Old Ghost Road - Part 2 The Finish

Postby Rik on Wed 26/Oct/16 9:16am

You've waited a week for the conclusion of this tail. If you missed it you can read the first day here:

Also, check out our new interactive map to display route and photos along the way, at the bottom of this write up.

So here's the second day:

Well that's a relief. That was a good night's sleep. I was warm all night long, and slept through till awoken by the pre-dawn chorus. I pause to enjoy the moment and listen to the birds, that's all I can hear, just the birds, no wind, no rain. Today so far was sounding like it was going to be a good day. I only needed to get beyond the small hurdle of donning those items of clothing that hadn't dried fully. Oh and the slightly larger hurdle of summiting the Soleman Saddle. I can hear most of the hut occupants are awake as well, just waiting for the dawn to break.

Once up, breakfasts are quickly consumed, bags packed, and ultimately, cold damp riding gear donned. Chains oiled and bikes readied. Ready for the off. Timecheck 8:03am (tssk, what would sarnt' major scream about that kind of timekeeping)

From the hut it is a gentle leg warming meander alongside the river valley floor. There is very little warm-up thought before The Boneyard comes into sight. There is no getting away from the fact, we are in the bottom of the valley floor and the hills sides tower steeply above us. We undulate gently around Lake Peaceful before attacking the climb.

Sun slowly penetrates the valley

The Boneyard is very different terrain to it's surroundings, I giant swath of barren, rock strewn land where only a few trees or shrubs dare to grow. The track weaves it's way between towering boulders, some split in two from impact force. It's an eerie place, almost gruesome, or is that just the trail. This section switchbacks itself back again and again and again on itself, never dipping always climbing. The ground under tyre is jagged, rocky, technical.

Epicly vast

On a good day, I love climbing, but this trail is doing it's best to rebuff my affections.
Like a Briggs & Stratton 4HP engine that you thrashed the day before left in the shed overnight in the cold, then expected it to cut overgrown wet grass first thing the next morning. My legs lack the turbo diesel punch to push my mass up around the inclined hairpins, forcing me off the bike to push, turn after turn. Damn it, throw me a frickin' bone here, let me get my rhythm on.

Rik concentrates hard on his pose in opening round of the rock vs legs white-off competition

Reaching the top of Soleman saddle is a blessing and the high point of day two. Time for second breakfast whilst everyone regroups. Timecheck: 9:00am

From here it's all downhill to the finish, but I get ahead of myself, we still have a long way to go. After that climb and the quick rest, I'm fully fueled, my legs warmed up and I'm raring to get on with it. I wait to give the rider infront some space, so I can chase them back. Then go. Click the pedal cleats, click the left shifter, then click, click, click on the right and power up to speed.

Turn left for funsville

This descent it divine. It rips down the other side of the saddle with a beautifully smooth ribbon of crushed quartz. Every corner banked, every corner thrown at you in a random sequence of direction changes. Reading the terrain ques here are the key to finding the right line to maintain speed. I love the mental challenge of predicting a trail as much as the exhilaration of speed. I can't help but become overwhelmed by the joy of it all. Uncontrolled woots holler from me. I'm belting down this marbled trail draw the the sunlight at the bottom of the valley half expecting to crash through a set of pearly gates. But with some relief I bust out from the shaded valley walls into the idyllic sun drench base of the valley. Maybe this is heaven after all, I must have not noticed the gates. No, in this heaven, the reality of all yesterdays rain is that this heavenly trail is waterlogged. Not heavily enough to impede progress, but just enough to dismiss any thoughts of drying out my shoes this morning.

Idyllic spot

From here the trail disappears into the bush for a very pleasant section, firstly because of the shade, it's beginning to warm up now, and secondly because of the very gradual down river direction it heads. The trail first heads towards, then alongside the Mokihnui river. Till eventually crossing over to the western bank via a large swing bridge. Through a devilishly tricky, heavily sprung aluminium pest control door. Which not only did it do a good job of containing pests, but almost contained a few over-luggaged mountainbikers.

