Zen On Dirt

The Old Ghost Road

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I think I’ve become a little overly scared of New Zealand trails. Today was maybe proof that I don’t have to be quite as scared as I am.

Ha. Who am I kidding.


Our team of four rolled out of Merchison at the alpine start time of 10:30.


But before rolling, we’d woken up, puttered, eaten eggs for breakfast, puttered, worked a smidgen, puttered, showered (I think I’ve showered more frequently on this trip than I do in real life, even when I’m living in a real house), puttered, sent a box off with a computer and leftover oats (they don’t sell oats in packages less than 1.5 kilo, and really we don’t need to haul 3.2 pounds of oats around), puttered, worked on diagnosing bike creaks, puttered, and finally rolled down the road.


We had 20 miles of pavement to get to Lyell, our starting point for the Old Ghost Road. Most of it was following the Buller River Gorge, and we decided that we needed to send a note to New Zealand Tourism to cut the bush down between the road and the river to improve the views.


After two hours of trending downhill pedaling, we made it to the trailhead and promptly exploded all of our food. Time for lunch and afternoon coffee break. This biketramping business is serious business.


Scott and Kurt had read a handful of trip reports of the Old Ghost Road, or at least descriptions. ‘Three hour bike carry’ was the one that stuck out in our minds. Heck, they service the top hut at the high point by helicopter. Anticipating three hours of misery and suffering, we pulled weight off the bikes and stuffed it in our packs.


I can confirm, there is no cell phone reception here

We then proceeded to pedal the entire 4,000 foot climb.


We’re about 25 kms in, and the trail has never deviated from its moderately graded nature-walk quality self. Parts that are reenforced by wood are like riding a boardwalk with a little bit of dirt on top. It’s actually so overbuilt that it’s almost comical.


We finally past bush line (tree line in New Zealand-ese) and found ourselves a ridge top perch where we managed to squeeze in both tents. We’re definitely close neighbors, and we had to cook dinner while sitting on the trail, which true to form, is several feet wide.


We’d been hearing that the Old Ghost Road was the big thing in biketramping in New Zealand. I can see why. It’s absolutely delightful for those of us who try to avoid hike-a-bike at pretty much all costs. (Unless it gets you some place really cool, then I’ll consider hike-a-bike well worth it)


Don’t you touch my Swiss Roll!

Tomorrow we go down. There is much excitement.


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