We travelled to the Operara bassin, North on the West Coast of the South Island. End of the road, as a matter of fact. Well worth the trip. The subtropical forest is great. There are some impressive natural arches, spanning the river. Created over the ages. From the car park: visit first the Moria arch first, then follow the path to the lake. Return to the car park and end with the largest. Very well sign posted. Very good track, well done. They flew in the bridges by helicopter.
This remarkable natural arche is stunning. It has been carved out by a river in this karst type area. The forest took the first price, though. The gate is just a bonus. The wood looks Jurrasic, with very tall tree towering over the fern bush. Some are concorted in stramge shapes. All, including the mall ones, have mosses growing over them. Everything is lush and damp.
For all your tramping information visit the visitor centre, you really can't miss it. The staff are very eager to assist and provide you with all necessary leaflets and information to make an informed choice. When learning of our non-vehicle situation (eyebrows raised up in that 'oh dear'' expression) we were left with just a few options.
First up 'The Big Rimu Tree' track (45 minutes duration). We hired bikes to save time and cycled to the starting point. I can confirm that the tree was indeed big, although how high we couldn't tell. We also visited the nearby estuaries, which was teeming with bird life. We finished the day with a sunset walk along the deserted beach.
The drive to the Oparara bassin is about 75 minutes. The last part is a 14km gravel road. Very nice scenery. Also, the day before it had rained, so not must dust. It slowly (most of the time) winds up the hill to a pass, in the last 2 km it is only down hill. One one lane bridge. At a few places it is really narrow, but these are well sign posted. We had no problems with cars from the opposite direction, we met about 7 on the way up (at about 14.30h) and 2 on the way back (18.00 h). At the parking space there was one motor home, but I don't recommend it. The parking space is very well equipped, with toilets. Sign posted perfectly.
Once you're in Karamea you may need a car to get around, but to get there a shuttle bus service is available which runs daily from Westport. I'm getting old and I can't remember the company we travelled with. The Information centre maybe able to shed some light, whether in Karamea (Tel: 03 782 6652/ E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org) or Westport (Tel: 03 789 6658).
We were looking forward to visiting the Oparara Basin in Kahurangi National park. It sounded so appealing with Lord of the Rings place names, strange coloured soils, complex cave systems, rare plant and animal life, carnivorous snails, kea's. Kakas, kiwis, parakeets and the home to the largest spider in New Zealand. These spiders have leg spans up to 15cm and hang around in caves. Being famous celebrities you may have seen them before, taking the limelight with leading roles in the film 'Arachnophobia'.
Unfortunately the basin is a 45 minutes CAR journey away and there's no public transport available. We could have hitched, but the traffic wasn't exactly M4 standards. What if we couldn't get a ride back? To be quite frank, spending the night sheltering under a cave with big, leggy spiders isn't my idea of a 'good time'. Their usual diet of weta munching may have become tedious, opting for 'flesh de tourist' as a refreshing alternative midnight feast.
Sand flies are small black critters that smear you with red stuff when squashed- blood, yours and probably some strangers it drank from earlier. They love the South Island climate and Karamea is an all-year round top holiday destination for them.
You can buy repellents such as 'Off' (straight to the point), but don't forget to bring it with you when out tramping. Camomile location is soothing and essential for when the bas@$rds do have a nibble.