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Old Ghost Road

Monday, November 26, 2018

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The Old Ghost Road Trip
16-22 November 2018
This trail stretches 85km from the Lyell Historic Reserve to 4km inland from Seddonville on the West Coast and it rises to a height of 1300m above sea level. The trail is described as “a serious and wild backcountry experience-it is essential you match your ambition to your ability” www.oldghostroad.org.nz/adventures
And off we went…
Five days of tramping lay in front of us. We walked with stuffed packs on the well-maintained track. I was glad to pass the first kilometre sign post-still 11 km to go. Our gear, plus food for 5 days in our packs, felt heavier than ever. Soon we were engulfed by grey clouds and drizzle rain. It created a ghostly feel around us. We walked vigorously and silently on the track through a beech forest, climbing up to the Lyell Saddle. The Lyell Saddle Hut sits at 886m above sea level where we took a break but continued on briskly as the wind chilled us rapidly. We arrived to the hut saturated and cold. Thankfully, plenty of dry firewood waited for us to turn the hut into a warm and cozy heaven. After dinner, we embraced the bikers and other hikers into our group and we had a lively evening, full of conversations.
An early start on day three. Our leader Russel talked about Southerly winds being predicted for the afternoon. We left Lyell Saddle hut behind, with a curious black goat and a thieving weka. Ghost Lake Hut (12km) was the next hut to go to. Steadily climbing through forest up to the tussock tops of the Lyell Range. The pure clean air and the beauty of our surroundings gave us all a lift and we forgot the weight of the packs. Along the way we stopped to have a breather, to fuel up and take in the bird songs and the changing environment of open tops with great views.  Mountain ranges in the background, covered in clouds but opened up now and then with windows through the cloud cover. In the distance we identified Murchison ‘s flat, green patterned farm lands. We walked on the top of Rocky Tor; a handmade engineered path, cut out of a ridge with on one side, a bluff and the other side a gulley. It rained, and it was windy. This was a great occasion to test your own tramping gear! Was it suitable for these conditions? We arrived safely at 4 o’clock at the Ghost Lake Hut. Again, plenty of dry wood for a roaring fire was available and we enjoyed a hot outside bucket shower!  
Day four started with a Wow factor! Two inches of fresh snow … it was absolutely still and quiet outside. Early morning light peeked through the clouds. It created contrasting lights with thin swirling vapours against the dark coloured mountains of the Lyell Range. Absolutely magic! I wished, I could have stayed a while longer to paint! After breakfast and cleaning the hut, we started off walking in a wintery landscape to Stern Valley Hut (11km). Great ridge walking going downhill (dropping 800 m) all the way to Stern Valley Hut. For some a knee-breaking walk…..
Day five was our biggest day with 25 km hike to Specimen Point Hut. We left Stern Valley Hut in a near zero temperature. Very handy to have gloves! At the twin lakes, the track switched into a climb through an amazing bolder field to Solemn Saddle. At Goat Creek we followed the Mokihunui River South Branch. After 3-4 hours we arrived at the Specimen Point Hut overlooking the magnificent mighty Mokihunui River. We had a warm and cosy evening in the hut with many laughs, games and some readings.
Day six, the sun was shining! YES, were off to Welcome Bay /Seddonville on a 16 km walk. On our way, we saw the old miner’s tools and the gear that was left behind so many years ago. We walked and talked and wondered which birds we heard or what trees we came across. Feeling overly
welcomed to have finally arrived at the end of the Old Ghost Road track, we celebrated our trip, with a well-deserved beer and pizza in Rough and Tumble lodge. A huge thank goes to Russel Ramsden for being our exceptional organiser and leader on this fun and inspiring trip. To Jac, Noeleen, Graeme, Jim, Craig, Russel who shared the challenge, the friendship. Thank you guys and we will meet again, 
All best for now,
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Akky van der Velde

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