MTBers manage to navigate pest control measures

The western bank of the trail continues in much the same leafy vein. There is however, nothing leafy about the pace. The favourable gradient is helping, but I think the the sniff of lunchtime is pulling everyone along by their noses. Conditions are perfect, the sun is shining and the track, perfectly tacky thanks to yesterdays rain.

Mmmm, tacky

Peep holes in the vegetation reveal crazy beautiful views of the Mokihnui forks

We're belting along at a scenery blurring 25kph. We blow straight past the Goat Creek hut. Under the recommendation that the Specimen Point hut was a much better place to lunch, and only a few minutes further away. Twenty minutes later and we're at Specimen Point hut. Timecheck 11:13am

It's a bit early for lunch, but no-one is complaining. This is another immensely impressive top specced hut. We lounge on a sun drenched deck supping freshly brewed filter coffee soaking up magnificent views of the Mokihnui river and surrounding hills. It all seems to be far to sophisticated for a bunch for a bunch of muddy mountainbikers, but I'm okay with it, I'll be damned if I'll be leaving via servants door.

Not a bad view for lunch

As nice a place as this it time to move on soon arrives. So tidy the hut to leave it as we found it and get back in the saddles. A rocky descent takes us down to a swingbridge. From here the nature of the river changes, narrowing as carves it's way through the gorge. It's volume increases, sounding much more angry as it passes beneath our right shoulders.


Correspondingly the trail changes character aswell, it narrows considerably as it squeezes to fit on the gorges side. There are many more swingbridges and many more warning signs advising caution. Or dismounting altogether. Some of the sections look rideable. Many of of us can't resist the temptation to prove our skills by riding some of the sections. But made no mistake, in places the trail is barely a metre wide and there is a shear drop on the right to river 20 or 30 metres below. At one point my left handlebar grazes the rock face. I brush it of at the time. But looking back at it now. I realise, it was little more than dumb luck that kept me on my tyres at that moment. My thoughts also go back to the huge effort of engineering this section of the trail. The number of swing bridges and the amount of rock that would had to have been moved, very impressive.

How the vertigo?

With that tricky section complete the Old Ghost Road throws one last 40m pinch climb, just incase you'd forgotten what a hill was. Then she rewards you with fast few downhill Kays to the finish. Just to make sure your last memories of the Old Ghost Road are good ones. Finish 1:50pm

There's plenty to distract you from the pain tired legs

Mission accomplished. No crashes, no injurys, no mechanicals of significance, and not a single puncture. What a perfect trip. All that remained, was to celebrate this magnificent victory. So it was a quick sprint down the road to Seddonville to share six jugs and just as many mixed platters of deep fried edibles. Then onto the coast for a final night at Gentle Annies, before returning home.

Click out our new interactive map below. click on the pins to see photos in situ.
45.20 km
7.15 kph
583.60 m

Good Things
    The Old Ghost road has taken over (from the Queen Charlotte Walkway) As New Zealand Greatest multi ride.
    This whole ride delivers a huge variety of terrain, the track delivers the most smiles per Kay.
    The huts are all truly sorted in order to deliver for the time you are not in the saddle.
    Most importantly for me its location delivers on the feeling of remoteness provided, and think that's a must, if it is considered as epic ride.

To balance the argument, and I don't think these are bad points, more realities.
    This track is on the West Coast, so you should expect rain, so make sure you have proper wet weather gear packed in your kit.
    It is a point to point ride, so you to work out how to get back somehow.
    There are only a very few places where you'll find cellphone coverage, so don't rely on that as your "Get out of jail" card.

Useful links:
The Old Ghost Road
Hut booking
Voluntary donation
Spot tracker hire
TVNZ documentary (only available for four more days as of this posting)
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""Cities are becoming more rational again, after the folly of car-centric planning," Colville-Andersen"
Member for: 15 years 5 months

Re: Old Ghost Road - Part 2 The Finish

Postby Claude on Wed 26/Oct/16 9:03pm

Good one Rik. Going to be a work in progress to get a couple of mates away for a weekend to tackle that one!
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Member for: 14 years 7 months

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