The Kahurangi Mission Part 2

Day Three
At Goat Creek Hut, halfway through the partially completed Ghost Ride, we woke to an overcast sky. We knew this day was going to be a challenging one... Reports weren't great for the state of the track from about 2 km up this track until we reached Ghost Lake Hut in about 18 km and up a very large hill covered in thick native bush.

We set out from the hut after porridge and were happy to find we could ride quite a bit further than we thought we might be able to, including a small part of the first climb. But finally, at the site of a small tarpaulin and some pick axes, we reached the end of the road (so far). It took  us a bit of time to rearrange all the gear from our bikes into our packs, but finally bikes were hefted onto backs and we set up off some weird moonscape terrain following some pink markers. Before long these petered out and based on the map we decided there may have been a trail marked earlier heading off up the hill. So, back down we went to the track end.

Chris packing bike shoes away at the end of the formed trail
Second hike-a-bike departure saw us scrabbling through some dense bush, bikes pushed in front of us as the track became ever steeper. So steep in places that I couldn't climb it without dumping my bike, so Chris had to come back for some strenuous bike shuttles. About this time it started raining, and I could sense this was going to be a day to remember.

Eventually we reached a sort of saddle point, and lumbered the bikes back down the hill and finally out into the open. Now we were able to put them on our shoulders again for sections, and navigate our way through semi open bush. The temperature was dropping and so were my spirits when Chris suggested we still had about 4 km of pushing/carrying to go to get to Stern Creek Hut, which is not nearly half way between Goat Creek and Ghost Lake Huts.

Somewhere in the bush halfway between Goat Hut and Stern Creek Hut
Suddenly we popped out of the scrub to find a premium bike trail! Whoopee! Things were looking up again as we swooped our way to the hut. Inside it was warm and cozy, with a gas oven and evidence that the trail builders were inhabiting this hut at the moment. The rain was getting really heavy now, so we enjoyed cooking vast piles of two minute noodles up. It had taken us 4 hours so far - which based on most peoples recorded tramping times wasn't bad going.

Finally we decided we should get moving, so we reluctantly stripped off some of our layers and headed out into the pouring rain. We were able to keep riding on the track, although by now some of the most recently formed sections were getting a bit squelchy. It was cool thinking that we might well be the first people ever to have ridden this amazing track!

Up ahead through the rain we saw a small bulldozer and two jacketed men, They looked a little surprised to see us - but when they realised we were on bikes they just shook there heads. "I feel so, so sorry for you" one man said, as if we had just lost a relative. This was a little concerning, however Chris and I just laughed it off... "how bad can it be?" we asked ourselves. I was starting to feel quite weary in my arms by now though...

The markers now directed us up a steep forested spur. At first we were able to carry the bikes, but soon it got too steep and bushy and narrow and we were back to the painstaking hauling, pushing, heaving and pulling of the bikes through the forest. Bikes just have so many parts that stick out and get stuck on stuff!

It was raining constantly and for hours we battled up the spur. I was just getting colder and colder because I couldn't move fast enough with my bike to keep myself warm. Every so often I got little reprieves when Chris would pop back for my bike and I could walk up hill unhindered for a while. As the light faded Chris attempted to ascertain where we were on the map, but he wasn't sure and I suggested putting up the tent here wouldn't be such a bad idea?

He would have none of it, so upwards we continued to struggle. The bike I was lugging through the bush at that moment wasn't actually mine - it was Sophie's. She had lent it to me to try out...I was glad that right now she couldn't see the treatment it was receiving! The bush just seemed to get thicker and thicker, and I was starting to reach the end of my abilities to get the bike any further.

As we rounded a corner in the dim light I could make out a steeper, thicker section of bush to bash through looming up ahead. I put the bike down. "I'm leaving it here," I said. "You can come back down from the hut tomorrow to get it or something". Chris, ever the optimist, said he would shuttle it a bit further, as he felt sure it was going to get better soon. I trudged on up ahead, and then all of a sudden in front of me I could see that the going got slightly easier as we were emerging above the bush line.

Resolve suddenly renewed, I came back down and took my bike again. I bashed up ferociously, yanking and pulling the bike behind me. I was determined now to see this thing through. Chris emerged behind me grinning, "you did that bit quick" he said. Now things kept getting easier as the bush diminished behind us and we battled up through smaller scrub.

The ridge rose up ahead pf us for a long way though, and now we needed to mount our big helmet lights. Chris thought it was still at least an hour to the hut. We downed some more ginger nuts and then found ourselves on the formed trail again! But this time the trail was unrideably steep and rocky, but at least we could walk pushing our bikes unhindered. It felt amazing just to be able to move freely and push the bike alongside again.

We put more layers of clothing on now, as the temperature was still dropping and we were soaked through. Up and up we pushed, round some hairpin bends and on up. We spotted lights of a town far below, and disorientated we tried to work out if that was Murchison or another hut, or what? We gave up worrying and continued up.

Just as we reached the top of the climb the rain turned to thick snow. From here we managed to get on the bikes, and we wobbled our way along the track. We crossed some boardwalks, struggling to keep our balance. We guesses excitedly that this must be Ghost Lake beside us. I felt so relieved to have made it. We dismounted and climbed again, and I started to get worried that maybe the hut had run away... or was never built!!

But then it emerged. I was so happy to see that hut. We stashed our bikes underneath the hut and then entered the spacious kitchen area. My suspicions from the morning had been correct, this had been a day I would never forget. But, in a mere 10 hours of extreme effort, we had made it up to Ghost Lake hut, and definitely proved that you should never say something is impossible.

Ghost Lake Hut the following morning
To be continued...
Ps. Apologies for the lack of pictures for this was raining and dark and we were carrying our bikes (-:


Kate Pedley said…
Wow - definitely epic! Can just imagine how relieved you were to finally reach the hut - well done! :) x

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