By Kate Lord
Before we set off to ride the Alps to Ocean trail in October 2020 I discovered the term bikepacking. It wasn’t something I’d heard about ten years ago when I was last cycle touring around Europe (Istanbul to Latvia – a great trip!). I found that bikepacking was defined as self-contained cycling carrying less than 20kg. On the day we set off on the A2A we certainly weren’t bikepacking by that definition! We were a motley crew of bikes – a steel framed rigid bike and a dual suspension mountain bike. This also included panniers, a tent, dry bags and nappy bags strapped on with car tie-downs and our 18-month old daughter Matilda, towed behind in a Thule Chariot double trailer.
But however you define setting off self-supported on a 300km trip with a toddler, we had a wonderful adventure.
We camped every night in our tent. In the morning, we’d leave camp around 11:00 am after Matilda had a good play and we cooked a mountain of oatmeal on our trangier.
Soon after we’d left, Matilda would fall asleep. We’d then ride until she woke up (wherever that happened to be) and stop and have lunch for a couple of hours. When it was time to get going again, she’d nap again. Often she’d wake up about an hour before camp a bit grizzly, but we had plenty of snacks to get her through the final ten or so kilometres of the day. Matilda had dropped to one nap a few months previously so we weren’t expecting this much sleeping, but it certainly made it easier.
We had previously spent quite a lot of time cycling with Matilda around Christchurch. On our trip she was always happy to go back in the trailer, often putting her helmet on herself signalling she was ready to go.
Originally we planned ten days for our trip, expecting to only do 30km per day. But we ended up doing it in six days because everyone was happy and even then, it didn’t feel rushed!
Our six days included Lake Tekapo – Lake Poaka DOC campground – Ohau Lodge – Lake Benmore Holiday Park – Kurow Holiday Park – Duntroon Fomain – Oamaru.
Lake Benmore to Kurow was a particularly big day because the council campgrounds we meant to stay in around Lake Benmore were not set up well for tent camping — lots of broken glass and the chariot got a puncture! Not the place for a little girl to be toddling around so we pushed on an extra 30 kilometres that day!
The campgrounds we did stay in were wonderful because Matilda had so much space to play. We also used the washing machines to wash our cloth nappies. With a toddler we enjoy camping because Matilda can run around and explore and we don’t have to worry about her breaking anything!
Matilda got bounced around a bit, but she only got upset by it twice in the rockiest sections over the pass out of Ohau, which makes me think she was happy with the rest of the bumps. Colin is a keen mountain biker and I think that certainly helped to have the control to be able to ride the best lines. He didn’t have any trouble with the narrower sections or the creek crossings.
There are many gates/barriers on the route and these were not designed for fully loaded bikes and wide trailers but we got surprising efficient at negotiating then. Colin had extra wide handle bars on his mountain bike so we’d begin by slanting Colin’s bike under the arch, then I’d line up the trailer and it would just squeeze through with only centimetres to spare.
Two of about ten gates seemed a bit lower and they also had a stock grid under the barriers. On those we had to disconnect the trailer, as Colin’s wheel would get stuck if you didn’t go straight through. Afterwards, I’d push my bike through the pinch gate and Colin would lift the back wheel over because the panniers wouldn’t fit through!
It was a glorious trip and we’re so happy to be able to spend times like this as a family.
FMC thanks Kate Lord for contributing her article and photos. This article is part of FMC’s Outdoor Community campaign, celebrating and encouraging both Bikepacking & Family Adventures. Check out the other articles on Family Adventures here on Wilderlife. If you’ve got stories, tips or encouragement that you’re willing to share, we’d love to hear from you.