What attracts cyclists to a highly intensive, 85-kilometer, class-four bike journey in the northwest corner of the South Island of New Zealand? My partner and I had to find out. We discovered that the Old Ghost Road, formerly a gold miners’ road, is now one of New Zealand’s most scenic and demanding bike trails.
During the first leg up to our hut, a whopping 18 kilometers, I could feel my heart pounding in my head with each pedal stroke. The rain came down on us in buckets as we rode in the dark. The well-maintained trail was gradual and our light dual-suspension bikes made our trip possible. As we rode, the sound of two kiwis rang through the forest; we stopped to listen to the song of the rare, flightless birds. Finally, a faint light from our hut guided us in. Cold, wet, hungry, and unbelievably happy, our uphill struggle was over for the night.
The next morning, we looked up to the clearest sky the west coast of New Zealand had ever seen, and it energized us for our last climb. We had some elevation to tackle, but working for the view is what we knew best. We pushed, gradually becoming used to the tremendous effort of it all. At last, we broke through the tree line and massive, bare cliffs greeted us up close, seeming to congratulate us personally on our efforts. We hopped off our bikes to take it in. We could begin to understand why this was considered one of the best bike trails in the entire world. We continued and made it to the highest hut on the trail, greeted by familiar faces we’d seen along the way. Dinner conversations and tea brought us to another beautiful sunset and a restful, warm night at Ghost Lake.
The exhaustion and frustration of our uphill battle paid off as we headed down the single track the following morning. We understood the magic of this trail. It was not only the spectacular journey up and the outrageous views, but also the sheer joy of riding down, clicking off our last 30 kilometers quickly. With bikes caked in mud and smiles caked on our faces, we loaded up our bikes and said goodbye to a trip we wouldn’t forget.
Biking this trail brought us every emotion. It made us aware of our weaknesses and strengths, and it reminded us why my partner and I do the things we do. Experiencing this journey on our bikes united us with this remarkable environment in a way that everyone should experience in their lives.
Words by Katie Goldie