-day trip in the future.

A special thanks must also go to Ms Moore and the Year 12 Food and Nutrition class. They provided the group with the most amazing food choices which made fueling and recovering during the trip so much easier.

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