Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A trip to the beautiful Westcoast of New Zealand, Tuesday 12 Feb

Tuesday, February 12, 2013
oldbearnews editor
Waking news – seems we -(ok-ok,  some of us) - need a new Pope with the current geriatric version deciding to break new ground since some 600 years and 'retire' from the office due to ill health. Wonder if there is a message in there for (Queen Lizzie?) some of  us too? Another point to ponder is the fact that yesterday we saw some Rimu trees near the Treetop walk that would have been already growing when the last - or that should be now the second to last pope resigned some 600 years back. Rimu can grow anything from 700-1000 years old. It is lovely hardwood timber with a VERY nice grain and is no longer being logged (probably just as well) but this writer is missing the opportunity to work with the timber and make NICE outdoor furniture or other stuff.  Rimu used to be logged and was used mostly for house building - timber framing - up until the 1980's.

Mamabear having showered was picking up my glasses and having cleaned them no less twice was wondering why her eye-sight wasn't sharp and still out of focus. If I hadn’t needed them for driving I might have let her wear them for a bit longer and see how long it would have taken her to work out that she had been wearing the wrong lenses . . . ^^

We knew it is a long drive (not so much the K's but the time it takes to get there) due to the fact that parts of the road leading to Karamea are very windy to drive along – so average speed through this part more like 40-50km/h!!! Interestingly enough after you leave the major towns on the Coast there is a often a easily missed and somewhat small sign warning you of NO petrol for another 90 or however many kilometers left to the next petrol station. Petrol can be bought in Karamea – then Westport – then Greytown of course and Hokitika – then at Fox (of glacier fame) town and after that in Haast (not sure about that part) - or at last in Wanaka – so the distances in-between are large indeed!  You are also out of cellphone range and often literally in the middle of now where – so fingers crossed you do not run out of petrol or have a major breakdown requiring assistance! It does mean that you need to know your tanks limit and it is often better to top up then running low/out some place – for it is a LONG hike back for emergency rations.

Karamea itself promised a lot when first settled in 1860's with Gold-miners being the first settlers– but the Murchison earthquake in 1929 resulted in the natural harbour being silted up (called Liquefaction -something folks in Christchurch now know about) and cut the road link by two years and that put paid to the development of the town. The road down to Westport being to arduous at best of the times and takes about 1.5 hours. Even now it is a long drive and the two things that keep the place (population 600) afloat is the traffic generated from the world famous Heaphy track and dairying. Although it would be interesting to see how a milk tanker negotiates that particular road!!
The Heaphy track itself is about 82 km long and can be walked between 3-5 days.  It is suitable for all ages – and the only care needs to be taken at one section of the track where it is tidal and an alternative “high tide” crossing is provided. It can be walked from both ends but usually folks start near Collingwood / Nelson way and walk out at Karamea. This just means you will need to have organized your return trip to the  point at Collingwood where you left your car– a 6 hour return drive!! The nice part is too that if you drive up north from Westport, after Karamea and at the beginning (or end) of the Heaphy track -  you have  r u n  o u t   of road to drive on!!!  From there  it is only one way – back!!  During the last few days we also noted the large amount of sea-spray being whipped up by wind and waves– being at times thick enough to make it look like driving into thick fog!! We eventually got to Karamea and had early lunch at cafe. We had planned to walk to the Moira Gate Arch and Mirror Tarn tracks.  Turns out that is another hours drive from Karamea then a total of 1.5 hours walk and then an hour drive back to Karamea. Which was just to long  (bearing in mind the further 3-4 hours drive back to Barrytown on top as well) – and so made two changes to the planned itinerary for the day  – one being the resolution to come back and spend some nights here in Karamea in order to fully explore the surroundings and also to be walking the Nikau Palm track (short Loop) instead --- only to get our feet ankle deep wet. Part of the track is partially covered by incoming tidal waves. Walk itself very nice – lots of Nikau Palms (whence it's name), and deep dark green bush!! After that we sat on the beach for a bit – got another wave coming in on the spring tide and feet (or should that be knees??)  now well and truly wet. The return drive to Karamea included taking with us some pesky local sand-flies!! We stopped at the local postal centre / come outdoor/ come garden shop and – FOUND yet another badge (again sort of locally made) and posted a post card to Oma. After picking up an Ice cream, back via the “short” hop to Westport were we took the opportunity to inquire about the newly developed Denniston coal attraction.

