After following the Old Ghost Road Facebook page since nearly its conception, it was on the bucket list. An opportunity came up; I was doing a nursing placement in Westport for a few weeks it was going happen. A few months out, James and I booked huts. It seems you need to get in early, with booking two months before we managed to snaffle a suitable weekend. All that was left to do was organise our gear and pray to the weather gods!
We decided to do the hard mahi first and go from Lyell getting the uphill done and out through to Seddonville. At first, we were going to manage the small logistical nightmare of a car at each end with a few hours driving in between. Amazingly, the friendly Coasters Pip and Rich who I am staying with offered to drop us off and pick us up. Problem solved.
Even the drive up the Buller Gorge was a beautiful adventure in its self from Westport with the morning mist sitting on the river winding towards Lyell.
When we got out of the car, we were greeted with a cloud of ravenous sandflies and after a quick photo under the iconic ‘Old Ghost Road’ sign and we were off!
We started (my) slow trot and James’s ride steadily uphill passing through abandoned gold rush towns Gibbstown and Zalatown with nothing but a pair of old boots, rusty iron and waggon wheels to mark their existence. The signage along the way is informative and conveniently situated for small stops to catch your breath on what soon is becoming a long arse climb.
Soon enough we reach Lyell Saddle Hut, which is more than equipped to provide for a luxurious lunch stop including French pressed coffee and caramel slice with a view. With a new found stiffness, we continue the climb into the forest. This climb seemed to last forever, my pack which was on its maiden voyage was starting to get heavy and the legs weary.
I tested our relatively new relationship by apologising every five minutes for being slow and stopping to attractively dry retch or burp. Finally, the forest started to become stunted, and we made it to the tops. With new found energy and awe we moved across what is without a doubt, the most beautiful piece of New Zealand that I have ever seen. As we moved across the Rocky Tor the highest point 1600m, things continued if possible to get better. Sweet slightly downhill single track, selfies and fantastic views towards the Southern Alps and beyond. Life is good!
We arrived at Ghost Lake Hut (1200m) perched with spectacular views of the surrounding valleys. After a meal and stiff Port, we passed the evening spotlighting in the lake looking for frogs, koura and fish. We spread out on a comfy rock admiring the stars and the twinkling main strip of Murchison. In the morning, James was moving with the pace of an old man, but somehow miraculously my body was feeling fine. We had watched the sunrise before we got moving for the day.
Down then straight up again, was a bit painful on our unconditioned bodies but the views made up for the discomfort. Heading down the skyline was the best riding and running of the trip, our bodies had warmed up, and we were flying around the switchbacks having a blast. We descended into the forest of Stern Valley on another beautiful flowing set of switchbacks to the hut. We quickly filled up with water before the sandflies drove us mad and continued on. The track flattened out, and on my weary legs, it wasn’t feeling the best.
Ironically when I was momentarily hating on life, we came across Lake Grim quickly followed by Lake Cheerful. It gave
us a laugh, and we continued up towards the boneyard. Stopping for some bacon and egg pie rejuvenation at Solemn Saddle we powered on down through the hanging judge and more sweet switchbacks into Goat Creek. Moving through the relatively flat damp forest for the final almost never ending eight kilometres to Mokihinui Forks Hut.
The hut was fantastic, even though it didn’t have a French press for coffee. We are tough adventurers who brought brew
bags stolen from James’s Dad, and we weren’t bothered. We settled in with a heated game of Last Card and quickly feel asleep with big old West Coast rain hitting the roof. In the morning thankfully the weather gods had been good to us, and a light drizzle followed us out.
The Mokihinui River was a beautiful shade of green that rattled below us as we passed through the Gorge the scarily named Suicide Slips, very swingy swing bridges, beautiful waterfalls and native lined track for the final few kilometres.
Spotting the car park was a welcome sight. Pip and Rich had brought us picnic supplies in the rain and found our enthusiasm for the track contagious. They’re in their seventies, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you see them wandering around up there with old fashioned packs, grey hair and five-cup slice to share.