The line between work and play is pretty blurred here at Hiking New Zealand. Michelle and I put together a trip for active women that had the perfect balance of enjoyable exercise, fresh air, amazing scenery, good food, quality wine and great company. We wanted to offer some challenge but not so much that we would scare everyone off before we even started!
Cycling on the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail and hiking in the Ohau ranges was the perfect choice for the three-day winter weekend escape. With the itinerary drafted we popped it up on our personal Facebook pages to see whether we could entice ten friends or friends of friends to come along. The frenzy of “yes, count me in” responses was surprising and within the day the trip was full.
With 12 mountain bikes loaded on the trailer and 12 incredibly talkative women in the van we headed south from North Canterbury. Daylight hours were in short supply so we needed to get straight to Ohau Lodge, check-in, jump on our bikes and get out on the trail if we wanted to ensure there was time for a glass of wine before dinner.
We cycled from the lodge to the Tarnbrae highpoint, 900m. The trail took us through beech forest before traversing the lower slopes of the Ruataniwha Conservation Park. The single track made for great riding with the downhill return ride giving us all that little adrenalin buzz, letting us know we were on a weekend full of adventure. The squeals as large rocks leapt out from nowhere and the giggling from the following rider reminded us it was actually a women’s adventure.
A glass of New Zealand Pinot Noir in front of the open fire with someone else taking care of the meal preparation and the dishes was heavenly. The conversation flowed easily as each of the wahines (women) got to know each other. Sam voiced that this was her ideal weekend getaway as she was an active relaxer. We concluded we were all Active Relaxers and as the volume increased you could say some were Social Active Relaxers.
After a pleasant night’s sleep (for some, apparently I snore – I insist it is just a purr) we all headed off on our day hike. Contrary to the abysmal weather forecast the day started out dry, so we crossed our fingers and hoped the weather Gods would be kind to us. The beech forest finally gave way to a beautiful alpine basin with stunning views back down the valley and across Lake Ohau. The snow was not only beautiful but also reminded us we had hiked a fair distance uphill and jolly-well deserved every last mouthful of the decadent chocolate brownie. The trail we took is part of the Te Araroa Trail, which weaves it way from the very top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island.
The tarns just below the ridgeline became our turnaround point as we had spent some time plugging our way through fresh snow and the dark clouds threatened to burst over the ridgeline and soak us all. With a spa pool beckoning back at the lodge, the return hike was done in record time. There was no way twelve us could fit in the spa but I do believe we managed to get eight in there, which was a push and required a sophisticated rotation schedule so no one spent too long sitting on the step only half submerged.
No topic seems taboo on a women’s adventure, so we all got to know snippets about each other that surprised or intrigued us – enough said!
Sunday came around all too quickly and we all dragged out breakfast for as long as we could to delay the inevitable departure. Luckily we still had some sweet mountain biking to enjoy before the drive home. The trail runner amongst us, and also former Hiking New Zealand team member, Jax, took the van to Twizel so she could run along the canals to meet us. Those of us cycling enjoyed the trail as it made its way around the foreshore of Lake Ohau. The track was fast with perfect little undulations and the scenery demanded you to stop, get off your bike and take a photo. As for the company – it must have been okay as we all decided the ‘Active Relaxers Women’s Adventure’ needs to be an annual event!