Tackling the Alps 2 Ocean | Sandy Brown’s Story

Sandy Brown recently completed the Alps 2 Ocean, which is one of his greatest physical accomplishments in recent times.

Sandy Brown - Blog

Diagnosed with Kappa Light Chain Myeloma 8.5 years ago after the T9 on his spinal column compressed, pinching his spinal cord. It took 3 months to get out of a wheelchair and steadily improve his walking, although it will never get back to what it was. Because of the pinched spinal cord, Sandy has on-going strength, stamina, balance, bowel and bladder issues.

This is when Sandy discovered his love of cycling, as it was less impact on his back and a lot more enjoyable than walking. From then on, cycling featured highly in his exercise plans, along with pilates.

This is the third year in a row he has travelled to the South Island in a motorhome, pursuing cycle trails. He enquired with several companies that operate on the A2O and we had the pleasure of creating an Itinerary that suited. Sandy was travelling in a motorhome and wanted to go back to that every night, so that’s exactly what happened. He cannot speak highly enough on how helpful our team was, from Kelly in the reservations team, Paul in our Twizel Depot, and our shuttle drivers – especially Ivan, Gary and Bede.

The first day was from Mt Cook to Twizel, the 2-degree temperature and headwind with drizzling rain made for a brutal start. That cold headwind persisted for the entire ride, making it a very hard day especially when the battery on the Ebike ran out half a km from home. A very tired boy that night, but he knew it will be an easy day tomorrow with only 38kms.

On the second day the shuttle dropped Sandy off at Lake Ohau and he rode back to Twizel. What a beautiful day on the trail, the lake was dead calm and not a ripple. He took it slow and enjoyed the ride, although he could feel the leg muscles.

Sandy Brown - Blog

Day three started at Lake Ohau. Sandy wasn’t looking forward to the start, which involved 11km of climb, with the last 5 being quite hard. You rise to 900m, the highest point on the trail, and then pretty much all downhill to Omarama. On passing the turn off to the Clay Cliffs Sandy decided to have a look, which added 14kms onto the day. Unfortunately the extra distance made for a very slow ride to Omarama with a total of 59km that day.

Day four is Omarama to Kurow. Riding alongside lake Benmore to the Benmore dam was Sandy’s favourite part of the whole trip. Even though he found there were some tough climbs, the new trail is one of the most scenic rides in the country. It’s worth doing on its own if you haven’t enough time for the whole trail.

Sandy Brown - Blog

Day 5 was the easiest, at only 27kms from Kurow to Duntroon. In comparison to the previous day it was not as eventful except for the Maori Rock art and the prevailing headwind.

The last day was Duntroon to Oamaru. It was a tough uphill climb to start with, followed by some lovely valleys with wonderful rock formations. The Fort Enfield Tavern was a welcome sight after days of carrying your own food. The A2O finish was a stones throw away, with a short ride to Oamaru.

Along the way, Sandy met and rode with some lovely people. Wherever he went, the people were so helpful and nothing was a problem. This made it easier for him, even though they did not know he was somewhat impaired in some areas. He had a lot of support from family, friends, hospital staff (Sarah, Scarlet and Janet) and Warren the pharmacist. All of them helping in one way or another to make sure there is no problems or stress.

There was a huge sense of achievement for Sandy to have completed the entire Alps 2 Ocean, over 300km! It took months to get fit for this ride but the sense of accomplishment at the end is so worth it. It’s the same with everything, think positive, don’t give up and give it a go.

Sandy hopes his story helps inspire someone to give something a go, it doesn’t matter what, as long as you think positively and try – that’s all he asks. If he can do it, so can most other people.