6. Canterbury Faire and the Old Ghost Road

Kevin spent the week at Canterbury Faire where he goes every year. I spent the start and finish there, and our kids (who are grownup) were there too (one for the whole time and one visited for a day). So it was very cool to have the four of us in one place as that only happens every year or so now. It was really nice to catch up with other friends too.

Kevin’s camp which includes our caravan – this had to be at the very far end of the camp site as it’s so NOT medieval!
This awesome tent was next to Kevin, directly opposite.
Another awesome tent back down towards the mong area.
I love these coats of arms. The one on the left is Kevin’s – he chose three spears as this was on the badges given to all his father’s corps when he was in the army in Rhodesia. The one on the right is our youngest Aimee’s and is the carygreyhound. These were made by our friend Greta who is an amazing artist.
These masks were also made by Greta!! (Except the one on the left – the Green Man – which was made by Paul, who’s wearing it). Greta made these to tell a story at the Half Circle Theatre one evening – of the plight of the unicorns during the floods of Noah’s Ark and why there are no more unicorns.
Gods and Monsters: The heavy fighters are being given cryptic hints to work out how they can defeat each of four monsters – the Nemean Lion, a Kappa, a Dragon and Fenris the Wolf. I’m told these are from Greek, Japanese, Norse and European mythologies, so you have to be well versed to answer the clues!! The audience is allowed to help…
Me dressed in garb for the last day of the event.
Kevin is on the far right dressed in his garb, and was acting as marshall for this archery session.
More archery participants at the other end of the field.

I went and finished the Old Ghost Road while Canterbury Faire was running, driving to the Seddonville end of the track and walking in from there. (My walk in from the other end is included in the last blog, The Lazy Season). There was a lot of maintenance going on on the track at this end – I came across five different guys, most of them using e-bikes to get themselves along! Cool. They were track-building, weedeating the grass and pruning back some of the bush areas.

At Forks Hut on my way back, I read half a book called Spirit to the Stone: Building the Old Ghost Road by Marion Boatwright who instigated the building of the trail as a mountain biking route. It was really good and I ended up buying it so that I could finish it! It’s an impressive read with a lot of drive and skills in place to get the job done. These guys were real bushmen – or simply huge on ambition perhaps! Either way, the work that has gone into building the route, and the hours that go into keeping it maintained, truly is fantastic.

More detail with each photo!

One of three wooden bridges that span old earthquake slips along the Mokihinui River
I pitched my tent in the Specimen River creek bed – not usually wise but the forecast is for no rain tonight. I heard a single kiwi call sometime in the night – more mellow and haunting than the many shrill weka cries to be heard.
Goats are everywhere on the Old Ghost Road, and not very scared either!
The 1929 Murchison Earthquake caused a lake to form over the flats here. By 1949 the lake was gone and this land was used for farming and deer culling operations. No longer though – too remote to reach perhaps.
The Mokihinui River from the bridge that I walked over to get across.
A door in the middle of the bridge to stop predators from crossing and eating creatures such as the native land snails – or powelliphanta
I’m now moving into rubble country…getting excited to see what’s ahead! Just have to get across the Solemn Saddle…
And here I am! This rock came tumbling down in the Murchison Earthquake of 1929. That would have been a highly scary event.
Resting up, looking over the rubble slopes I just crossed. Finally understanding why there was a ‘no stopping’ sign in place! You can see the Specimen Range in the background just to the right.
One of the lakes in the basin at the foot of the rubble – this is in the Earnest Valley. It is lined around it’s perimeter in raupo or native bullrush. There were patches of this on the way in, too, in more swampy parts of the route.
I pitched my tent within sight of the Stern Valley Hut. There was a family of weka right there, including three babies. Needless to say, I kept all my belongings zipped into the tent before fossicking among the rocks in the river bed nearby! Weka are great at pinching things…
On the way next morning heading for the bottom of the Skyline Steps – track shot! A zig – or zag – for the mountain bikers – plus you can see a slip on the top track. The slip had a tiny trail leading through it, which a track maintenance man who I met right at the foot of the Skyline Steps said had been improvised by a small team of bikers going through.
So-o cool! I saw three rock wrens flitting about on an exposed part of the track.
Hey! Where have I seen these before! …oh boy, now I have to turn around again and backtrack to Seddonville!
There’s a lot of humour along the track and this shows just one!
Nearly back at Stern Valley Hut where I left the bulk of my gear for the walk to the steps and back. At the hut I ate some cold Uncle Ben’s rice and a handful of nuts/seeds and had a talk with a woman walking through with her partner. Until the sandflies drove me nuts and forced me to keep moving…as it was only lunchtime I decided to try and walk back to Forks Hut as rain is forecast for later today. My tent is good in the rain but still…
No humour here – the sign that took on new meaning when I looked back on the steep rubbled hillside.
Back on the other side of the Solemn Saddle (in the background). This sedimentary rock is weathering in an interesting way. Between here and the hut I saw several kereru/woodpigeons in trees by the track, or making their wooshing flying sound as they flew away.

I made it to Forks Hut! 38 kilometres of walking today.
I can only make these long distances (for me) because of long daylight hours and maybe because I ditch shoes in favour of my trusty crocs for long stretches. This caused two different people to question me today, but I really do have a much better time out of shoes. I felt at this point the Old Ghost Road was being a teensy bit on the precious side, which apart from the altitudes, is an easy-peasy track for walkers at this time of year. The whole way. Honestly, you don’t even get your feet wet in the morning dew as the grass is so cut back. These people need to try some of the real tramping tracks of NZ which are generally way less maintained than they used to be (or maybe I’m just getting old!). Crocs become treacherous when they are wet, or on wet ground, otherwise I swear by them. I always use them in conjunction with walking poles too. In the wet, I switch to my runners or awesomely light tramping/hiking boots – I love my access to a range of footwear!
I can stay in Forks Hut tonight as I have an annual DOC hut pass – otherwise the only other hut you can stay in is Goat Hut. I paid $40 to the Old Ghost Road Trust, via their website, to enable me to camp along the way – if you want to use their huts you pay quite a bit more.

In the rain next morning I set off again, and very soon walked past a tomtit perched in a tree.
I went straight past Specimen Creek Hut going through the other way, so it was nice to stop and see it now. Two men there and I crossed paths once or twice back to Seddonville. One of them, really young, knew a lot about the local native birds so I learned a thing or two – including that it’s pretty rare to see riflemen. This came up because I saw two riflemen along the way today, tiny pretty things.
After last night’s rain I checked out my tent site from two nights ago – still not washed over!
Another look back along one of the wooden bridges – how on earth did they get these into place?

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