Brent & Claire

Category: The Old Ghost Road Trail

6/3/22 Specimen Point Hut to Seddonville – 17km – The Mighty Mōhikinui

Was this the back end of the miner’s trail as we hugged the true left bank of the mighty Mōhikinui River gorge; or was this the front end if walking in reverse?

Either direction, the undulation with the stunning pearl green river views, narrow trail with overhang and wire fencing, swing bridges that housed one person, two persons of five at a time and the like, really amplified the awe, and some.

It was the final day on The Old Ghost Road and an above average number distance wise.  Especially coming off the 25km the day before.

Piwakawaka’s darted the tree line trying to talk to us with their bird squeak talk.  Kereru swooped the higher branches.  Goat turds left evidence of their presence.  We had to step off the trail to allow the dentist and partner squeeze through with their final words offered “have a great life” as they rode off disappearing around a bend.

You just know when people are getting tired when they start to pose unnaturally for photo’s.  It’s okay.  If we can’t laugh at ourselves etc, etc, etc.

And just like that, the number 85 appeared on a track sign post.  Soon after, we exited off the trail beneath a similar hanging sign that read ‘The Old Ghost Road’.

High fives, social distancing hugs, congratulations said and then a pack dismount. Not necessarily in that order.  Before a final collective photo.

We found our re-located vehicle (thank you Buller Adventures) who threw in a complimentary bush shower at the Rought and Tumble Bush Lodge.

There is something to be grateful for when you can douse in shampoo or soap to clense and nourish the body.  The smell of clean is a thing.

We loaded the tramping gear aboard in readiness for the a huge drive back to Christchurch.

Interrupted with an early feed and ale at the Seddonville pub before turning left to head south.

A toilet stop at Culverden had all five of us wonky walking as joints had stiffened together from the seating posture.  All part and parcel of body weariness from the five days of continuous tramping on The Old Ghost Trail.

Conclusion – we would rate this trail with it’s unheralded diversity.

And it’s on our back door step.

Trail information does promote it should be attempted by technically competent and fit mountain bikers (we would agree) and experienced and fit trampers (we would also have to agree) however, anyone with a passionate ‘want to’ with some focused planning and certainly pre-conditioning training will be able to knock it off.

Become a statistic that has.

There is an absolutely difference between “I’m glad I did” versus “I wish I had of …”

Full stop.

Until the next adventure …

5/3/22 Stern Valley Hut to Specimen Point Hut – 25kms – Dr. Ashley Bloomfield

I’d describe his facial and head features as a combination of Emmett “Doc” Brown from the movie ‘Back to the Future’ movie, wearing Joe 90 framed glasses, styling a mop of hair similar to Medusa – the Greek mythology that had venomous snakes in place of hair!

The tights he wore did nothing for his skinny as frame, sagging from behind. He wore woollen socks as hut foot wear.

The senior citizen from Wellington with a career in dentistry (still working), he was a delight to converse with during dinner the evening before.  Except when he zoned in on cremations and what sort of pollution containment there is about with all the mercury fillings people have.  It was outside my specialty field with a slight tainted response that his era was the root cause of prilling, drilling and filling.  With mercury!

Both he and his partner (also a senior citizen but from Christchurch) were cycling the trail.  They were going to be staying at the same hut as us again this day at Specimen Point, so their departure time didn’t need to be as early as ours, given they were cycling, and we weren’t.

All the trail notes and maps were in collusion – 25km, 7-8 hours.

Visualising a long day in the boots, on the boots.

Overthinking the just thinking about it was exhausting.

Without even taking a first step.

But it had to be done and so we started.

A couple of kilometres up the trail, we stepped aside to allow the husband-and-wife marathoners to run past.  Actually, it was the wife first and then the hubby.  Quite the gentleman. However, every time we had to step off the trail to allow bikers to pedal past as well, it meant additional steps for us. 

And over the course of the day, they added up.

Nigh on half way, we had to stand aside and give way to a larger group of cyclists.  We anticipated seeing a friend who was supposed to be with them, however, he only made it to Lyell Hut and because of body conditioning, or lack of it, had to turn back.  In amongst the group, the dentist and partner rode past with words of encouragement exchanged.

Continuing, we encountered a couple of walkers heading in the opposite direction.  Stopping to chat, one of them asked if Dr. Ashley Bloomfield (NZ Public Health Official who has fronted the Covid pandemic since its beginning) was in the larger cycling group.

“Nah, he was just a dentist from Wellington” was my reply.

Encountering a second mate from Christchurch whom we socialise with that was also on the trail at the right time was the kind-rid spirited interaction we needed.  It evaporated the hurt in the legs the last four kms.

A hard day at the office to eventually arrive at Specimen Point Hut, the 25km achieved in 7.5 hours.

