Swapping the swim cap for bike shorts

Swapping the swim cap for bike shorts

We all arrived, a group of ‘baby boomers’ of 24 brave souls from the ‘Bold and Beautiful’ swimming club in Manly, at our commencement destination in Dunedin, NZ, ready to embark on a 4 day, 170km, cycling adventure on the Otago Trail.

In high spirits on day one all 24 members of our travel group met at the Dunedin Railway Station, with it’s the magnificent architecture transporting us to time long ago as we marvelled at the interior detail ahead of our journey to Middlemarch.

The wind in the hair… What a way to start the journey

The South Island is truly majestic, with scenic valleys, rocky outcrops and snow-capped mountains adorning the countryside. It is beautiful with photo opportunities plentiful, yet I prefer to enjoy the view away from the lens, soaking in all the natural splendour.

Arriving at Middlemarch we are now faced with 4 days of cycling as we swap our goggles and pink caps for a helmet, two wheels and a seat that after a while felt more like a pin cushion.

Despite rain, snow and high winds in the forecast, the sun shone down on our first day as an infectious feeling of youthful joy took over the group taking off on the first day like a bunch of teenagers, peddling hard and chatting away.

Surrounded by glistening mountains, fields of green, with sheep and cows in the paddocks, ducks and other animals in abundance, we headed to Hyde, some 27km away and the first overnight stay on our adventure.


The trail offers breathtaking scenery

Upon arrival we saw the welcome sight of 3 vans left by Pete, the farm owner who was kindly putting us up for the night and he did not let us down, with the food and beverages plentiful and the beds to repair our tired bodies comfy and welcomed.

The best part of the night was the laughter within the group, with everyone enjoying the moment. There was no talk of work, or home, as we left the stresses of our normal lives behind.

Arising from the much needed rest, the light shining through the window was the tell-tale sign that it was time to get back on our bikes, with the next stop Naseby.

Boy did we have some fun on the trail, leaving our bikes to hike to a river or a view of a gorge, the scenery was breathtaking and well worth the walk.

Back on the bike I was reminded of the ghost train experiences of my childhood as we headed through darkened tunnels, waiting for the hand to tickle the back of my neck.


Meeting some of the locals on the trail

What a joy that ride was, as the snow melted slowly on the mountains and the laughter and jokes flowing amongst the group, inspiring us to keep cycling.

How can I sum up Naseby, an experience in curling, a dip in the freezing local dam and a meal to die for were brilliant, and as lovely as it all was, the best part was the stretching of our tired joints and legs, don’t forget we are ocean swimmers after all, not cyclists!

9am and it’s off to Ophir, but not before we climbed to the highest point on the trail near Wedderburn… There a photo was needed to commemorate our achievement after the steady ride uphill.


Yes we made it!

Then it’s time for the downhill ride, wind in the hair as we take advantage of the speed we are gaining, pushing maybe little hard as a fellow rider came off her bike. She was shaken but ok, a clear a warning to all of us to apply a little more caution on the gravel roads.

Ophir was our last night on the trail and we were now a crew of mates, sharing stories of our adventure, singing together a song we had made up on our travels to the tune of the Pushbike Song.

Sharing drinks and a great meal, we sang, joked and laughed together. It was the highlight of our journey, with all our cares were left behind.


Loved sharing time with this group of wonderful people

On our bikes again with a mostly stretch ahead of us, the scenery had changed, seemingly understanding the tinge of sadness as we neared the end of our journey. The snow was gone, the hills were almost brown.

There was still excitement through the group with the end of our adventure was in sight, not for the trip to end, but because we were looking forward to celebrating our achievement together.

Whilst we pushed hard on the final, we still found time to enjoy our surroundings, swinging on a rope over a river, two did go into the freezing water, breaking into laughter despite facing a chilly ride to Clyde, our final destination.

As we approached Clyde the view along the river trail was incredible and will live forever in my memory forever as the autumn leaves fell to the ground, and if you ever get the chance, take that journey to Clyde as you will not regret it.


I will never forget the ride into Clyde

Now if the thought of pedalling 170kms seems too much for you, the great news is that you can do it on an electric bike, as two of our members did for health reasons, enjoying every inch of the journey that they would not have been able to take under their own peddle power.

So here is my challenge to the ‘baby boomers’ on their next holiday. Think outside the square of luxury holidays and poolside cocktails, instead do something new and get active. You might be surprised at just how much fun you can have.

Finally a big thank you to the ‘Bold and Beautiful Swimmers’ on the journey with me, next stop the Tour De France!