Trip Reports

Old Ghost Road

Wednesday, May 1st, 2019

April 1-7

Seemed appropriate that it was April Fool’s Day when eight aspiring trampers plus one walker/driver carefully packed themselves – and four days’ worth of tramping gear –  into a rented 10-seater van to drive the 533km from Oamaru to Murchison before tackling the Old Ghost Road trail. It was a long drive for a long (85km) walk. Were we nuts?
But everything fitted in, the weather was fine and the forecast optimistic. So far, so good. And nutty optimism proved totally appropriate for the OGR. It is the spirit in which this ambitious and challenging bike/walk trail was built. Reading Marion (Weasel) Boatwright’s account of how it came about (some of us took advantage of the copies of Spirit to the Stone left in the huts) adds a lot to the whole experience.
It all began with an old map and the ghost of a road that had been built in the late 1800s from the once bustling gold rush town of Lyell.
After a meal fit for giants, a good night’s sleep in Murchison and an hour or so’s driving, that’s where our tramp started in what is now a DOC camp. The first day may have been all uphill but what was once an old dray track is gently graded through beech forest and boasts a rich mix of both human history and regenerating natural history.
At every stop, robins would emerge from the bush to hop close, perching on packs or even boots. Curious weka honed in on potential food sources with confident intent. Old kettles, pans, a collapsed hut held traces of the human history – detailed in story boards along the track. We paused for lunch at the “big slips” – where the old track had been obliterated by major earthquakes (Murchison, 1929; Inangahua, 1968). It had given pause to the current century’s effort to create a trail and the hand-benched track across this terrain is impressive testimony to the determination of its builders.
Our first overnight was at Lyell Saddle where we got a first-hand look at the role of helicopters both in building the track’s huts and maintaining them. The close manoeuvring onto a nearby skid site was impressive with a downdraught blowing the odd sock off the deck. An empty gas bottle and large white sack went into the sling, the rotors whined into full throttle and all was lifted away. Peace returned – along with a family of wild goats.
If we thought the views from Lyell Saddle were impressive, the next evening was even more so. That Ghost Lake Hut is built atop a very steep bluff becomes very evident when you leave it. Sleepwalking would be ill-advised. The second day’s walk was both shorter (13km as opposed to 18km) and more spectacular as the track rises above the bushline to the impressive Rocky Tor and “Heaven’s Door” – and yes, we did knock.
The quirky signs – the “Tombstone”, Lakes “Grim” and “Cheerful” along with the huts’ idiosyncrasies (moon and stars carved in toilet doors, hanging “hearts” of trunk cross-sections) highlight the fairly personal input the track builders (Mokihinui-Lyell Backcountry Trust workers and volunteers) had in its creation. Days 2 and 3 highlighted some of the other challenges they faced – the mudstone terrain past Lyell Saddle that necessitated painstaking “corduroy” beech track building; then the hard granite of Lyell Range which had to be blasted into usable track.
Mist covered the land below as we left Ghost Lake Hut and headed along the sharp spine of Skyline Ridge to pause where it dropped like a stone into the Stern Valley catchment.
This is where the brave bikers have to shoulder their machines to get them down the 300 or so steps that proved the only means of possible descent for the trail. Despite such obstacles, we met bikers who were doing the 85km stretch in just one day as well as a couple who were doing a two-day there-and-back effort with a night’s respite at Rough and Tumble Lodge.
The grandeur of the tops gave way to beech forest, rushing streams, more robins and the promise of whio (blue duck). At Stern Valley Hut, at least one of our party managed a full immersion in the freezing river. Even paddling was wonderfully refreshing – for a short time. West Coast, sandflies, ‘nuff said.
The next day was our longest – at 25km – and took us up through the rumpled landscape of Earnest Valley. Here, “The Boneyard” offers very graphic evidence of a landscape rift by faultlines. An info map marks some eight or so faults in the near vicinity! The rather haunted atmosphere is enhanced by keas calling across the hills. There were closer encounters with these cheeky birds at Ghost Lake hut. The track heads back to the Mokihinui South Branch and past the mysterious “Resurgence” where a flood of clear, green water surges from an underground source that even intrepid divers haven’t apparently managed to track. Magic!
Our next “hut with a view” at Specimen Point looks out over the tumbling, roaring glory of Mokihinui River (damming it would have been criminal) and is as comfortable as the others. All come well equipped with pots, plates, mugs, cutlery and even measuring cups etc – as well as gas cookers. No need to carry a kitchen in your pack.
From there, the trail mostly follows the Mokihinui – again tracking the history of those who’d hacked a trail up to the long abandoned Red Queen Mine (site of a small village in the 1880s). Various gold working remains plus the remnants of a bridge that once spanned the Mokihinui providing a route through to Karamea are features along this part of the track. The bridge fell during the 1929 Murchison earthquake.
The last day is easy walking and it seems no time at all before we arrive at the Rough and Tumble Lodge – which is both a start point for the Old Ghost Road’s existence (read the book!) and our re-entry into civilisation. Our driver, Mike, had walked in early to meet us, so it was back into the van for our trip’s next highlight – a long, much-needed dip in the hot pools of Hanmer Springs. Staying in Hanmer overnight was another great idea from trip organiser, Jane Green.
A big thank you to Jane for her brilliant organisation and to her, Graham, John, Christine, Lynn, Marion, Grant and Mike for their great company, evil card games and thoughtful support along what proved to be a fantastic trek.
Vicki Jayne.


Otago Peninsula

Tuesday, April 30th, 2019

Sunday 28th April 2019


Record breaking numbers of walkers turned out for Otago Peninsula day trip. On a cool Autumn morning 16 people gathered at the car park on Highcliff Road in Dunedin. The overhead conditions were perfect for the spectacular views that followed.

