The most memorable rides are those that require you to pour in effort to unlock your reward. 2 days on the Old Ghost Road in New Zealand will pass by in both an eternity and a blur…
Welcome to the Jungle!
A riotous chorus echoes from the canopy far below. A pink hue lights up the sky as the sun departs for northern latitudes, all the while darkness creeps into the valleys and claims them for nightfall. Layers of hills with rainforest clinging to them is all that can be seen, the nearest civilization of Murchison is but a distant glow. All the sweat, gurning, and grimacing on the long climb through the dense vibrant green of the jungle fades into insignificance as we sit above the treeline at our overnight stop at the Ghost Lake Hut.
Fast forward a few hours and we’re experiencing the same thing, only in reverse and through weary eyes. The horizon begins to fill with colour once again, first reds before a burst of yellow as the sun crests over the peaks. The camping stove hisses out of spite at its rude awakening, churning out coffee after coffee to get the group kick-started for the ride back out of the rainforest. For the first time since leaving the van yesterday morning we can drop saddles and unlock suspension, aiming for the little white stripe meandering between the green. A brief few minutes of switchbacks has us hooked, the hut already growing smaller perched on the cliff above.
Plunging back into the jungle in shrieks and hollers from both excited riders and alarmed wildlife, our wheels pass over rubbly rocks and roots before the trail becomes faster and more flowing allowing us to tease the brakes, entering warp speed through a vortex of vibrant green. The gradient of the Old Ghost Road begins to mellow out and we begin to coast alongside the turquoise waters of a river which was already oh-so-tempting for a dunk. The temperature all the while continues to surge, there’s no escape from the humidity as we begin to plod up the climb through ‘the Boneyard’; an area ravaged and stripped bare by earthquakes leaving behind monstrous rock formations. It’s only a brief departure from the green and before long we are reimmersed for the remainder of the day.
Hours tick by slowly in the jungle, each kilometre crossed off by wooden posts at the side of the Old Ghost Road. The only contrast coming from each brief river crossing that teases us with the cool breeze lifting off the fast flowing water. The group is now beginning to splinter on the final run into Seddonville, tired legs have nowhere to hide. Just as I was beginning to doubt the accuracy of the 85km tag we are abruptly spat from the jungle into the harsh afternoon sunlight, no one hangs about with the promise of an old pub at the end of the road luring us in. A herd of cows being moved to fresh pastures poses the final obstacle we have to negotiate before we storm into the pub which looked to be having a slow day of custom with a single man slouched over the bar. It doesn’t take the owner long to give up on pouring pints and replaces them with pitchers. Our fate for the afternoon is sealed.