--> http://www.denniston.co.nz/

Seems now you can enter a mine for some 200meters and do a hands on coal extraction! Cost – do not ask!! Mamabear decided she needed to see the Sea-lions colony so we stopped over at Seal colony at Cape Foulwind - a leisurely 10 minute drive from Westport town. Saw two sets of juveniles frolicking freely on the rocks – but not much else due to the fact that the grown ups were all at sea feasting on whatever fish they could!

The drive home from there proved interesting, with (having been overtaken by a car containing a German tourist) and then following the Michael Schumacher wannabe down to the Pancake rocks! Eventually made it safely to home base at Barrytown where we had left over dinner and cake and the obligatory walk on the beach for yet another cloudy and no sun sunset!

Post script - found these on the Web and on various brochures -

Karamea offers a variety of short walks, catering for different age groups and varying levels of fitness. There will be something to suit you.
Birdwatchers Estuaries We have several estuaries in and around Karamea. They are well worth a visit. Bird life is plentiful, with pied stilts, black swans, oyster catchers, blue herons, and occasionally a white heron. You can walk for miles, and follow small tidal inlets, but watch the tide.
Flagstaff (1 hour plus) Via the road to the aerodrome. Turn left at the junction to go down to the beach, known locally as the Flagstaff. Prior to the 1929 Murchison Earthquake, which caused the harbour to silt up, Karamea had a busy port. 60 minutes plus for a workout round the sandspit! Sea and rivermouth access. Fishing in season.
Karamea Riverbank and Estuary Walk (45 minutes plus) An enjoyable evening stroll, beginning behind the Domain, or via the river access at the end of Wharf Road. Follow along the river down to the mouth. Tide permitting, you can check out the birdlife and return through the estuary walkway, linking up with the end of Ray Street.
Big Rimu Tree (45 minutes return) This track is a short walk through lush native bush to a large rimu tree. The track starts 7 kilometres up the Umere Road.
Lake Hanlon (20 minutes one way) 20 kilometres south of Karamea a signpost on the Highway indicates the short walk to this tranquil and picturesque lake.
South Terrace Zig Zag Track (60 minutes return) This track was originally used by the early settlers, and starts approx 2.5km up the Arapito side of the Karamea River. It takes you up onto the South Terrace. Two lookouts give great views north of Karamea, and of the river flats and farm land. If you continue along the old roadline, you will find the old cemetery that was used by the first European settlers on the South Terrace. Carry on walking past the old cemetery, and you will come to the end of the road which gives access from the South Terrace. Mountain biking is not permitted on this Heritage track.

About 45 minutes drive (25 km) north of Karamea, the Oparara Basin boasts impressive limestone formations and is surrounded by truly magnificent bush, and is home to the Powelliphanta – carnivorous snails which are up to 70mm across. Sturdy footwear is recommended for exploring this wonderland. Access to the Basin is via a gravel road. Care should always be taken on the drive in.
The road is not suitable for large motorhomes or buses, and cycles, for safety reasons.

Honeycomb Hill Caves & Arch

Karamea is home to the Honeycomb Hill Caves — world famous for their collection of Moa bones and other extinct bird species. This cave system contains notable limestone formations in its 15 kilometres of passages. The caves are protected, and ACCESS IS BY GUIDED TOUR ONLY. A guided kayak trip to the Honeycomb Hill Arch is also available. Customised tours by arrangement.

