Megan Gale has carved out a wonderful career in modelling, designing and acting and now has another string to her bow. Tourism New Zealand announced Megan Gale as the first ambassador to promote cycling to the Australian market at a press conference held in Sydney in February.
With strong family links to New Zealand, Megan says she is proud to be the Ambassador for Tourism New Zealand’s cycling campaign.
“New Zealand is in my blood – my mother is part Māori so the connection to New Zealand has always been strong and the opportunity to promote New Zealand as a destination and its Great Rides is incredibly exciting.”
Have you always been into cycling?
I cycled regularly before falling pregnant so was really excited when Tourism New Zealand approached me with this. Cycling is part of my exercise routine so combining it with travel is the perfect balance. The best part is you can explore the country from an entirely different angle – it’s like riding through a postcard.
How many trails are in the New Zealand Cycle Trail network?
There are around 2700 kilometres of trails to cover so I might have to make a few trips back. The diverse network of off-road cycle trails includes pristine cycleways that showcase the many great sights New Zealand has to offer.
What were the highlights of the Otago Central Rail Trail?
Definitely Sam Neil’s Two Paddocks Winery and Olivers Central Otago Lodge & Stables in the beautiful town of Clyde. Owner Andrea’s home-cooked breakfast was second-to-none. I also enjoyed an afternoon stop at the historic Chatto Creek Tavern.
And what about the Timber Trail; where is it and what is it like?
I did two multi-day rides including The Timber Trail, which winds through ancient forests in the North Island. I’ll never forget the breathtaking suspension bridges. Being guided by Māori chef and botanist Charles Royal on the trail was fascinating. He showed me which native plants and ferns you can harvest from the land around you. I was also treated to a powhiri (Māori welcoming ceremony) by the community at Pa Harekeke, which was a significant and memorable moment.
There is more to do than just ride a bike on the trails; what are some of the things you can do along the way?
Get to know the friendly locals and soak up the ever-changing scenery. I cycled through native forests and historical towns, past flowing rivers and across impressive suspension bridges. It is amazing where two wheels can take you.
I visited a vineyard and sampled fresh and tasty local food and wine – it is so important to refuel properly and for some reason everything tastes better after exercising and being out in the fresh air all day!
Did you train much to do the trails?
The beauty of New Zealand’s network of Great Rides is that there is something to suit all ages, levels and tastes of cycling. Whether you are an expert hard-core mountain biker or it’s been a while since you last rode a bike, there is an enjoyable and suitable route for you to discover. While I went with multi-day rides, there is also a plethora of day ride options. You can travel with your own bike, but I’d recommend hiring bikes from one of the many bike tour operators on each Great Ride. They can also help with accommodation bookings and baggage transfers.
Apart from the trails, what are your favourite parts of New Zealand?
Wanaka for its romantic outdoor landscapes and life changing pinot. In autumn the green, gold and red colours are spectacular. Waiheke Island for a dreamy weekend getaway and Wellington for its quirky designers and seriously good coffee stops.
I’m a big foodie so Hawkes Bay for its art deco streets, gentle cycle trails and amazing vineyard destinations and Christchurch – there are so many new and innovative places to explore including Roots (NZ’s Top Restaurant, only caters for 10 tables, everything is either foraged or locally sourced).
Is there anywhere in New Zealand you haven’t been and want to visit?
Northland – My Mum is actually from Kaitaia in Northland so I’ve always felt a connection to New Zealand. I’d like to take my family over and visit the ancient and wise Tane Mahuta (Lord of the forest). There’s a magical cultural experience in Waipoua Forest where Footprints Waipoua take you on a journey through towering native kauri trees to visit four mighty and ancient kauri trees including Tane Mahuta – the largest kauri tree in New Zealand. •