When we rode the Alps to Ocean Trail (A2O) in 2019 the section between Omarama and Otematata was an unremarkable roadside trail. In early 2021 an alternative trail was opened from Sailors Cutting around the lake to Benmore Dam. This was the reason I came back; it rapidly gained a reputation as an A2O Trail highlight, which given the rest of that trail is high praise.
Meeting a Twitter mate
I met Jason on Twitter (now on Mastodon), from memory via a mutual connection in a long COVID thread, and he moved South from Auckland while I was planning my trip. Was great for him to drive (several hours) to join me for today's ride, on his way to ride another part of the A2O near Twizel the following day.
Then it became one of those Kiwi small world connections. It turns out he'd consulted for The Warehouse before I joined the company, late 1990s, but we both knew several people from those days.
I had to do some shopping before we departed. I needed supplies, wasn't sure would be back before late afternoon grocery store closing time, didn't want to get caught out again! The store opened at 8:00am so was more like 8:30 before we were headed for the trail.
Otematata to Sailors Cutting
It was cool, just 13°C, with rain forecast when we set out. Had to break out my chilly weather gear and carry the serious rain gear just in case. The lingering low cloud and calm lake gave the ride towards Benmore Dam a unique, almost autumnal, atmosphere.
Back on the dam but this time just a photo op, and breath capture, as turned around and carried on up the hill to join the new trail.
The new A2O trail climbs up onto a ridge high over Benmore Dam. A new view of a familiar sight.
Like these warning signs, imagine this part of the trail would get quite interesting when it's windy as is very exposed.
The trail descends, quite rapidly, towards the shore of Lake Benmore.
Here the A2O 'does a Dunstan' with a section of cantilever decking along a shear rock face.
There is a nice variety of track as the trail goes around the lake shore. Jason disappears into the distance (below right).
Jason's photo of me, not sure what I was doing on the phone, probably about to photograph him!
Stunning views, especially with weather like this.
Near Sailors Cutting it becomes a lake front ride.
Pat Metheny world?
Love this sort of moody sky, a Pat Metheny album cover in real life
We stopped at Sailors Cutting for a snack break. The camping area has toilet facilities but think a coffee cart or café would do well here in summer.
Quite a mix of vessels, yachts, houseboat catamaran and lots of trailer boats being launched.
Back under a cloud
The forecast rain looked more imminent as we headed back to Otematata.
Moody skies, but they came to nothing while we rode.
Long walk to the long drop
Not bad on a day like today but imagine this is quite a trek on a dark night, especially for a winter stay!
Some impressive trail building, hate to think how many tonnes of rock were moved!
Otematata is over the ridge by the trees on the far top left (below).
Back on the ridge before descending back to Otematata.
I really enjoyed this ride, although only 23km each way the variety of riding and elevation (~350m each way) make it a good workout. Arriving back in Otematata there's great coffee and food at 'The Hungry Hydro' coffee cart and fresh fruit ice cream beside it at the Loch Laird Road intersection (the road from the dam) or café, hotel, and bakery options in the shopping centre.
Jason headed off and I settled in for a quiet night. It looks like the rain might pass overnight. I have another ride planned tomorrow but it's mostly on (quiet) sealed road rather than trail so good whatever the weather.