Old Ghost Rd – everything you need to know to plan your own adventure

Old Ghost Road
Old Ghost Road

You know a ride is going to be epic when the organisation involves 3 shuttles, 3 night’s accommodation in 3 different places, a helicopter flight and 120km of riding ( the trail is 85km but we extended it ) and the planning starts 6 months out.

Old Ghost Rd is not for the faint hearted, its rugged and wild, in the middle of nowhere and possibly one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life.

To start the adventure off we enjoyed a week in Kaiteriteri and Nelson with our kids, then after sending them home as unaccompanied minors on the plane we were joined by a group of our friends and friends of friends because when people find out you are organising an Old Ghost Road ride they want in!!

Old Ghost Rd, South Island
Old Ghost Rd, South Island

So for this blog instead of talking about the ins and outs of the trail I thought I would share what we learned about the logistics of doing the Old Ghost Rd with maybe just a few highlights of the ride.

  1. When we booked ( in April 2017 for riding in October 2017 ) it was so popular we found it already hard to book a suitable date in the huts on the trial. We were booking in a group of 7, that then grew to 10 so obviously a smaller group would be easier to book. We ended up starting the ride on a Sunday to make it work as obviously Saturday starts are more popular. Since then the price/night for the huts has changed; it used to be $45 per night and now its $145 for 1-4 nights on the trail. So if you are thinking of doing this ride look at booking the huts now.
  2. Of course to book the huts you need to know where you want to stay on the trail. What I have realised after riding the trail is that there are many options for how you can ride it and over how many days; from once through, to there and back ( yes we met people doing that!!! ). We rode once through, Lyell to Seddonville,  staying one night on the trail in Old Ghost Lake Hut and then got a helicopter back to Ghost Lake Hut ( high point ) and rode an awesome 30km downhill back to the start at Lyell.
  3. While 85km may not sound that long, it is rugged country and at times a very rocky trail ( see photo ) so it can be slow going.
    Old Ghost Rd, South Island
    Old Ghost Rd, South Island

    The first 30km from the Lyell end is a solid up hill and then there is the couple of kilometres across a rocky ledge that you may choose to walk. Ghost Lake Hut probably has the potential for the biggest views. I say potential because this is the West Coast of the South Island so its quite often raining or cloudy.  We arrived in sleety rain with limited visibility and woke the next morning to no visibility. So we rode 30km the first day to get to Ghost Lake Hut and then 55km the second day to the finish at Seddonville. While this meant we got to enjoy a hot shower, it was a very long day and I thought the hut at Specimen Point ( see photo of view from Specimen hut ) looked lovely after 35km of rugged riding.

    Old Ghost Rd, South Island
    Old Ghost Rd, South Island

    If you wanted to ride it over 3 days this hut would be a great spot with its North West facing aspect overlooking the river and then you would have a leisurely 20km ride out on the last day.

  4. The huts are very well appointed with cutlery, crockery, pots, pans, a coffee plunger and a cheese grater. I had heard the huts were warm but wasn’t completely convinced until I woke sweating. They also have great drying racks and all the huts we stopped at had bike tools.
  5. We have ridden in large groups before and probably been lucky ( as I don’t recall good management coming into it ) that everyone could ride at a similar pace but this is a tough ride and peoples different abilities will affect the average speed a lot more. We found that we ended up riding in two groups which was fine except that in the second slower group we had one person who really hadn’t trained for the ride at all and it did end up impacting on our enjoyment as we had to ride slower and stop more often. This isn’t a ride where you can wing it, so make sure everyone in your group knows what they are getting themselves in for.
  6. You also need to practice riding with a backpack and/or carrier loaded with gear. The extra weight makes a considerable difference to your balance and endurance and be prepared to carry your bike loaded with gear down ( or up depending on what direction you are riding in ) stairs like this:

    Old Ghost Rd, South Island
    Old Ghost Rd, South Island
  7. As this is such remote rugged country we rode with an EPIRB. Thankfully we didn’t need it but better to be safe than sorry.
  8. Not that you need to include a helicopter flight into your Old Ghost Road experience ( but just quietly it was pretty bloody awesome ) but if you do rest assured that your bikes will be well looked after, dangling at the end of a long rope on a frame specifically designed for transporting bikes. Lots of people in our group were concerned about how the helicopter transported the bikes so I have included a video of how they do it below.

 

Helicopter flights are most economical booked in multiples of 5      people.

Oh and the trail highlights; 120km of mountain biking over 3 days in rugged terrain, breath taking scenery & stunning views, sheer exhaustion, snow, sleet and sunshine, a night in a hut perched on the top of a cliff, a helicopter flight landing on a narrow ridge, an exciting 30km downhill, one of the most challenging things I have ever done and such a massive sense of satisfaction from doing it.

