Buller's Old Ghost Road (OGR) trail is proving so popular one of its huts is already almost booked out for the rest of the summer season.

Ghost Lake hut, which has views across Murchison to Nelson Lakes and Kahurangi national parks, has just 16 bunk spaces left between now and the end of April.

However, Mokihinui-Lyell Backcountry Trust chair Phil Rossiter said anyone still wanting to do the trail between now and then should not be deterred as it was still possible to do so without staying at the hut. He said the other OGR huts were all around 60 per cent booked for the same period.

The OGR celebrated its first birthday on December 15 with visitor numbers of over 9000 for its first year, nearly double best estimates before it began.


The opening was the culmination of thousands of hours of work through the trust to make the 85km-long trail a reality.

Nine out of 10 people biking or walking the trail were New Zealanders from across the country, Rossiter said.

"Lots of people are doing the trail in groups - families, friends or tramping groups."

About two-thirds were on bikes, with the rest on foot, which was pretty much the breakdown the trust had envisaged before the trail opened, he said.

Those travelling the trail since its official opening had included some famous names, such as champion rally driver Hayden Paddon and former All Black captain Todd Blackadder.

Rossiter said the voluntary hut warden programme put in place at the end of November had worked very well.

The warden moved between the first two huts on the trail - Lyell Saddle and Ghost Lake - keeping them clean, doing minor repairs and sharing information about the area with those on the trail.

Feedback had been great with people commenting how much they appreciated the stories and information from the wardens as much as the upkeep of facilities.


Wardens did a week at a time and volunteers had come from all over the country as well as Buller, he said.

The scheme will run through till the end of April with the volunteer roster already filled until then.

Courtesy rules

Rossiter said there had been no problems with the trail being shared use for bikers and trampers.

From the outset it had been designed to be shared by different users with no one group being given preference and all users encouraged to make it enjoyable for each other.

"It's all about being courteous.

"We encourage users to respect each other and take the lead on courtesy and giving way - don't wait for someone else to."


The wet summer had meant more track maintenance had been needed than anticipated but the trust was on top of things, he said.

The OGR office on Palmerston St had been open through the summer but weekends had proved quieter than week days so that would be factored in for future planning.

Few injuries

The Nelson rescue helicopter had been called in by injured trail users five times over the past year, the trust had been told.

Rossiter said he understood the most serious injury was a cyclist with a fractured collarbone while other callouts had included a trail runner who tripped and cut her knee, and another person with strained ligaments.

Privacy rules prevented the helicopter crew passing on details of how injuries occurred. This was unfortunate, because the trust could use the information to help make the trail safer, Rossiter said.

He warned that a personal locator beacon was a must for anyone doing the trail.


Wider impact

Rossiter said local accommodation outlets, fuel providers and shuttles had all told the trust they appreciated the extra business coming their way.

Phil Perrott who owns Miners on Sea in Granity, said they had definitely had an increase in bookings due to the OGR.

"We're getting more bikes than feet. The bikers are cottoning on that they can do the bigger loop down Charming Creek and back out to Denniston. That's a big challenge and they seem to like that."

He predicted it would only get better with the trail drawing rave reviews from those who had done it.

"Ghost has been good for the people of Seddonville obviously to a huge extent."

A staff member at the Rough and Tumble Lodge, at the northern end of the trail, said as well as more people staying overnight, they had also noticed a large increase in cafe visitors.


- Westport News