2020: was there a silver lining?

This piece from our National Technical Manager, Nicola Hankinson, looks at the silver lining she found in 2020. When her family's 6 month around the world trip was stymied by COVID-19 she picked up a new opportunity called the Epic Camp. Here's Nicola's story of a 2020 adventure she never expected to happen. 

Time to read: 3 mins

Well I certainly found a silver side to 2020. We are lucky enough to be ‘stuck’ in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, where we have successfully managed to get on top of the dreaded coronavirus, and pretty much have the country all to ourselves.

And life is what you make it. With this in mind, when it became obvious that our plans for a six-month family trip around the world were no longer feasible and the opportunity arose to cycle the South Island with 29 other like-minded (crazy) triathletes, I immediately signed up.

The trip itself was called the ‘Epic Camp’, appropriately named, although there was no camping. But it was quite epic. We started our trip in sunny Nelson, kicking off with an aquathlon, a swim in the sea followed by a 5km run. What a way to start! Day one also included a hilly time trial (TT), a stop-off at gorgeous St Arnaud and cycling through to Murchison for smoothies in the pool and late lunch before heading to the pub for dinner. One of the highlights was being able to walk down and back in the middle of the road traffic was not an issue for us in Murchison or anywhere else en route!

The rest of the nine-day camp followed a similar format; lots of cycling, gorgeous scenery, delicious food and great company. We also had a team of six amazing support crew who made sure that everything we could possibly need was provided. This included doing our washing for us every night (!), giving us newspaper to dry out our wet shoes (we cycled down the West Coast so did get our fair share of rain along the way) and providing us with hot chips when we most needed them (halfway through a 180km wet ride).

Highlights included:

  • Visiting Franz Josef glacier for the first time
  • Cycling up Coronet Peak quite a grind and terrible view at the top (thanks to the rain clouds) but the sense of achievement was amazing
  • Making it up to the top of Bluff Hill super windy and I would not recommend trying to pick your bike up for photos like we did!
  • Racing up Mt Iron in Wanaka
  • Cycling for a whole day without making a turn! And no traffic lights the whole way
  • Team trail run at Cape Foulwind
  • Patagonia gelateria in Arrowtown reopening for us for after dinner ice-creams
  • Refreshing dip in Lake Wanaka
  • That first sip of champagne at Lands End (the official end of our South Island trip)

The camp incorporated a points system, based on the Tour de France, which was a great way to encourage the type A personalities amongst us to extend ourselves even further and do some crazy distances. Like the day we cycled past our accommodation three times to hit the 210km mark gaining an extra few bonus points and ridiculous challenges like swimming 1km with bands (which I managed to do) and 200m butterfly (which I didn’t manage to do).

Was it all swim, bike, run? No we also went to Puzzle World in Wanaka one day and to the pub most nights. We had a heck of a lot of fun along the way and enjoyed sharing rooms with different people (our new friends) each night. No conversations were off bounds which made for an interesting and, at times, educational trip.

Were there tantrums along the way? No! I was expecting these but we were so well looked after that there really was no need.

Would I do it again? I sure would! In fact, I have already signed up for Epic Camp 2021, which is based in Central Otago and features a couple of ‘must-visit’ places such as Mt Cook and Milford Sound. Covid really has presented us with a great opportunity to get out there and explore our own backyard and it sounds like 2021 may well be another ‘home’ year.