Riding the Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail.

I have recently completed the Alps 2 Ocean (A2O) 315km ride over 6 days which is one of my greatest physical accomplishments in recent times and have been asked to write something about my journey.

I will start with myself. Diagnosed with Kappa Light Chain myeloma 8.5 years ago after the T9 on my spinal column compressed, pinching my spinal cord. They put titanium rods in to support the spine. After the surgery I was only able to wiggle a big toe and had no feeling in my legs. They said the spinal cord will awaken and you may walk again, just don’t know how well. It took 3 months to get out of a wheelchair and although it never got back to what it was I steadily improved my walking.

Because of the pinched spinal cord, I have continuing strength, stamina, balance, bowel and bladder issues. You never get back to so called normal but you learn to live with and manage these things. I was never able to return to work in the building industry, which I found hard and still miss the work comradery. I found walking any distance was not easy and that riding a bike was less impact on my back and a lot more enjoyable. Cycling became one of my exercise plans with the other being Pilates which has also helped greatly.

After 2 stem cell transplants and radiation for prostate cancer I am now 18 months into my third course of chemo, this time lenalidomide and dexamethasone with lack of sleep on the dexamethasone days being the only side effect. 

This is the third year in a row I have travelled to the South Island in a camper pursuing cycle trails. Last year was a disappointment with Covid cutting the trip short however the year before that I spent 12 weeks on mainland. I did rides around Queenstown and several other of The Great Rides which is a group of 22 rides in NZ. I looked at the A2O but always thought it’s too far, too hard so told myself to not think about it.

Last year I did the Timber Trail ride in central North Island, a 2-day ride staying overnight along the way. It was at this time that I started thinking about the A2O with a different mindset. “Why can’t I do this?” I thought. I enquired with several companies that operate along the trail and had a great response from Cycle Journeys. They arranged an Itinerary that suited me, and we went from there. I was travelling in a motorhome and wanted to go back to that every night so that is what happened. I cannot say enough about how helpful they were, from the people in offices Kelly and Paul to the shuttle drivers, especially Ivan, Gary and Bede.

The first day is from Mt Cook to Twizel which is 77 kms which includes a helicopter flight over the Tasman river. The 2-degree temperature and headwind with drizzling rain made for a brutal start. That cold headwind persisted the rest of the ride making it a very hard day especially when battery on Ebike ran out half a km from home. A very tired boy that night but the thought was it will be an easy day tomorrow with only 38kms.

On the second day the shuttle dropped me off at Lake Ohau and I rode back to Twizal. What a beautiful day and ride.The lake was dead calm, not a ripple. I took it slow and enjoyed the ride around lake and then along Ohau A canal to home. I could feel the leg muscles though.

Day three and shuttle back to Lake Ohau. I wasn’t looking forward to the start; 11km of climb, the last 5 of which was quite hard.Glad I was on an Ebike. You rise to 900m the highest point on trail, then pretty much all downhill to Omarama.  The views looking back on Ohau were stunning. It was unbelievable how big of an area the fires had covered,no wonder it took days to put out. On passing the turn off to the Clay Cliffs I decided I would have a look which added 14kms onto the day.They are stunning cliffs and are a must see if you are in the area. The downside for me was that the extra distance made for a very slow ride from there to Omarama with a total of 59km that day which was too much. I talked to a family member that night and decided to have next day off and recuperate. I did nothing all day, just relaxed and took it easy.

Day four is from Omarama to Kurow and what a ride. Around the side of lake Benmore to the Benmore dam was the best part of the whole trip. Although there are some tough climbs the new track alongside of the lake is one of the best scenic rides in the country. It’s worth doing on its own if you haven’t enough time for the whole trail. Then it was back to the head winds along side of Lake Aviemore to Kurow a total of 70kms, Shuttle back to Omarama to get the motorhome and drive to Kurow to stay for couple nights.

Day 5 was the easiest at only 27kms from Kurow to Duntroon. In comparison to the previous day it was not as eventful except for the Maori Rock artand once again the head wind. Shuttle back to Kurow.

Last day, Duntroon to Oamaru 54kms.It was a tough uphill climb for a start but through some lovely valleys with wonderful rock formations. You also pass Elephant rocks which is another amazing group of rock formations. There is a nice tunnel to go through on the downward ride into town but first stop was the Fort Enfield Tavern for coffee and food, which was a welcome site after days of carrying your own food. Then into Oamaru and that was the end of the trail. What a sense of achievement and relief that I had finally finished, couldn’t believe it. But very tired.

The next 2 days I did nothing, just recuperated. I wasn’t capable of doing much but didn’t let that bother me, it was worth it. Along the way I met and rode with some lovely people. Wherever I went the people were so helpful, nothing was a problem.This made it easier for me even though they did not know I was somewhat impaired in some areas.

I have to say I have a lot of support from family, friends, hospital staff (Sarah, Scarlet and Janet) and Warren the chemist as well.  All of them help me in one way or another to make sure there is no problem or stress. I have to say like everything you have to have a positive attitude and stay away from negative people, they drag you down. My late wife was good at spotting them and putting them in their place. I can’t stress enough how much this matters, if you don’t think positively you won’t do anything. Tell yourself you can do it and try, even little steps and build up to your goal. The hardest part for me is starting something, but once I’ve started, I’m right. It took months to get fit for this ride but the sense of achievement at end is so worth it. It’s the same with everything, think positive, don’t give up and give it a go.

I hope this helps inspire someone to give something a go, doesn’t matter what as long as you think positively and try, that’s all I ask. If I can do it so can most other people. The hardest part is telling yourself you can do it and then make a start.


Sandy Brown