I started my solo roadtrip in the Golden Bay which is the north west corner of the South Island. After saying goodbye to my travel mate I loaded up with food, maps and leaflets from the info centre and headed to Collingwood, a village in the heart of the Golden Bay. From my campsite base here I set out to explore.
Kaihoka Lakes was my first destination. The car park was deserted so I had the track all to myself.
My next destination was Wharariki Beach, this is at the very north of the west coast around the corner from Farewell Spit – one of the largest sand banks in NZ. I had heard of this beach through a leaflet on the Golden Bay area, all that was said about it was that it was a beautiful beach. So I thought it was worth checking out and thank goodness I did as when I’d walked to the beach there was the most amazing surprise waiting for me.
SEAL PUPS PLAYING IN THE TIDAL POOLS! Cue adorable baby animal heaven. There was one adult around but it was not bothered about the commotion going on. Baby seals causing tourists to freak out about the cutest photo they can take. I’ve never seen anything like it – seals jumping off rocks into the pools, play fighting, flipping and twirling out of the water! You name it, they did it!
The next day I headed out of the Golden Bay area to start the trip across to the West Coast. On the way I wanted to visit the Cobb valley and reservoir but I only made it about 2 km down the gravel road before I got too freaked out. With a steep long drop one side and a high cliff the other with danger and evidence of rock falls too along a steep narrow winding poorly surfaced gravel road, there was no way I wanted to go any further by myself. So I turned myself around and headed back out.
The next stop was more successful as I reached the car park and completed the walk to Harwoods Hole. This was a wide and deep hole formed in the limestone rock by the river. It was pretty impressive but again I was too chicken to get tooooo near to the edge! The walk was through a lovely beech forest. The night was spent in a campsite in Motueka.
I headed off early in the morning to Nelson Lakes.
My only stop off along the way was to buy some organic fruit and veg from a stall at the side of the road. Such good value for money and so yummy! I was hoping this would continue all the way along my trip but sadly this was the last of it. I arrived at Lake Rotoiti before lunch so decided to do a 5 hour hike to get some awesome views of the lakes.
The track wound back and forth up the hill with the beech forest gradually thinning out before becoming sparse bush cover. This was when I reached the first viewpoint of the lake and when I decided to turn around.
It was a good job I headed home when I did as no sooner had I reached my car than whoosh the skies opened and it bucketed it down with rain. The thunder claps and lightening were incredible in the moments leading up to the rain, it sounded like giants were chasing me down the mountain! That evening as I huddled in a shelter cooking I made friends with a retired English couple who gave me some of their leftover vegs and offered me wine – score!
Thankfully when we woke up it was to clear blue skies. So i had breakfast with a view.
I made my way to the another of the huge Nelson Lakes, Lake Rotoroa. I only did a short walk here through the temperate rainforest with amazing mushrooms that look like they just came from a cartoon.
I stopped off to do the Kawatiti Railway bridge and tunnel walk.
From here it was a couple of hours drive to Westport, one of the largest towns on the west coast. After stocking up on fuel (I got a bit nervous I wouldn’t make it but was reassured by a Kiwi informing me that Westport “it’s not far, eh”) I set off north to the coolest campsite on Gentle Annie point. I had the most amazing site right by the ocean, absolutely lush.
After a lazy morning I drove further to the cool village of Karamea. Karamea is the gateway to one of the Great Walks, the Heaphy Track and is famous for its Limestone formations.
That afternoon I did the Fenian walk to some caves which are open access to the public and you don’t have to pay for a tour. The beginning of the walk was promising with a solid track following the river valley from above. Then the caves loop veers off the path and into the forest where the path isn’t much of a path more of a bush whack through following orange little triangles. It was good fun though scrambling up and down tree trunks being encouraged by the inquisitive bush robins.
The first cave I came across was nothing special so I quickly moved on and around this cave. The next cave however was a different story. This one you had to go through – there was no way around. At this point in the cramped low ceilinged dark damp cave I remembered I am actually a little claustrophobic when I don’t know how and when I can get out of the tiny space. So there was no way I was going to make it through by myself with only my flimsy torch for company. So here’s to the second chickening out of my trip. Never mind. And that’s the only photo you’re getting of the caves, I wasn’t hanging around in there long enough to take photos.
On my way to the campsite that evening I passed a hitchhiker, I slowed to chat to her but she needed to go further than I was going.
The next day I wanted to do a full day of hiking up the Heaphy Track.
However I only got as far as Scotts Beach because further on they were blowing up the cliffs to form a new track. The walk up to that point was stunning, crossing a swing bridge to start before walking through a nikau palm forest.
The walk only took me until lunch so I had time that afternoon to explore the Opara Basin. This is where there are spectacular limestone formations due to the special rock layers. The first walk was to the limestone arch which was a huge cavern.
Next was a loop walk to Mirror Tarn and Moria Gate Arch.
So in the evening I decided to head to the next village to the south to camp at the hotel. The same woman was hitchhiking and this time I gave her a ride as we were heading in the same direction. It turned out she was house sitting for her friend and offered for me to check it out and stay the night if I liked. The “house” wasn’t a house at all but a one room wooden hut a 10 minute drive out of the village down a gravel road. It was set in the most incredible garden with an abundance of fruits, vegetables and herbs thriving in the climate of Karamea. The chickens were true free range chickens as there are no foxes around to eat them! The only water was collected rain water, the power was from a few solar panels, the toilet was a composting toilet and the shower and washing machine was the nearby river. There was such a cool vibe going at this lovely home so I grabbed the opportunity to stay the night inside (and not in my car!).
I was surprised at how much room, space and storage there was in the one room. In the evening me and Jo went to the pub, I wanted to try whitebait as the west coast is famous for it and Jo was meeting her friend to play with their new toys. Jo is super good at hula hooping and had recently bought light up hoops which were so cool and her friend had bought light up balls on string that you twirl and spin about. So they put on a light show for us when it got dark which was hypnotising and amazing. The next morning I headed back down to Westport after a super vibrant breakfast of oats, honey and an enormous selection of dried fruits, seeds, nuts and spices. She even gave me a jar to take away with me!
Over and out