“Doc” Emmett wearing Joe 90 glasses with the Medusa hair style also confirmed that Bloomfield was amongst the group and cycling the trail and had past us by.

Just goes to prove the point that perving at lycra from behind always looks the same!

Who looks at faces?

4/3/22 Ghost Lake Hut to Stern Valley Hut – 13km – Patience is a Testing Waiting Game

The watch alarm rang out from the corner of me bunk.

However, it was an intentional ‘Ops’ instance.  There was no shuffle to extinguish the beep but a prompt move to disentangle one out of the sleeping liner and bag with a purpose.

Apparel was put in pitch darkness, easily found from having strategically placed it before the head torch was turned off the night before.  No snoring again from above, their head torch down the undies was working!

As I approached the sliding door out onto the veranda of the hut, a shadow came towards me from the other side.  Then a second.  It was comforting to see others had the same purpose and we exchanged salutations when the glass was slid back and opened.

The fella who slept on the veranda itself was awake.  I apologized for entering his bedroom.  He had arrived with his ten-year-old son on dinner time last night.  They had covered in one day what we had in two to arrive at Ghost Lake Hut from the Lyell car park.  A fare distance for short legs.

More bodies shadowed vertical.

Eyes were scanning the horizon to the east.   To watch the sunrise.

Patience is a testing waiting game.

As the rainbow spectrum began, I entered the hut to wake up BClaire to come share the experience.  Tin, Jeana and Brendan followed.  Practically the whole hut did.

Whispers and the clicks from camera’s shared the odd squawk from somewhere out there.  Weka’s probably.  They were abundant on the trail, minding their own business with an inquisitive sense of nosiness.

There was a point in the respected stillness when suddenly, voices and morning ritual business erupted.  And people headed off in the direction of where night became morning, back on the trail.

Day 3 of 5 had to be the most colourful 12kms trodden as far as trail variety.

From the hut, we board walked past the biodiversity lake on our left.  It looked opal green with rock snot than healthy pristine drinkable water.  A short hump and then a huge zigzag down section.  We were ahead of the first bikers.  You knew they were sharing the trail with the echo of brakes as they had to navigate the tight corners.  And some of them were tight.

We had descended quite a bit before we encountered them.  And the view back to the hut was an ‘OMG’ view as you didn’t see the cliff face from the veranda.  And what was below if you ventured too far in front.  A straight drop!

There was a little eerie valley mist before we ascended onto the skyline ridge.  Balance on a bike is paramount, more so as you finish that part to then must carry your bike vertical down 304 steps to join the trail again down the other side of the mountain.  Not for novice cyclists however, an adrenalin rush for as those using pedal power for sure.

Dad and 10 year old son on their way.
Departing Ghost Lake Hut

We were back under forest cover for the rest of this days walk, although, finished early again.

The bonus, a wash in the neighbouring river to clean cracks and crannies in-between blood sucking sandflies love bites, more playing of cards, and exchanging trail stories with other fellow beings sharing the hut.

Dad and son were already at the hut having a rest.  They were continuing.  Cripes, how could you not feel for the young one being under the type of parentage he was experiencing?  25-30 kms a day is tough on adults, let alone on a young teenager.

Who’s turn, is it?

Other cyclists doing the trail in a day arrived and left.  Some red faced.  Some fit as.  The runners who arrived were booked in to stay at the hut also.  They had run in from the Lyell car park and were tomorrow running out to the end.  Two marathons in two days.  Holy sh.t.

Not us though, we like slow adventuring now.

Part of the body maintenance plan at our ages.

The sun set happened without any fuss, not like the morning’s sunrise.

And thus, we would rate Ghost Lake Hut as one to return to for two-three nights stay.

A heavenly view to die for.

3/3/22 Lyell Saddle Hut to Ghost Lake Hut – 12km – Knock Knock Knock on Heaven’s Door

Anyone else have a body clock where you awaken just moments before an alarm rings out to welcome you into a new day dawned?

Even if it’s still pitch black.

The silence is usually broken with rustling movement from within sleeping bags.

Then the hurried pace to locate the watch so as to turn the ‘beep, beep, beep’ off before it’s timer automatically stops.

The breath is held hoping you didn’t cause fellow bunk roommates to slip from dream to consciousness.

But alas, nope.  A shuffle of a bag above or somewhere to your left.

Ops!

Oh well, might as well get up and put the billy on and take part in observing a hut come to life first thing in the morning.

Yesterday’s attire put back on.  Kettles crank up as water is boiled.  Then the brew smell of tea or coffee permeates the hut. Whispers become louder as more bodies become vertical.  Porridge and muesli overtake the hut odour.  Conversation gets louder.  Hut doors are open and closed.  Folk going out to the ablutions.  And back.  But more so kept shut to keep the beasties that suck your blood out.  Insect repellent smell becomes evident.