Should you want more information on the trail itself have a look at;

And to help you organise the logistics for your own Old Ghost Rd adventures I have listed the service providers we used in the order we used them;

  • Trek Express to get from Nelson to Murchison
  • Lazy Cow backpackers in Murchison. Great hospitality from Ali and Phil including home baking. There is a kitchen for self-catering or there is an on-site restaurant – just check that its open. The pub across the road also does great meals. Lazy Cow do a great continental breakfast or there was a café across the road – just not sure what time it opened and we were away early.
  • Explore Murchison to get from Murchison to the start of the trail at Lyell.
  • Rough and Tumble lodge a great location right at the end of the trail. Delicious food, just confirm what time the chef is planning to serve dinner. This also might be the first time you have seen a washing machine in a few days – just confirm whether you can use it.
  • Karamea Heli-charter while of course you don’t have to helicopter, it would be a great way to ride a smaller section of the trail and it gives you an awesome perspective on the trail. Multiples of 5 people make it the most cost efficient.
  • Personal locater beacon   ( emergency position indication radio beacon that we hired from XXX at a very reasonable price 
  • Nelson Auto Rentals for when we were holidaying in Nelson and Kaiteriteri. They also hire bike racks as well. Great service.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coromandel – Waterworks and the Driving Creek Railway

When you think of the Coromandel you usually think of stunning beaches and they are definitely worth a visit but we recently found two fun family activities not involving sand.

It’s a while since I’ve been to the Coromandel Peninsula and I had forgotten how stunning the drive of the Firth of Thames was – hair raising and stunning. The road is quite narrow and was definitely built before big trucks and big cars were ever thought of. Watching the gannets diving in to the sea took my mind off just how close we were to diving of the edge of the road ourselves.

Our first stop was Waterworks, a place built with children in mind by someone with an amazing imagination. There were lots of interactive water features and what kid doesn’t love playing with water. It wasn’t just for the kids though and there was lots of interesting facts along the way to keep the adults entertained. We spent a fun filled afternoon enjoying the many activities at Waterworks.

We stayed overnight in Coromandel and then next day explored The Driving Creek Railway. And it turns out that the Coromandel is not home to one amazing imaginative individual but two ( well probably a whole host of creative individuals ) Barry Bricknell originally developed the narrow gauge railway to get clay out of the hills for his pottery.

Today, the railway carries more passengers than materials. Its not ordinary railway though; its New Zealand’s only narrow gauge railway with examples of Barry Bricknells pottery and artistic flair dotted along the journey as you climb the mountain to enjoy stunning vistas over the Hauraki Gulf.

The beaches of the Coromandel are always worth a visit and we headed over to explore Whangapoa with the intent of walking to new Chums Beach but the tide was in and we couldn’t safely cross the stream which gives us the perfect excuse to return.

Tarawera Waterfall walking track

My Uncle has explored nearly every nook and cranny in New Zealand and rates the Tarawera Waterfall track from the Tarawera Outlet campground as one of his all time favourites and I think he might be right.

Its one of those walks where the trail has as much to see as the final destination; stunning Indiana Jones style native bush, walking beside the gorgeous Tarawera River with waterfalls along the way and then watching the river disappear into rock crevices to emerge out of the side of a cliff a little further down.

There are two ways to experience the waterfall; drive through the Tarawera forest to either the main waterfall carpark and walk about 20 minutes to the waterfall or drive to the Outlet campground and walk down the track beside the river. ( The Department of Conservation website says this track is 5km one way and the sign at the start of the track says 3.5km – it took us 3 and a half hours to walk with our kids and we spent a lot of exploring and enjoying the waterfall )

You need a permit to enter the Tarawera forest – available on line or at the information centre in Kawerau.

Wairere Falls track

We have driven passed the Wairere Falls in the Kamai ranges many times, so when we had a bonus extra day at Easter we decided to stop in on the way back from Rotorua and explore. Its only about 10 minutes off State Highway 2, just out of Waharoa. We were surprised to find the car park nearly full and hoping it emptied by the time we walked the track so we could turn the car around with the camper on.

It’s a beautiful walk straight up the Kamais for 45 minutes through gorgeous bush, beside a river swirling down around boulders, to the base of the waterfall. Then another half hour straight up to the origin of the waterfall and some spectacular views over the expansive plains.

Department of Conservation rates this as an easy walk but I would say its anything but – its lots of climbing at times using tree roots as steps and right to the top was about 1 and ½ hours straight up. We did see some people with young children and 2 ladies with babies in front packs but it wouldn’t be at the top of my list for a track suitable for young children.

Tips & tricks

IMG_8024This one is hot off the press after I had my power bank ( you know the thing you charge your phone with when you have no electricity ) removed from my checked in luggage last week when we flew to Nelson.

