Wednesday, 19 November 2014

West Coast long w/e 13-16 November 2014

Friday's a Canterbury Holiday so Mike took the Thursday afternoon off and we set off up to the Lewis Pass on our way to the West Coast. Just past the highest point we stopped at Maruia Springs for the night, a motel run by Japanese with good food and thermal pools down by the river. That evening we were the only people soaking in their fabulous hot pools with steam rising and tuis flying overhead and just a few sandflies around to remind us we weren't in paradise. We took our own muesli and tea with us so we could set off early in the morning.

The best NZ community café ever is here in Reefton, an gold and coal mining town we stopped at on the way to the west coast. The owner drives the school bus, takes people up to the mines, and does heritage tours in fancy dress as well as running the café

The cafe sells aprons and crazy tea cosies as well as great coffee and cakes.

We hit the coast around Westport and turned north going up to the Karamea and the Kahurangi National Park. Before the end of the road (where the Heaphy Track begins) we turned off into the Oparara basin. It's an area of limestone, rivers and wild bush with huge dry caves. All very dark and no people when we were there. Mike loved it and went ahead gleefully: you can just see the trepidation in my face
Mike had a head torch with him and was keen to spot the rare cave spiders and wetas that live in these damp, dark, cold places

The Oparara River was quite high as we'd had a lot of rain recently. It's stained orange/brown by the tannin in leaf mould
This is the largest of the two arches, at around 40m it's very impressive
We were able to climb quite far up underneath


Mirror Tarn nearby was still and beautiful

Moss and ferns in a hundred shades of green smother every surface

The second arch is much lower but more fun to visit because you're able to climb down a hole into a cave beneath it

Climbing down under the arch. The river runs fast here creating little whirl pools across its surface

You can just see some stalagtites hanging underneath the arch

Another small cave under the arch

On our return to the car the cutest little South Island robin flew up to us, stopped us in our tracks and hopped around our feet for 5 minutes or more. A pretty creamy white breast unlike the UK variety

We had a lot of rain overnight in Karamea and no power in our motel that morning. We drove up to the start of the Heaphy Track, crossed the flooded Kohaihai River and did the first hour or so of the walk up to Scotts Beach

At the start, just over the swing bridge is the Nicau loop track. Good fun walking next to the swollen river and wonderful to be back amongst Nicau palms, supplejack etc

We walked up to Scotts Beach, as wild as it gets. Nobody else around and recent rain had gouged a huge channel through the sand. Pink granite around here creating lovely yellow sand

Mike looking happy but standing perilously close to the edge of the sand bank beside a very fast flowing river
Back at the mouth of the River Kohaihai there's a huge spit of sand by the DOC campsite, weather looking a lot better

After lunch back at the Last Resort in Karamea we drove south towards Punkaiki, stopping to do a short walk up Charming Valley. The walk follows an old train track up to an early coal mining area, so there's a lot of old machinery left lying around

An easy walk as it's pretty flat. There was a lot of loose coal lying around too


We checked into the Punakaiki Tavern for the night and the following morning started pretty wet. It's a short drive from Punakaiki to the Pancake Rocks, which cover a large area of the headland and are pretty impressive. razy rough sea pounding away shooting spray up through blow holes

Weather clearing a little so we went down to Trueman's Beach for a last look at the wild Tasman Sea

And from the stormy west coast we travelled south to Greymouth and then took the scenic route inland to Arthur's Pass going past Lake Brunner where we stopped for lunch. Weather improved all along the way so home to a warm sunny Christchurch

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