Wild Wild West, Part 2: Charming Creek and Oparara Basin

May 4, 2014
Normally easy bike rides aren’t our cup of tea (ok, Scott’s). But when they turn out to have surprise tunnels (eek!) and surprise waterfalls, they’re pretty awesome! The Charming Creek Walkway is a bit different than your average walking track. Our guidebook said something along the lines of, “This walk is beautiful. Please don’t miss it. Do it for me. You won’t regret it. I swear. Please do it. Please.” So we basically had to go. But we took the bikes.

The Charming Creek Walkway was built on old mining railway tracks (making for bumpy climbing) and followed along a cliff over the beautiful Charming Creek. It had a few fun features like tunnels and swing bridges, and provided spectacular scenery and waterfalls. Its not totally straight forward to get to- so definitely Google your directions before you go. It is really stunning. Please don’t miss it. Do it for me. You won’t regret it!
(I forgot the good camera on this adventure, so here’s the best “quality” my phone can muster:)
We did the Charming Creek ride on Saturday, along with two of the hikes I wrote about in my last post. It was such a beautiful day that we were trying hard to smash as much cool stuff as we could in before the sun set (at an insulting 5:30!).
After our ride, we hurried up the coast past Karamea to the Oparara Basin. Our trusty guide book (NZ Frenzy– get it!) pleaded with us to check out these “arches”. They sounded neat, but we were a little skeptical- and we were saving Sunday for glow worms (or the great glow worm disappointment of 2014, as it was.)
So we decided if these arches were so cool, they would be cool at dusk as well. The guide book also mentioned that the Oparara Arch is so massive and impressive it is nearly impossible to photograph.
Aren’t you in awe and amazement???

Totally impossible to photograph might have been more accurate..

What is going on here?

Im sure our chosen time of day didn’t help the photogenically challenged arch, but I can share in the author’s frustration. It really is so beautiful. Scott thought this must be where they got the inspiration for Avatar… the massive limestone arches above a natural tunnel, with ferns and vines growing everywhere, and foliage hanging down like chandeliers. One of those big mean bird things could swoop down at any second and not even look out of place. The grandeur of the arch, coupled with the root beer color of the water running through it also made us feel like we could be on another planet.

Stalactites inside the arch- also will make you feel like you’re on another planet.
My best (futile) attempt:

Here’s a stolen picture off the internet… I’m not sure this really even clears up what was going on there:

Image Via

The valuable lesson we learned (as we left in the dark, using our cell phones as headlamps— ooh! We saw an owl, that was cool!) was that when the guidebook strongly suggests something is magnificent, it probably is.  So we saved the other “arch” for the next day, after the Great Glow Worm Disappointment.

The hike to the second arch turned out to be super cool in itself. The foliage had changed, the tree ferns had multiplied, and there were tons of those creepy trees with everything growing on them. (I really should learn something about NZ trees.)

I mentioned in my last post about the west coast’s current TreePocalypse state of being, and the Oparara Basin was no different. Check out this recently fallen bad boy:

And for perspective, me:

The DOC had been hard at work clearing as much as possible, so we actually had a really pleasant walk through the forest. We were a bit surprised when the trail turned in to this:

Who’s first?
And then this:

We had been led inside the Moira Gate Arch before we saw it from afar. So cool!!!

Scott got busy taking lots of photos of the stalactites, interesting patterns on the rocks, and the root beer water.

After having our fill of exploring the inside and not finding any glow worms, we crawled out of the entrance and went up and over the arch to get a view from the outside.

Pretty Stunning…

The color of the water is caused by staining from the tannins released into the forest floor by the native fauna. The contrast of the color with the foliage is just phenomenal.

We took a long loop option back from the arch and saw lots of wildlife along the way.

Baby Weka!
Baby weka looking at YOU.
The aptly named “Mirror Tarn”
As some rain started falling and the temperature dropped, we picked up the pace back to the car. But we were stopped by a funny whistling sound. Like a child playing with a crappy plastic whistle. “Whioooo Whioooo!”. We looked around for the culprit making the funny noise, and were surprised to find these guys swimming and whistling in the water below us.

Blue ducks are endangered, with approximately 1,200 remaining. The males make the funny whistling noise (the Maori name for Blue Duck is “Whio”) while the females make an even funnier guttural grunting noise. There were 2 males here, whistling back and forth at each other, sticking their necks out and being very impressed by themselves (the 2 bottom ones). The third (top) was a female who grunted and snorted and waddled out of the water and away from her companions, obviously very unimpressed.

As much as we enjoy the breathtaking scenery, I think we enjoyed the wildlife even more. Its a special feeling to get to see endangered animals, as well as baby animals (the weka is very, very far from endangered!). This was such a great final experience on our west coast adventure!

One last wild animal.

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