Lots of us now fly with power banks so be aware they need to be in your hand luggage. They will be taken from your checked-in luggage and a recent change to aviation security means they don’t need you to be present to open your luggage so you don’t know before you fly that its been taken out and you wont get it back.


As I pack for the 4 day Abel Tasman tramp next week I am aware of every gram going into my backpack but I still want to be prepared for a headache, hay fever, allergies, sore muscles or one of my random medical conditions so I grabbed this canister from a $2 dollar shop and labelled each section with the medication. The containers that hair clips and hair ties come in could also come in useful.


Plan and know your public holidays.

If you never have enough annual leave to do all the exploring you want, then you need to make the most of your public holidays.

When I get a new diary, writing in the public holidays is the first thing I do.

In New Zealand Easter and Anzac weekend are very close together this year and by taking 5 days annual leave you can get 12 days off – think of the exploring you could do with that.

Now go book an adventure!!!


Have you heard of Rawhiti Caves?

No? Neither had I until we got given a copy of NZ Frenzy off the beaten track guide. Full of well known and not so well known NZ adventures.

So three tips in one; add Rawhiti Caves to your South Island itinerary, check out NZ Frenzy guide and follow us as we explore off the beaten track


The new bike rack got the thumbs up from the third footman ( aka my husband ).
It didn’t bounce around on the towbar and the bikes didn’t rub together. Still takes a while to strap all the bikes on but I guess that is unavoidable with 4 bikes.
Bit hard to see in the pic. Its the Towball Mount 4 Bike Channel Rack.


20170212_152746

We love the Waeco chilly bins, and not just for keeping your drinks icy cold when you are camping. Also fab for post adventuring picnic lunches.
I reckon we have got our money back on the cost of the chilly bin with savings in food not being wasted and being able to travel with your own picnic complete with icy cold drinks.
They come in a range of sizes but as yet I haven’t found one that I can take on the mountain bike.


41A345DC-4797-4961-85DA-E2B146D8304DMy 9 year old recently starting riding an adult sized bike and it got me thinking about the importance of riding on the right size frame. Its natural to think that a smaller bike is easier for kids to ride when in fact it can give them less leg power and smaller wheels don’t roll over bumps as easily. While your child may be a way off an adult sized bike, do take a look every few months to check their bike size and whether they need their seat put up .


Lets talk first world problems today – how to comfortably run or walk with your mobile. I have tried a lot of different options over the years but this tiny bit of lycra (an SPI belt )is the most comfortable and convenient option I have found. And yes I probably should be in the moment when I am out running or walking but I do like to take photos and honestly you just never know when you are going to find a lost puppy and need to call the owners


Of course we all know that the license plates on our car have to be visible at all times and if you have your bikes on the back of the car the license plate might not be so easy to see, but did you know in New Zealand its a $200 fine for obscuring your license plate…eekkkk.

We have driven round for years with bikes on the back of the car without even thinking about the license plate. Thankfully a mountain bike park did a windscreen flyer drop highlighting the issue and we jumped online immediately and bought the supplementary plates.

When you head out adventuring this weekend you are going to want this one….especially if you are in NZ where its been very wet and consequently muddy out there!!
I like to think I plan for things but I never plan for mud, let’s just call me an optimist, so when we finished the Timber Trail I was very pleased to find these plastic bags under the seats of the car.


Much as I would like life to be all about fun and adventuring sometimes its about boring admin and today’s tip is about admin, but if it saves you from the stress we are going through with credit card fraud then you can get back to fun and adventuring.
I wont get into the boring details of our on-line credit card fraud and of course you never think its going to happen to you but when it does its very stressful.
There are several things that could have happened differently to stop our credit card fraud getting so out of control. I will put them in the comments and if you have any tips I would love to hear them


OK this isnt 100% my tip…. Cycle Coach – Janet Stark shared a tip in Cycling in New Zealand biking tips, that when you are training for an event or a longer walk or ride you dont have to travel for miles to do the training – just walk or ride out your front door.
With Old Ghost Rd ride and Abel Tasman walk coming up I have lots of training to do, so this was a very timely reminder. Its actually the way we trained for the Tongariro Crossing with the kids a few years ago and most of our trail rides – just around the streets of Auckland .
So what are you waiting for, book in that hike or ride and hit the streets for some training


If you find that the family cant quite keep up with whats happening, then the self-adhesive white board could help keep everyone in the loop. Ours is on the sliding door into our kitchen so we can slide it away when its not needed but should anyone not be able to remember what the next adventure is then it’s all there for the whole family to see. Also useful in the school hols when the kids keep asking whats happening.


20170206_085505Summer in NZ is officially over today and some would say it never really fired. However, we have had some fab camping adventures and its been very sunny & hot. Sometimes you might not have trees on your site so it pays to take lots of shade.

Sharing family fun & adventures from the kitchen to the great outdoors