The Old Ghost Road…

It’s been some time since last putting pixels down on my screen for the GUTM Blog…

Prompted by a recent correspondence and ‘Lay of The Land’ conversation with Steve M which coincided nicely with a recent ride adventure.

Well timed!

A planned ride to the Old Ghost Road late Winter had been planned with my riding pal Phillip, but a last minute cancellation forced the option to wait till Spring for a longer riding day with more daylight. Also timed well as Phil had recently completed his build of a Kona Unit frame which would have us both riding these frame’s in slightly different iterations.

I ordered and fitted a slightly smaller chainring to give a little more ease to the 18km climb. 2 years on since last riding here and I’m not quite as punchy with my climbing and besides, Phil was running a BIG 52t rear cassette compared to my measly 46t..

A 6.30am pickup had us on our way towards the Lyall Valley some 150km away. A picturesque journey in itself through Alpine lakes and National Park, always a pleasure.

Arriving at Murchison some 30km to the beginning of our ride. A coffee and chat with the locals at the River Inn Cafe before heading on our way…

The last section of this journey intersects the Buller River which is an iconic destination for rafting & kayaking, from experience it us well worth stopping for a guided rafting tour, it’s an absolute thrill!

We arrive at the beginning of the Old Ghost Road, always a joy knowing that a great days peddling awaits us.

A change into riding gear, a brief chat and the obligatory photo at the start of the track. Walking down the step’s to the swing bridge crossing then off we go…

Weather forecast giving a chance of shower but mostly Fine.

Straight off, the deep forest air and river aromas providing an instant calm, always particular/peculiar to these back country ride’s.

Native bird chorus a constant companion for the entire Ride.

Settling into our own riding pace, which has us stopping for photo opportunities and occasional sharing of a view.

We both enjoy this no pressure riding.

Part way in and 3 of the track maintenance crew pass us on their motorcycles with track gear on board and a cheery ‘have a great Ride!’

The first waterfall which crosses the track is utilised and relished for a refreshing drink…

The Old Ghost Road is 85km in total. It exit’s further on the West Coast of New Zealand. With a good number of huts available for The recommend 2to4 day’s to complete. Search YouTube for Old Ghost Road to get a head’s up on this spectacular Ride.

18km to the Lyell Saddle Hut being our destination is deemed a descent ride with return.

Quite a number of mining relics on the side of the track giving a sense of the gold mining history which is prevalent through the entirety of the ride…

Almost three quarters of the ride in we exit to a shingle slide area where the view’s open out to the vastness of this landscape. handfuls of sweet & sour snakes for some much needed sugar we marvel at the View. .I Spot a native falcon soaring below us above the canopy crying it’s call which has a haunting peculiarity to it.


Away we head…

A few little pinches before the track level’s off for around 5km of mostly quite flat track. Heading towards a drink stop (waterfall) a small shower passes over us with no need to fit jackets, we continue enjoying the cooling embrace of the damp.

The 17km marker comes into view with 1km to the hut. The plant life becomes distinctly Alpine as the track of the main path appears. Dismounted, we push our bikes the last 50metres.

No one about we put the gas and billy on for a brew. Respective food placed on table we sit back to revel in the view from the hut window with quite the climb accomplished, we settle into a mutual appreciation and shared silence of our good fortune, being well aware of the state of the world just now!

My salami cheese & Lettuce bun really hit the spot after a good expenditure of energy…

Washed down with discussion and dissection of Phil’s bike build, which scores high on the satisfaction scale.

Picking up bike’s we head back down the path for the return 18km DOWN…..

It never ceases to amaze me just how much the descent keeps on going! Not considered a technical track, it still pays to be vigilant as there are some very steep drops which would be a one way ticket! Pre COVID, this descent was part of the International Enduro scene with competitors helicoptered to The Lyell Hut.

Arriving at the shingle slide (the only cell phone coverage) a few photo’s dispatched to various fellow rider’s for the envy factor and then minutes later the anticipated abuse 😀

Heading off we meet our first group of bike packer’s heading in for a 3 day ride through the complete Track.

Another couple of km’s and a couple of solo tramper’s to round off the list of everyone we encounter this day. Some nice sections of open track and a chance to let the brakes go and enjoy some of that Enduro speed!

Nearing the 5km to the end of the ride and some fatigue starts to settle in. A slower pace ensues with a few more conversation stops.

The swing bridge Comes into view…

Bike’s on the back, gear stowed and we head back to Murchison for return coffee and the de-brief of the ride heading back home.

And Much Earned Rest…

Both in agreement that we’ll be riding here again soon, with plans for an overnight return To The Old Ghost lake hut.

Words and pictures – Paul Nichols


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