How to: Old Ghost Road
Having just completed what is probably one of the best multi-day rides in New Zealand, I’d argue that this is one of the top ten mountain bike rides in the world.
In our travelling group of nine, I was fortunate to have another Abletecher Carl Penwarden along for his second trip. I also leveraged the experience of people in the group who have completed other multi-day NZ bike-packing adventures.
Keen on biking Old Ghost Road?
This story offers you logistical tips for completing the trip. These are also my ‘notes to self’ for next time I do this incredible ride.
From Wellington, the best and cheapest way to cross the Cook Strait is with the Blue Bridge Bike Club who offer discounts to bicyclists. From Picton we drove our van, with a packed trailer, to Murchison and stayed at the Hampden Hotel.
The start and end points of the Old Ghost Road are logistically complicated. They are separated by 90km of driving. Luckily, the Hampden Hotel found us a couple of locals who were able to use our van to drop us at the starting point in Lyell. Two nights later they delivered our van to the end point in Granity.
Granity is actually 20km further on from the official end point, but the distance was easily cycleable as our last day on the Old Ghost Road track was only 17km. There are two ways of cycling to Granity. The first is to go by road and enjoy a burger & beer at the very old school Kiwi Seddonville Hotel. The second is to take the single track option all the way to Granity.
I strongly recommend doing a two night trip, which is what we did. There’s enough action each day and taking two nights means you spend more time up in the incredibly beautiful area.
Book huts (early) here: http://www.oldghostroad.org.nz/book-huts/
Ghost Lake Hut — this hut is simply amazing and should not be missed.
Specimen Point Hut — this hut is a great place to stop for the second night after a full day’s mountain biking from Ghost Lake.
We stayed our final night in Granity and enjoyed a well-earned meal with wine & beer at Miners on Sea. Delicious.
What to take
There is plenty of water available at the huts and they are spread out enough that a single water bottle should be sufficient. Several people in the team were filling up from rivers etc. No negative results (so far!).
Most huts have fire places so a light sleeping bag should suffice — especially over summer / autumn. I was actually warm enough for most of the night in my sleeping bag sheet.
There are heaps at the lower huts (Specimen Point) — but keeping the doors closed kept them out of the hut. Perhaps fly spray would be useful. Bug spray is a must to keep sane when you stop.
Some huts have showers — with the water naturally solar-heated.
The huts we stayed in had stoves, pots, and plates — so you can economise on what you pack.
Take enough to keep you warm on a very cold day’s cycle. Items on my packing list: arm warmers, waterproof cycle jacket, two merinos, a change of clothes for evenings, and footwear for going out to the toilet or taking evening photos.
Take two spare tubes. Take enough to repair a ripped tyre and other possible failures on your bike.
There are some gnarly rocks and the stress of the extra load on your bike will put things under pressure.
The huts do have bike pumps and tools but don’t rely on them as Murphy’s Law dictates that the tool you need won’t be there (or it will have been at the hut you past 10km back).
In total I had 7.5 kgs of gear including food. Next time I will leave the freeze dried food in the shop and take real meals…
The Old Ghost Road requires a moderate level of fitness . I figure you should be able to cycle a 500m vertical over a 3 hour ride without too much concern. Be prepared for some fairly technical terrain. A lot is fast single track. A small amount is more technical wet, steep and rocky.
Pack a bag to take out all your rubbish.
Don’t tell too many people 😀 and please consider donating via the Old Ghost Road’s givealittle website. People work hard to create and maintain this area which is undoubtedly a national asset for both wildlife and humans alike.