Severe weather curtailed a re-run of the inaugural Great Southern Brevet route in January 2017 so we will have another go in 2019 at visiting the original Great Southern Brevet route. With sections of spectacular private tracks as well as remote Department of Conservation Conservation Areas, and even some of the New Zealand Cycle Trails, this bikepacking adventure will take you through the Mackenzie High Country and beautiful Central Otago in the South Island of New Zealand.
The descriptions below give a brief overview of each leg and will be updated once course checking is complete. Some minor changes are expected as land access requests and nature (erosion of tracks) require updates to the route. Please check back regularly.
The GPX file of the 2019 route is available at this link (updated 16 Jan 2019):
GSB2019 GPX via Pisa Range Route (as multiple tracks for Garmin)
Note: This file contains the bad weather route over the Crown Saddle as an alternate Leg 4.
The GPX file of the 2019 route as a single track (many Smartphone apps only work with single tracks) available at this link (updated 16 Jan 2019):
Full GSB2019 GPX via Pisa Range Route (as single track for Smartphones)
For other formats (FIT, KML, etc.) you can download from the ridewithgps.com routes here (updated 16 Jan 2019):
GSB2019 ridewithgps.com Routes via the Pisa Range Route
And the cue sheet for the 2019 route is available at this link (updated 16 Jan 2019):
GSB2019 Cue Sheet via Pisa Range Route
(Note: This may open a preview window but there is an download arrow in the top right corner!)
Should the weather make the Pisa Range too risky then this is the cue sheet for the alternate Leg 4 Wanaka to Cromwell via the Crown Saddle (updated 16 Jan 2019):
Alternate Leg 4 Wanaka to Cromwell via Crown Saddle Cue Sheet
And the GPX for the alternate Leg 4 Wanaka to Cromwell via the Crown Saddle as a single track file (updated 16 Jan 2019):
Alternate Leg 4 Wanaka to Cromwell via Crown Saddle GPX
If you need a Topo Map of the South Island for your Garmin GPS then this link is for a partial Topo Map. It covers the South Island from Christchurch down so does the full GSB2019 route and is ~340KB in size so should fit on most modern Garmins:
Garmin compatible Topo Map for GSB2019
(Map loading instructions: The map is ready to go, meaning it is in the Garmin format for the unit so no need to use Basecamp. Plug your GPS unit into a USB port on your PC/Laptop. This may take some time if you haven't plugged in it before but it should be recognised as a "drive" on your PC. Check "Settings", "System", "USB Mode" is set to "Mass Storage" so it works as a USB drive. It should look something like "Garmin eTrex 20 (E:)" on your PC. Click on the drive and into the "Garmin" folder. You will see some *.img files already. Check to see if there is a "gmapsupp.img". If there is then you need to rename the GSB file to "gmapsupp2.img". Either way copy the file into the "Garmin" folder (this will take some time as the older Garmin units have very slow USB). Once complete, select "Safely Remove Hardware and Eject Media" from the PC taskbar and eject "Garmin eTrex 20 (E:)" and then unplug from PC when message says OK to unplug. Turn device off and then on. Once powered on, select "Settings", then "Map" and "Map Information" (or similar). Scroll through the available maps to find one that should be something like "LINZ Topo", select it and then select "Enable". Back out through the menus and to the main screen and select "Map". If you are not in the South Island then the map won't be visible! Zoom way out (120km zoom level) and scroll down to the South Island and then zoom back in and you should see the map detail.
Leg 1 Tekapo to Otematata Description
Leg 1 is designed to ease you into the weeks adventure. It is relatively easy riding on 'mostly' good back country roads. The climbs are gentle and the views spectacular.
There will be a neutralised section on the road from the Church of the Good Shepherd (the official start/finish point) till hitting the trail proper just below Scotts Pond nd the Tekapo Power Station. This is to allow all riders to safely cross State Highway 8 in Tekapo township. The start could have been down an obscure track but the shores of Tekapo set the scene much better!
The track exits the streets of Tekapo and follows power project roads to the Tekapo river (riding alongside the Tekapo/Pukaki Canal).
The next section is a more vague track alongside the Tekapo river as you head towards Lake Benmore. There will be a little navigating your way around the informal summer campground at Haldon Arm before heading towards Black Forest Station proper. When checking the course, this section was under water with water was being spilled from Tekapo for the first time in 12 years (fingers crossed 2017 won't see a repeat!)
|Haldon Arm - Lake Benmore|
Once approaching Black Forest Station you will hang a sharp left after crossing a small bridge to begin the climb into the hills. Some spectacular views over the heavily turquoise waters of the Lake await (and the odd hill). This is a remote section on private land so it is important to stick to the track and travel through as quickly as possible. Little drinking water available from Haldon Arm onwards until you pop out at Benmore Dam so prepare to carry what you need.
