The Mighty Old Ghost Road



Old Ghost Road


Ever wanted to ride one of the worlds most epic bikepacking routes - The Old Ghost Road in New Zealand? We recently caught up aeroe ambassadors Mallika Goel and Barry  O’Reilly who took on the route and shot an incredible video and write up below. Check it out!

West coast, best coast. Isn’t that what they say?
In all of my fifteen years in New Zealand, I never believed it…until now.
It rains too much, I always said, it’s far too grey and bleak. How ignorant of me, because after spending 3 precious days in this rugged, magnificent terrain, I felt moved and humbled beyond belief. Shall we move here? I asked Barry (who was similarly enthralled) half-jokingly…

Old Ghost Road

At 85km, The Old Ghost Road is New Zealand’s longest singletrack backcountry trail* winding its way from the ghost town of Lyell to the little settlement of Seddonville. It is the ultimate mountain biker's dream, with top-notch riding, gorgeous views and plenty of challenge to boot. When you tell people you’ve done The Old Ghost Road, there’s a certain look you get — a nod if you will, from those in the know…or impressed gasps from the ones who’ve heard of it but haven’t yet attempted it. 
I was certainly amongst the ones gasping before I ever dreamed of attempting it.
Old Ghost Road


The challenge is as big or small as you want it to be 

Some of our friends have ridden the trail in a single day and others we met during our adventure had been so enamoured by it, that they’d ridden it multiple times in all conditions, rain or snow or shine. 

Originally slated to ride The Old Ghost Road over Christmas last year, Barry and I postponed our adventure to Waitangi weekend, due to my iffy wrist. I had had surgery back in August, but recovery had been longer than anticipated, with the wrist constantly flaring up in the months that followed. By December, I'd only been on my mountain bike once in four months and didn’t know if my wrist would cope with 3 days of constant riding on rough terrain.

Old Ghost Road

Thankfully though, by the time February rolled around, my wrist was behaving better and I felt ready to tackle the trail in its enormity. 

We took our time, riding it over 3 days and 2 nights so we’d be able to film the entire experience (video coming out soon). Though part of me loves the thought of charging through the whole trail as a test of endurance, the other part appreciated our slower pace so we could soak in the views and even session a couple of the tricky features/corners a couple of times. 


The aeroe bikepacking set-up

A huge thanks to aeroe for their bikepacking bags! We’ve been using the Aeroe Spider Handlebar Cradle and Aeroe Spider Rear Rack for over 12 months, but the dry bags were the icing on the cake. They’re durable, fully waterproof, easy to strap in and take off, and of course the 8L one is a bright orange that looks great on the trail.

Old Ghost Road

We choose the 8L dry bag for the front and 12L for the back. It was also our first time tweaking the Rear Cradle so the rear dry bag would sit horizontally instead of length-ways, which (in theory) freed us up to use the dropper. 


Bit of a bodge

I say in theory, because my dropper post started acting up on Day 1, even though we had checked the bikes over before we left Christchurch. With lots of climbing awaiting us, there was only one thing for it: a temporary fix. Barry used a spare bit of inner tube and a GoPro clamp to keep my seatpost from slipping down. I was reminded of GCN’s “Hack or Bodge” series. It was a worthy bodge in my opinion ;)


Old Ghost Road

The Old Ghost Road isn’t just a mountain biking paradise…

…It’s a shared trail, traversed by eager multi-day hikers too. In fact, we met more hikers during our trip than we did bikers. As is the nature of multi-day tramps or bikepacking trips, if you’re breaking up the journey sequentially, chances are you’re going to be bumping into the same people along the way. At Ghost Lake hut and subsequently Stern Valley hut, we connected with some lovely people, including Brigette, a super friendly, highly capable guide from Bush and Beyond and a trio of women on their first overnighter together: Kiri, Paulette and Carol. Everyone was really genuine, open and generous, plying us with food too!


Old Ghost Road

 There’s a book in every hut about the story behind the trail’s inception, started by an American with a dream and love of the wild West Coast. As foreigners who’ve made New Zealand our home, this really resonated with us. 


The trail is spectacular, with a few standout sections

The Old Ghost Road traverses such vast and varied terrain that it’s almost hard to pick a favourite section. Almost. A few standouts were:

  • Heaven’s Door to Ghost Lake Hut (Day 1)

  • Skyline ridge (absolutely stunning, though this section was hard)  (Day 2)

  • The climb out of the Boneyard (Day 3)

  • Crossing bridge after bridge and in awe of the mighty Mōkihinui river (Day 3)

    Old Ghost Road

Nature therapy is a real thing 

We wore the same clothes for 3 days straight, revelled in the joy of having no cell service*, enjoyed conversations with strangers, soaked up moments of quiet (punctuated every now and again by birdsong) and let ourselves be swallowed up by the magic of the mountains. Somehow the deluge stayed at bay for 3 days; our rain jackets were packed away less than a kilometre into the track and there they stayed for the duration of our ride. As we rode on towards the end of the trail, we marvelled at curtains of cloud that hung listlessly in valleys, adding to the overall ‘eeriness’ of the trail and making the name ‘Old Ghost Road’ that much more appropriate. 

Old Ghost Road

 It’s no exaggeration to say that while my body was relieved to see the archway at the end of the trail, my mind was not. A storm of sandflies (yes, I made that collective animal noun up) descended on us as we started unpacking and soon after it was business as usual, life swallowing us up. I found myself missing the pace of the trail and the calm it brought…

But like any love story that’s just begun…we know we’ll be back. 


Watch the Youtube video here: 
Old Ghost Road - Youtube Video

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