The Southern Alps of New Zealand is a wonderful playground and I’m sure there are many like me out there who have experienced what this part of the world has on offer.
You’d think that living in close proximity to New Zealand Australians would visit all the time. After all it is just a short flight across “The Ditch” to get there. In fact it is quicker to get to New Zealand than it is to get from the East to West Coast of Australia.
Up until this year I had never visited previously, and here I am about to embark on my third trip in the last few months. I’m sure I’ll have much to write about after my week of climbing and mountaineering next week.
Earlier this year I competed in the Speight’s Coast to Coast Adventure Race, a race that starts on the West Coast of the country at Kumara beach on the Tasman Sea, takes you over the Southern Alps, and finishes on the East Coast in Christchurch at Sumner beach on the Pacific Ocean.
It is billed as the world’s premier multi-sport event and the benchmark by which all other multi-sport events are judged, both in New Zealand and overseas.
It covers a total distance of 243 kilometres comprising 36 kilometres of running, including a 33km mountain stage that climbs almost 1,000 metres, two cycling legs totalling 125 kilometres, and a 67 kilometre kayak down the Waimakariri River, through the Grand Canyon of New Zealand, the Waimakariri Gorge.
If you’ve got a spare 5 minutes take the time to have a look at the video, it showcases the race and is very inspiring.
The winner in this year’s one day event took line honours in just over eleven hours.
The cut-off times for the one day event were too severe for me, so I competed in the two day event and Janet my partner, and Tomo, our son were my support crew. They did a great job!
The scenery is amazing, and despite being in a race I made sure I took it in, especially the views as I made my way up over Goats Pass on the 33 kilometre mountain run.
The kayak leg takes you down the fast flowing Waimakariri River, a braided river that has a 33 kilometre section of white water as it passes through a long gorge. Spectacular country, and I rolled twice in the gorge as I negotiated rapids, usually about the times I relaxed to take in the view!
But what makes this event truly great is the camaraderie of all the competitors. Whilst it is a race I found the support given and shown throughout the event is unparallel in any other event I have competed in. The sportsmanship shown was fantastic, although, being an Aussie I did get some friendly ribbing from my Tasman cousins, as you’d expect!
The people of Christchurch are amazing. Almost one year to the day of the start of this year’s race, its 30th running, the city was struck by a devastating earthquake that destroyed a large part of the city centre, many people died.
But as we passed through the city on our bikes, racing to the finish line, ushered through traffic lights by police as though we were royalty, the people of Christchurch lined the streets and cheered us on.
I read many stories about people competing in triathlons, running, and cycling events, even kayak races.
I say, if you love adventure, exercise, and have a panache for travel – take the time to have a look at this event, you might find yourself drawn towards it, like a magnet. And truly, you will be rewarded by a great experience in a country full of spectacular scenery and warm friendly people.
I was, and if I can convince “the boss” at work to give me more time off I might just get back for next February’s start.