Old Ghost road

 9 -14th December 2017

 This wonderful track, only 2 years old, presents some difficulties in that the two ends are a great distance apart by road, the actual walk being 85 kms. There are expensive shuttles available and helicopter flights but we decided to walk as two parties, Claire and Sergey from the northern Seddonville end while Glenda, Angeline, Chris and Sally started from the southern Lyall end and this ensured that both parties had transport at the end of their adventure.It worked really well as each party walked at very different speeds so there was no frustration

     Our group of four drove up to Inangahua Landing on the day that Claire and Sergey were setting off from Seddonville. The weather was dubious and they encountered a lot of rain on that first day. We left Lyall next day in rain but most of our first day was a gentle climb through bush and the rain was only occasional. The path follows an old gold mining track and evidence of the workings can be seen here and there. The Murchison and Inangahua earthquakes caused some massive hillside slips but the track has been superbly constructed to cross these safely. 18 kms took us to Lyall Saddle hut. Like all the huts on the trail it was luxuriously appointed with gas cookers and crockery and all possible kitchen utensils ! The composting toilets were all delightfully non smelly !

     Day 2 (13 kms ) took us above the bushline and to incredible far reaching panoramic views. We met Claire and Sergey at "Heaven's Door " and enjoyed swapping information. They walked the track in 4 days, camping, and were thoroughly enjoying the beautiful and varied scenery. The track is also built for mountain bikers but we all agreed the narrow path with precipitous drops was far more enjoyable on foot ! Ghost Lake hut offered lovely views of the little lake nestled in its embracing mountain slopes. We watched the mountain bikers setting off next morning, crossing a stretch of boardwalk before disappearing round a corner and into the hills.

     Day 3 ( 12 kms ), like the morning before, threatened rain with low sweeping clouds, but on both days the sun soon broke through to another lovely day , not too hot, perfect tramping weather. The trail today took us down then up to the magnificent Skyline Ridge and the cleverly planned Skyline Steps, built to cope with a sudden big drop at the far end of the ridge where there was no other possible route down. 302 steps ! Poor mountain bikers, especially those coming up, having to carry their machines ! Stern Valley hut was set in a grassy valley beside the Stern River and we saw some Blue Duck ( Whio ) flying past. Weka are to be seen frequently and they are very tolerant of people. One tried to pinch my sandwich at our lunch stop next day at Goat Creek hut !!

   Day 4 was 25 kms to Specimen Point hut. The early part of today's walk took us past two beautiful lakes, Cheerful and Grim !, and across the fascinating Boneyard, an area of decaying hillsides scattered with huge boulders and whitened rocks. Further on we heard machinery and came across Stacky , digging out soil and small rocks for track maintenance. We also watched a helicopter flying back and forth bringing in materials for a bridge being built over a tiny stream ( a trickle for us ) that no doubt becomes a raging torrent in times of heavy rain and melting snow. One unusual feature of the track was where it crossed the wide South Mokihinui River and we went through a door half way across the bridge ! This is designed to keep possums from crossing the river as those on one side have learned to eat the rare giant snails only found in this area while those on the far side are as yet ignorant of this food item. Specimen Point hut offered wonderful views of the Mokihinui River but they had to be observed from inside the hut as the sandflies outside were horrendous ! We arrived in rain ( after a lovely sunny day ) but next morning all was sunshine and warmth again, a gorgeous day.

   The last 17 kms took us along a track high above the river gorge. Wonderful views ! The bush was lovely and varied and enhanced by splashes of brilliant red where the Southern Rata was in full bloom.

   And, sadly, we finally walked out from the Old Ghost Road, back into normal life ! We rewarded ourselves with a drink in the delightful Rough and Tumble lodge, recalling the varied days of fabulous scenery, the good company of our fellow walkers and bikers and some hilarious evening games of Quick Scrabble and Hearts ( or Black Maria ). And then into our waiting car for the long drive back to Christchurch. Thank you Chris for your safe driving.

   This is a marvellous walk. I strongly recommend it ( as would Vesna and my fellow trampers ) and I will happily do it again should anyone else want to give it a go.

Sally B