And somewhere towards the east, the night sky awakens to go through it’s morning ritual.

About to depart Lyell Saddle Hut

There was more forest altitude to climb before it opened up to tussock tops with vista views.

The trail route snailed around a huge rock outcrop known as Rocky Tor that peaked at 1,456 metres.

Horton Hears a Who
Rocky Tor

The spot that is sign posted ‘Heaven’s Door’ was one where you compulsorily stopped to admire the view into the abys.  And beyond.  The Murchison township was the Mona Lisa centre piece.  Perhaps the GPS location where the most photos would be captured on any fine weathered day.  To encounter on a shit weather day would be a disappointment.

But I would have to add that the view from the balcony of Ghost Lake Hut was ten-fold better.  It was panoramic.  It was again as far as the eye could see.  As close to heaven as anyone was going to be on the Old Ghost Road Trail. And day two’s stop.

We arrived early as it was only a 12km trek, so we go to consume lunches in awe.

And then sit at a picnic table to play Monopoly cards in the surround sound marvel.

The hut population grew.

Then at some point of the later day, a reverse of the morning ritual just happens as one heads towards shut eye.

Naturally, there is always the comment of “remember to turn off your alarm Ruru” with an acknowledgement response of “Yep, absolutely.”

I live for “Op’s” in the morning.

2/3/22 Lyell to Lyell Saddle Hut – 18km – The Crimson of Blood

The Old Ghost Road Trail is a distance of 85km.

It’s been transformed into a rideable landscape for bikers and therefore, the trail for walkers like us was like a highway grade.

The smell of clean before taking the first steps …

And the gradient itself was a steady upwards after a final picture under ‘The Old Ghost Road’ sign and a crossing over of a stream using a swing bridge.

18kms of it, to the first hut, the Lyell Saddle Hut.

Majestic beech forest dominated overhead, as did the giant punga palm ferns fauna.

Bird song echoed.  Robin’s weren’t shy and one even had the guts to peck at Jeanna’s leg drawing crimson.  Didn’t know they were meat eaters!

A heap of imagination bounced off the grey matter walls between the ears as we trapsed the long-forgotten gold miners’ route of yesteryear.  Weathered artifacts dotted the sides of the trail.

The old fella who had arrived prior to our departure with no teeth, a tobacco rollie hanging from the corner of his mouth, well-worn clothes and a gold panning sluice box sticking out from his backpack that befriended us, told the story that there was still gold to be discovered in these here hills.

It was his life now till his end of days.  Find that one nugget to change his life.  New teeth being a goal.

The arrival at Lyell Saddle Hut was welcomed.

All the huts on the trail are well equipped with gas stoves, pots, crockery and kfs’s.  To assist the bikers with carrying less.  We walkers were carrying the extra’s for that just in case situation where you have to shore up in-between a hut.  For whatever reason.

We swapped day wear for evening wear and then settled into a game of cards, meeting and conversing with other arriving fellow biker/walking trailers, compared dehydrated dinners and bantered bull shit with laughter.

A very exciting first day escaping the hustle and bustle of worldly events.

Both domestically.

And globally.

1/3/22 The Old Ghost Road Trail Pre-amble

Have you ever answered a survey after doing an event or completed an adventure or stayed at accommodation or purchased something and received a review asking for feedback?

I did.

Pretty much straight after our arrival back into rat race land after having knocked off The Old Ghost Road Trail.

One from Buller Adventures for relocating our vehicle from Lyell to Seddonville; and one from The Old Ghost Road Trail custodians to solicit feedback on our experience.  I rated them both a perfect 10 out of 10 without any hesitation.

But the third review won’t appear on any system generated questionnaire.  It was more a personal face to face interaction with a member in our party.  For their exemplary and outstanding effort to care for our wellbeing and health when sharing the bunk room.

By shoving their roll-on deodorant down the undies on the first night sleeping together.  And then their head torch for the consecutive four nights after.  Shoving it down their undies.

Apparently, it stops the person from rolling onto their back and therefore has them sleeping on their sides for most of the hours of darkness.

And extinguishes any notion of being able to snore!

For which I can categorically substantiate that it works. 

Allowed for a peaceful sleep by one and all.  Sharing the bunkroom.

Naturally, the head torch was a multi-purpose tool.  Used on the head after the lights went out on the trail.  Or in our case, when the sun slid down behind the horizon and day became night.

Just to add, the head torch was not a shared tool neither.

Knowing where it was going after its candle was switched off.

Notwithstanding, back to the review of The Old Ghost Road Trail – an over whelming high score experience.

You should do it.

It is so worth the effort, energy and engagement.

You will dream about the experience long afterwards.

And if you are a snorer, you can create your own review on the solution offered above.

Might dream better too!

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