Oparara Basin Walks

Public Access from the Oparara Carpark
Oparara Arch (25 minutes one way) 1km Take the left hand track just before the Oparara Bridge. This is a well formed track following the Oparara River to the larger of the limestone arches. Blue ducks can sometimes be seen playing in the rapids.
Moria Gate Arch (30 minutes one way) 1.2km Beginning at the Oparara carpark, this track takes you through beautiful rainforest and moss-covered trees to a very picturesque arch stretching over the Oparara River.
Mirror Tarn (10 minutes one way) 600m Turn right at the sign just past the Oparara Bridge and follow the track upriver to a small but picturesque lake tucked away in the bush.
Moria Gate/Mirror Tarn Loop Track (1 hour 30 mins round trip) 4.1 km An easy-access easy-grade loop track linking these 2 attractions. Explore down under the Arch, then continue on over the top of Moria Gate (try counting the paving stones, where moa have obviously been before you!) and loop around the terrace to come back out at the carpark via Mirror Tarn.
Oparara Valley Track (5hrs one way) 14km A stunning new full day walk, through ancient stands of rimu and kahikatea forest, down the Oparara River. Links up with the Fenian Track and comes out at the carpark in the Fenian. A reasonable level of fitness is required.
The Valley Track has been built and is maintained by the Oparara Valley Trust, as a walking track only. Please respect the purpose for which the track has been built. The Oparara Basin is in the Kahurangi National Park, and NO mountain biking is permitted in National Parks.
Oparara Valley Track to Sunshine Flat Shelter (1hr 30min one way) 4.5km Leaving the Oparara carpark, walk partway down the Valley Track for just a taste of the primeval rainforest to be found in the Oparara. Take a breather at the shelter and read the amazing story of how the track was constructed.
Crazy Paving & Box Canyon Caves (5 minutes one way) 100m Torches necessary. Continue 2.5km on past the Arch carpark to the Cave carpark. A short walk through the rainforest will take you to the Crazy Paving Cave (the first of the 2 caves), Cave spiders and cave wetas a specialty! Continue on the main track up the steps to the Box Canyon Cave and descend down steep stairs to the cave floor. This is a large open cave, with several limestone passages off to the sides.
K-Road Mountainbike and Walking Track About 10km into the Basin. The return trip is approximately 27 km long – graded as an easy to medium track. K–Road is wide enough for both the keen tramper & the enthusiastic mountain biker, and features areas of cut-over bush, exotic plantations, and fast regenerating native species, with some water features and several stunning views.

The Fenian

In the late 1860s miners began fossicking for gold in the Fenian, and cut a bridle track into the workings. Today we now enjoy a series of easy-access, easy-grade walking tracks into this area, through mixed beech/podocarp forest. A mecca for fungi foragers.

Fenian Walks

Walking Times and Distances are from the Fenian Carpark.
Fenian carpark to Sunshine Flat (3hr 30min one way) 9.5km Walk partway up the Fenian Track, branching off at the Junction to head up the Valley Track as far as Sunshine Flat shelter.
Sunshine Flat to Oparara Carpark (1hr 30min one way) 4.5km After a breather at Sunshine Flat, where you will be able to read up on the amazing story of how the track was constructed, continue along the Valley Track to come out at the Oparara Carpark via Moria Gate Arch.
Oparara Valley Track (5hrs) 14km A stunning new full day walk through ancient rainforest, up the Oparara River, and coming out at the Oparara Carpark. This walk and the above two require a reasonable level of fitness, as there are a few challenging switchbacks on the Valley Track.
The Fenian Track is part of the new Valley Track, connecting the Fenian area and the Oparara Basin, which was built by the Oparara Valley Trust as a walking track only. Please respect the purpose for which the track has been built. The Fenian is a Heritage Track in the Kahurangi National Park, and NO mountain biking is permitted in National Parks.
Maloneys Bluff (40min one way) 3.5km At 30 m above the river, the hard granite outcrop known as Maloneys Bluff is an excellent viewpoint to look northwards up the Oparara Valley
Fenian/Valley Tracks Junction (1 hr 15min one way) 4km Another 15 minutes along the Valley Track from the Junction will bring you out at Postal River
Fenian Caves Loop (1 hr 1.5km or 3hrs return from carpark, 5 kms) The Fenian Caves consist of three “open access” caves. A torch or headlight, and sturdy footwear, is essential. A helmet is recommended. Two of the caves are located beside the track, Miners Cave and Cavern Creek Cave. The loop track passes through Tunnel Cave, which is rough underfoot for some 80m. A reasonable level of fitness is required. Track best walked in a clockwise direction.
Fenian Gold Workings (1 hr 35min one way) 5km A track has been cut up the Fenian Creek to the site of the Fenian Goldworkings
Adams Flat (2 hrs one way) 7km An easy walk up the old heritage bridle track to the clearing now known as Adams Flat. Named after John Adams, an early settler/goldminer, who died and was buried at the goldworkings in 1882.
Adams Creek Water Race (2hr 40min one way) 8km Continue up past Adams Flat on a cut track to the Adams Creek goldworkings and dam site.

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