A quick cruise across the top of the dam and then onto the Alps to Ocean (A2O) cycle trail to Otematata (campground, small shop) and your first 100kms should be behind you. It will be a long first day but with extended daylight hours, and good roads, it will be achievable.
|Tekapo to Otematata|
Leg 2 Otematata to Oturehua Description
Leaving Otematata is a gentle climb on Alps to Ocean (A2O) New Zealand Cycle Trail. The trail uses the tarmac until Sailors Cutting (camping area) when is moves off road and cycle trail proper the rest of the way to Omarama. Omarama is the place for a food top if Otematata was a bit scarce.
|Omarama from the air|
Once refreshed in Omarama, head out of town on Broken Hut Road. The road continues up into private land (DOC have negotiated right of access to the conservation area). With a small airstrip on your left and a gate on the right you will see the sign boards for the Oteake Conservation Area). Head left of the sign boards up a good grunt to Little Omarama Saddle, down into Camp Creek and the East Manuherikia River.
Continue down the East Manuherikia River to hitting Hawkdun Runs Road (DOC sign at intersection). Hang a left and cross the river and then right down Home Hills Run Road. Hang a right and and head to Falls Dam at Hut Creek.
|Falls Dam Fishing Huts|
The quintessential Kiwi fishing huts dot this remote spot making it picture perfect (ala Grahame Sydney). Follow the DOC track (unmarked) beyond the huts and around the edge of the water to the dam proper. After dropping over the dam carry on down Fiddlers Flat Road to Loop Road and State Highway 85. A short stretch on the highway and then onto Hills Creek Road to Oturehua. You are ready to join your first section of the the Central Otago Rail Trail here.
|Otematata to Oturehua|
Leg 3 Oturehua to Wanaka Description
Leg 3 starts with hopping onto the Central Otago Rail Trail in Oturehua. Check out http://www.otagocentralrailtrail.co.nz/ for a few details. There are countless resources these days describing the trail and the facilities available. This section from Oturehua through the Ida Valley is perhaps the most interesting section of the trail with the viaducts and tunnels. And it is largely downhill!
|Gold Stamper Battery Bendigo Creek|
|Upper Clutha River|
In Albertown, ride under the bridge on State Highway 6 and enjoy the pleasant cruise along the Outlet Track into Wanaka!
|Wanaka (will be a little less snow in January!)|
Wanaka is one of the top holiday destinations in the South Island and most facilities are available (a wide range of accommodation, bike shops, supermarket, etc.).
|Oturehua to Wanaka|
Leg 4 Wanaka to Cromwell Description
Time to leave the summer playground of Wanaka and head into the hills (the Pisa Range to be precise). Head out of Wanaka on the Cardrona Valley Road. Up the Cardrona Valley turn off at the Snow Farm Road and follow Road up to the Snow Farm.
|The Historic Cardrona Hotel - you've missed the turn off if you get here!|
|Kirtle Burn Hut high on the Pisa Range|
After Kirtle Burn Hut you climb to the ridgeline proper and the exposed Sallys Pinch.
|Sallys Pinch, a natural wind funnel below the summit of Mt. Pisa|
You drop off the top to pass Lake Mackay and continue downwards, trying to avoid the copious Speargrass plants that line the track.
Cromwell is time for some stocking up as the new leg is a remote one free of shops!
|Wanaka to Cromwell|
Leg 5 Cromwell to Garsten Description
After gorging on fresh cherries and stone fruit in Cromwell you get to do the infamous Pub to Pub Bannockburn Gutbuster, in reverse!
|The fruit really is this big in Cromwell!|
A brief ride alongside the Lake and then cruise past the Bannockburn Pub (nice pub lunches) and start your climb to Duffers Saddle on the Old Woman Range (1300m) for some spectacular views over Cromwell and Lake Dunstan. A screaming descent into the Nevis for a cruise along the remote Nevis Valley.
|Cromwell to Garston|
Leg 6 Garsten to Waikaia Description
OK, so there had to be one leg which was less than inspiring and basically gets you from A to B, and this is it.
Fortunately the Around the Mountain Cycle Trail has done its bit too redeem this flat section. From Garsten to Lumsden you follow the Cycle Trail which is off-road.
Lumsden (pop 453) has some welcome shops and accommodation. Can't guarantee all food options will be available in the small Southland town but you should fair better than just the Garsten and Waikaia Pubs (although these are both worth a visit).
