The Old Ghost Road

Some trips are planned years in advance but this one just happened. We were driving to the coast and Anne mentioned that she would like to visit the Mokihinui River. I replied that I vaguely remembered a track was being put through in that area called the Old Ghost Road. It went from the Buller River to end near the coast at Seddonville.

The Mokihinui - Lyell Trust website said the track was still under construction for mountain bikes but suitable for walkers. So it sounded like an ideal time to walk it. In Westport we booked huts, bought food and organised a shuttle at breakneck speed and next day at 11.30 left the Lyell campground which is the start of the Old Ghost Road. The track climbed very gradually as it an old gold miner’s road. The workers clearing the track had displayed along the way bits and pieces from the old days which they had found: pottery, an old kettle, even a pair of hobnail boots.

At 6 pm we reached the first hut and settlement at Lyell Saddle. In keeping with the area’s history a little cluster of huts had been built to replicate the settlements of previous years.

Later in the evening two cyclists arrived.

We left the hut at 9 am and climbed higher and higher until at last we were on the tops. It was clear and still. There were views of Kahurangi and the Southern Alps as far south as Arthurs Pass. At 2 pm we arrived at the next settlement of Ghost Lake. Again we had a magnificent collection of views and a most comfortable hut. Two trampers arrived.

On day three we were away at 8 am and after a short time on the cycleway the tramping started. It was more than tramping, it was bush crashing with some markers. However by 2 pm we had reached the next hut which was another great hut this time down in the Stern Valley. It had a real feeling of remoteness and was a lovely place to be. We had a swim.

The following day we got away by 7.30 and resumed our bush crashing with markers, although the track was a little clearer this time. We passed two little lakes and a huge pile of earthquake rubble then had to climb over a saddle to get to Goat Creek. This involved tough sidling in thick bush. Once past the saddle we came across a temporary camp and heard the sound of bulldozers. Here we found work in progress on the cycleway. How the part in the middle will be turned into cycleway is beyond me but if it happens it will be one of the most fantastic cycle ways on the planet.

Beyond the bulldozers we had a small section of bush to bash through then it was cycleway to the DOC hut at Mokihinui Forks which we reached at 5 pm. We had another swim.

On the last day we followed another old gold miner’s road which sidled high beside the Mokihinui River. We had a quick peek inside the final bookable hut at Specimen Point then carried on. The track was at times breathtaking and the river was deep green and beautiful as it wove through numerous gorges. I muttered a quiet thanks to all those who had fought to have it saved from flooding.

At 3 pm we reached our car which we had left at the end of the track. This was a wonderful trip which I strongly recommend.

Bryan Dudley