Harri and I had an awesome time riding the Old Ghost Road on the northwestern end of the NZ South Island. It’s an 85km purpose built dual purpose mtb/ hiking trail, that climbs up into the mountains, winds around, plunges up and down a few times and has typically awesome NZ scenery. It was spectacular and super fun. It’s been open less than a year and already becoming heavily booked in advance.
We split it up into a 30km day riding into the Ghost Lake Hut, and then a 55km day to ride out and stay at a lovely lodge at the trail end, Rough and Tumble Lodge. Our logistics were made easy by being picked up in Wellington by our NZ based friends Heather and Shane, who had also organised for their car to be shuffled from the start to finish as well (lots of tour organisers catering for pickups/ drop offs/ car shuffles).
Sounds cruisy? I wouldnt have wanted to do it any quicker, and most of the cyclists we chatted with on the way stayed a second night out on track at Specimen Hut, leaving a short 17km ride out. Our last day was a pretty decent day – around 7.5hrs out on track, with lots of photo stops, and we were crazy lucky with the weather. The weather is not to be underestimated – it snowed on the track all around Ghost Lake Hut 2 days previous, and we had some good patches of bog to navigate. You’d want to be super fit and strong, carry good lights, and not want any photo stops if doing it one day. The photo of steps – best to go south to north as there are 302 steps at that point!
If you do plan to ride it some helpful notes are
– dont take a camelbak, a single bidon is more than enough (good water at all 5 huts and loads of fresh streams)
– if you have a choice don’t ride a hardtail, and I really appreciated being on a beautiful squishy trail bike rather than my Epic. The track is pretty rough and rocky for much of it.
– the huts are really well set up with gas stoves, crockery and cutlery and coffee plungers. You do need to take a sleeping bag but providing you’re booked in to the huts, it doesnt need to be a super duper one – I had a light bag only and was too hot, as the wood heater was cranked up.
– limit the weight in your backpack as much as possible. Drybags strapped to handlbars and under seats are pretty good at helping to achieve this (or a helpful partner protecting my knee!)
– make sure any Nelson riding is planned for later – then if you break yourself as per Harri, at least you’ll have enjoyed the OGR!
– an emergency device or at least a good mobile phoneat if things go wrong should be carried. There are several high points on the trail where there is phone coverage, and NZ is well practiced at pulling off chopper evacuations (we’ve seen 2 at close hand over the last week, not Harri). The terrain is awesome but rough and there are plenty of spots where a slight slip has huge consequences.