From the Hunter farm a downhill followed by the usual uphill to an old farm shed was the warm up for the day. Sidling around from the shed gave access to our first of many great views of the Otago Harbour, Port Chalmers, Taiaroa Head and Aramoana to name a few. A loop back up to the road below Larnarch Castle led us to the farm shed and return to the ridge leading down to Smith Creek Wetlands, where extensive native replanting continues.  Another workout uphill back to Highcliff Road followed and then led us to yet another climb to the summit of Harbour Cone.  The views kept coming, out to the East where the large Hoopers and Papanui Inlets could be seen.  While taking a lunch break on top of Harbour Cone we continued to locate more landmarks up and down the coast.


With bodies fuelled up we returned part way down the track then turned off to follow across undulating farm land, passing some amazing old stone fences ( A work of art no less) back to the cars. A short drive to the Sandymount carpark and we were on our way for the next walk and views of the coastline. The track started with an avenue lined with magnificent old macrocarpa trees and emerged on to a short side track and platform to view the Chasm, a stunning drop off the cliffs.

The track then led to another platform overlooking Lover’s Leap, another spectacular view of a tunnel where the sea rushes in.


The last section for the day was up the sand dunes path to Sandymount trig and then back down to the cars. The walking was over before 3pm but the cafe at Portobello welcomed us with some great friendly service doing the drinks and eats to finish the day relaxing with more chatting.

Thanks to all for supporting the club programme.

Bill, Bronwyn, Mike, Vicky, Robbie, Joe, Dave, Bev, Chris, Jac, Roz, Julian, Shirley, Marion, and Phyllis.


East Ahuriri

Friday, March 29th, 2019

23-25th March 2019

Leaving Oamaru and its overcast drizzly day behind, we travelled in two vehicles towards Omarama, the sun shining. The two vehicles met up just as we turned into Quailburn Road.  We started tramping at 9.15am, up through the bush track. There were a lot of trees and branches washed down the stream and apparently it was a lot worse last year but had been cleared somewhat.  We reached the East Ahuriri Hut about 11.30am and continued over the East Branch of the Ahuriri River to get onto the Te Araroa Trail which was on the true right.  The trail was quite a bit up from the river and it was here we had lunch.  At this stage, one member opted to stay at the East Ahuriri Hut and do day trips from there.  We continued up the Te Araroa Trail for 2 ½ hours criss crossing the East Branch which was great for thirst quenching.  It was surprising the number of trampers we met on the trail.  At about 3pm, we went off the trail to the west and up ridge.  This ridge was on the true right of the outlet from Tarn 1514. After an hour we dropped down to cross the outlet stream onto the true left and followed that ridge to the Tarn. We reached Tarn 1514 at 5pm, set up camp and settled in.  It was beautiful with the sun shining and a slight breeze, a large tarn with a cirque in behind as if protecting all the wildlife that habitates there, including us for the night.

Sunday morning, up with the moonlight and stars, we had a discussion about our day and whether to go to Lake Dumb-bell. With the forecast for rain starting Sunday night and a few physical niggles, we decided not to go to Dumb-bell , instead get back to East Ahuriri Hut by Sunday night.  But firstly, we went for a walk up behind the cirque.  With just daypacks and a feeling of lightness, we rock hopped our way to above Freehold Creek.  While we had a snack we could see Robbie ahead up on the horizon and as he started back down, we thought we would also get going back to the saddle and perhaps get there at the same time.  We made our way down the same way and once we reached the saddle, here is Robbie waiting for us!!  Back at camp, we had an early lunch, packed up and headed off at 11.30am.  We tramped down the ridge on the true right of the tarn outlet stream back down to the Te Araroa Trail.  With some rest stops on the way, we got back to the East Ahuriri Hut at 3pm. 

A note at the hut suggested the other member would be back at 4pm. Instead of staying the night at the East Ahuriri Hut, we decided that we would walk out to the vehicles but firstly rest up for a couple of hours.  Our lone tramper returned and had been busy with daytrips to Egg Lake and to the top of Ohau Peak!!  We set off back to the vehicles about 4.15pm and reached them at 6pm. 

Unfortunately, Maurice was unable to come on this trip, perhaps next time. Although the initial trip for the weekend was to get to Lake Dumb-bell and I’m sure everyone would have liked to have got there, there was a great group that were prepared to put their thoughts forward and as a result group decisions were made and everyone was satisfied with what route we did take. 

Thanks to Robbie for his leadership. Thanks for your company, Kim and Mark, Jenny, Julian, John, Bronwyn and Phyllis.  Bess

Arthur St School Guided Walk

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

5th March 2019

Clear Stream

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

10th March 2019

On an overcast, threatening to rain day, 6 trampers turned out for our venture to Clear stream. Although 1 vehicle could have taken us all -we needed 2 for the transfer. So at the Maerewhenua Bridge, one vehicle was left and we all continued on towards Danseys Pass to the Lavender Farm area. Downstream from here for almost 10km following Clear Stream. The Gorge has amazing rock formations, both in the stream and in the steep hills above.

It was a slowish careful walk clambering up over and down rocks and banks. Only 1 mishap when one tramper had an unintended dip. Fortunately no injuries as rather rugged terrain.

We were through the gorge part for lunch, then an easier ramble down the rest of the stream to the junction of the waters. One new additional interest, was the discovery of a gold dredge. We wish them luck, as we spied no gold, but we did see some rather nice trout! We did manage to locate the headstone of J Jones, a gold miner who died from Tutu berries in the 1860’s.

A vehicle transfer, then we were on our way back to Oamaru mid-pm.

It was great to have a new member Nicky out with us, and hope to see her many more times as she discovers N Otago’s ‘treasures in the hills’.

Nicky, Chris, Julian, Sam, John and Jane