We left Nelson bright and early. If you look at a map of South Island there are not many roads that go from east to west and so even though the distance as the crow flies would have been 58 miles, we actually had 198 to drive. As soon as we had arrived in New Zealand we purchased really good road maps of both Islands and that was useful as we lost both GPS and Cell signal on the journey. My poor cell phone had no idea where we were. The journey was very pleasant as we meandered through the valleys passing the many sheep, dairy and venison farms. Oh that reminds me, always make sure you have a full tank of Gas, there were no gas stations until we were right over on the west coast. The last leg of journey was “interesting” we had to go up and over a very high and winding mountain road, which went into one lane at places because the other half of the road had fallen into the valley with the severe weather last year.
But we arrived safe and sound in Karamea, permanent population of around 400, the northern most settlement in South Island and only access in or out was the road we just arrived on. The Motel was delightful and a trip into the Town (well the streets where the few shops etc were) took us to the village tavern. I do have to admit that a friend of a friend that we had made contact with, and who moved back to Karamea some years ago had recommended both locations. But imagine our delight when we went in and there was a roast dinner on the menu with roast and steamed vegetables! Hurrah, I was beginning to think we would arrive back with scurvy given the lack of vegetables we had been eating. After dinner we took a walk to the beach and while not the best sunset, it was still pretty good.
The next morning we were picked up at the motel for a guided tour of the Oparara Arches and Honeycomb Hill caves. You are only allowed in with a guide and there was just the two of us, so we had a great day. The guide was called Rob and he and my Rob shared all the same interests and hobbies, it was almost if he was a brother from another mother. We started off to a walk to the caves and found out some fascinating facts about the local flora and fauna. Also when the caves were discovered in the 80’s there were complete intact skeletons for Moa, a huge emu like bird that was now extinct, that must have fallen down one of the holes in the forest floor and perished. They also found an extinct Haast eagle skeleton that was later moved to the Te Papa museum. We also got to see Glow Worms in the caves that was a very interesting sight. Back to the car park for lunch, this was provided as part of the trip. We kept a careful eye on our food as the local Weka were on the prowl. After lunch we strolled to the famous arch and then made our way back to the car. During the day, while we were talking to Rob (other Rob) he was astonished that we would consider leaving the town without walking part of the Heaphy Track. And so we arranged to stay an extra night in town. It was interesting to note that the brown color in the otherwise clear waters are from the natural tannin leeched from the trees
Next morning we met Anji for coffee (the friend of friend) and had a lovely hour talking about the area and life in general. Just as we were about to leave for out walk, she mentioned that she had her local crafting meet up at the tavern that afternoon. So off we went for the walk, one of us was upping to pace so that we could get over to Scotts beach, which was just beautiful and back into town for the afternoon so that I could join the ladies and stitch a while. It’s been a great experience here and still lots more we could have explored.