After cutting my Great Divide trip short I always felt as though I had unfinished business when it came to an ultra distance bikepacking tour. But when I heard about the Tour Aotearoa in 2016 http://www.touraotearoa.nz/ on it’s inaugural year, it grabbed my interest. Having read the various guide books published by the Kennett brothers, I decided it was one for the list . The TA Official Guide books are a fantastic resource and I would certainly pick them up and study them! I also like to give credit where credit is due and the Kennett Brother’s should be applauded for creating a route that for me at least has created a lasting memory.
In a nutshell, the race travels from the most northerly point of the north island in NZ to the most southerly point in the south island and you have a maximum of 30 days to do it. Just like the TD, it’s self supported and you cannot receive any outside help. The route is composed of both sealed an unsealed roads and takes in some of New Zealand’s world famous trails.
Oh, and if like me you struggle with the correct pronunciation of the word Aotearoa. It is pronounced ‘A tee a roa‘. Took me nearly the whole trip and some puzzled looks from kiwis before I finally got the correct pronunciation dialed.
The TA is currently run biannually, with the next official race being in 2018, but timing for 2017 worked better for me and when I found out there were 12+ people doing an unofficial race, I decided to go for it. So after a few beers and seeing a cheap (£650) return flight with Qatar with minimal transfer time on a bleak mid UK November evening , I hit the buy button! Although I had been given carte blanche by my wife for the trip, she was to say the least a little surprised when I told her 2 days later that I had booked my flights for the 15th Feb 2017 so as to coincide with the scheduled Sunday 19th Feb start date.
So I spent the remaining months of the 2016/2017 winter honing my gear, getting in some weighted back to back 5 hour+ rides and strength conditioning in the gym. I was determined that this time around I was not going to be plagued with sore knees or saddle problems like I was on the Tour Divide.
So I have put together my musings of the trip along with a few photos. I hope you enjoy reading them and if you too are inspired to go and ride the TA feel free to contact me if you have any questions.