The 2021 Great Southern Brevet

This is a long distance bike packing race that Tony and I have wanted to do for some time. It has a reputation for being the toughest bike packing event in New Zealand with brutal climbs and unpredictable weather over a distance of 1,100 kms. What makes it so appealing is the amazing scenery that the bottom of the South Island (Te Waiponamu) has to offer.

For me (Karen) even starting this event was a challenge as I had been nursing a persistent knee injury for the last 12 months. After countless physio appointments I finally managed to solve my knee issue by a small adjustment to my pedal set up. She was all on again!! My preparation was not ideal, three 100km training rides with no weight on – she’ll be right I’ve done this sort of thing before!

Now Tony is a different story. He’s been training hard for a race starting on the 14th of February called Tour Te Waiponamu, a self supported brevet race from the top of the South Island to the bottom through some of the most difficult hill country the South Island has to offer. The race includes about 30km of ‘hike a bike’ (where the terrain is so difficult you have to push/carry your bike). This is the first time this race had been run and how it will unfold is completely unknown. Sooooo, here I am barely fit to do 100kms and Tony very fit and strong – and we’re going to ride the Great Southern Brevet together! My solution was to load up Tony’s bike with extra gear – he carried the tent, camp chairs and extra food. I was just carrying my clothes and sleeping gear and the cooking gear.

We started on Sunday the 24th and managed to finish within the 8 day limit for the course a week later. I’ve got to say my training was well inadequate and some of the course made for ‘type 2 fun’ (described as some what of a suffer fest that is not enjoyed at the time, but later enjoyed upon reflection) for me. As for Tony, the harder the challenge or terrain the more he enjoyed it! We travelled through some amazing scenery and met some wonderful people during our tour. Here’s some photos of our tour.

Tony took this photo after I had just been blown off my bike by the wind near the tip of our first climb Thompson Pass – I was not impressed and tears weren’t far away! My first ‘type 2 fun’ experience.
Arrival in Queenstown meant eating an iconic Ferg Burger and…
… a ride on the Earnslaw paddle steamer across Lake Wakatipu – definitely ‘type 1 fun’!
Scoping out some possible accommodation on the Nevis.
Cresting one of the many climbs.
One of our typical camp sites – the chairs came in handy.
And waking up to a frost on our third to last day – wtf, it’s supposed to be the middle of summer!
It turns out this was a common sight for us on our Tour – a mob of sheep being moved blocking the road.
The push up Flanagans saddle – more ‘type 2 fun’.
And rewarded by amazing scenery at the top of Flanagans saddle overlooking Lake Ohau.
Reaching the top of our last major climb! All downhill from here (apart from the up-hills that is).
A fitting place to start and finish a pub – Vulcan Hotel at St Bathans.

Now I can rest up and Tony is ‘tapering’ for his big race starting on the 14th of February at 7am. You can watch his progress during the race by following his tracker at Tour Te Waipounamu 2021

Here is a screenshot of our route:


Two solemates sharing bikepacking adventures that are off the beaten track.

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