After leaving Lumsden it is a gentle stroll through rolling Southland countryside before heading up into Waikaia Valley.
|Garston to Waikaia|
Leg 7 Waikaia to Alexandra Description
A big leg this one, but also spectacular. It starts out easy enough as you meander up the Waikaia valley to Piano Flat (DOC campground) and through one of the best remaining examples of mixed beech forest featuring both the red beech and silver beech.
|Piano Flat DOC Campground|
Just down over the edge of the hill, in the grass, is Christies Hut. A somewhat un-maintained but still functional tin hut with a long drop loo tucked into the beech forest above the stream.
The climb up onto the Old Man Range starts here. The climb is good, if a little steep, but you will be rewarded with the views.
|Waikaia Bush from Old Man Range|
|Waikaia Bush Road|
|Across the Old Man Range|
Just after the Obelisk keep left along the Prospect Hill Track (not Omeo Gully which is to the right). You head along the Obelisk Range to Prospect Hill and a steep descent onto Frasers Dam Road. After the steepness of Prospect Hill, Frasers Dam Road eases you onto Earnscleugh flats and the banks of the Clutha River.
Hang a left into Marshall Road and pop onto the Alexandra-Clyde River Trail for some nice singletrack into Alexandra itself (pop up onto the road at the steel bridge to cross the Clutha to Alex).
|Waikaia to Alexandra|
Leg 8 Alexandra to Middlemarch Description
Another long leg but without the big push uphill, Leg 8 takes you deep into Middle Earth and the Land of Rohan (known as Poolburn to the locals).
Leaving Alexandra you hop onto the Central Otago Rail Trail for the second time (you will cover most of the rail trail by the time you finish your Brevet, but it will be in 3 sections).
|Central Otago Rail Trail|
|Looking back down Crawford Hills Road|
The Old Dunstan Road is the original route miners of the 1862/1863 Dunstan gold rush took from Dunedin to Dunstan, (today Clyde). The road is broken into two sections, the first rises to Poolburn and crosses Rough Ridge into Styx (love it, cause that's what it feels like, the sticks). The second section takes you over the Rock and Pillar Range to Middlemarch.
|The Land of Rohan|
The second section of the Old Dunstan Road takes you high up onto the Rock and Pillar Range and pass the grandiose named Great Moss Swamp. When dry the road is an easy ride but the area is prone to snow even in mid summer (my first ride through was in 6 inches of snow the day after New Years!).
You drop off the Rock and Pillar Range into Rocklands Station. Hang a left off the Old Dunstan Road here and onto Rocklands Road. Although it looks like you are entering Rocklands Station, the road is a public road that passes through the station yards.
Continue to State Highway 87 and head to Sutton. A short dog leg off the main road onto Garthmyl Road takes you away from traffic and straight to Middlemarch.
|Alexandra to Middlemarch|
Leg 9 Middlemarch to Ranfurly
This is easy, just start the Central Otago Rail Trail at Middlemarch and head to Ranfurly!
|The start of the Central Otago Rail Trail|
|Viaduct Central Otago Rail Trail|
|Middelmarch to Ranfurly|
Leg 10 Ranfurly to Kurow Description
Hopefully the wind on the Maniototo didn't blow you back to Middlemarch. Leg 10 takes you from Ranfurly towards the hills (again?). This time though you will ride the well graded Danseys Pass Road. But first a small side trip to "2000 feet above worry level". The tiny village of Naseby is as laid back NZ as you can get, and with some sweet singletrack as well.
|Lazy singletrack in Naseby forest|
|Cooling off in Naseby - 2000 ft above worry level!|
Once refreshed head out of town towards Kyeburn Diggings and Danseys Pass. Another popular watering hole (of the the drinking kind that is) awaits at Kyeburn Diggings.
|Danseys Pass Hotel refreshment stop|
A flat ride awaits as you join the Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail (again) for the gentle climb into Kurow.
|Ranfurly to Kurow|
Leg 11 Kurow to Tekapo Description
You are on the home stretch now and to reward you it is easy riding with just spectacular scenery as a distraction.
The old rickety single lane Kurow Bridge over the Waitaki River (below), with it's regular road closures, has been replaced by a modern bridge to ensure your last day in the saddle has no delays.
|The infamous (and rickety) Kurow Bridge|
Downhill and then flat and on to Tekapo.
Coast down the hill and back to the Church of the Good Shepherd on the shore of Lake Tekapo and give yourself a big pat on the back! (and a beer).
|Kurow to Tekapo|