Nature Lover’s Paradise - The Oparara Arches

Taking the road less travelled led me to love; the love of unspoilt virgin podocarp and beech forest, limestone arches and lush ferns and mosses of varying shades of green.  No longer do I think of green as one colour. Drive 9 kilometres north of Karamea on SH 67, turn right onto McCallums Mill Road and twist and turn for the next 15 or so k’s on a metal road, until you come to the car park when you will be spoilt for choice, which track will I take first – paradise awaits. Be warned though, the road is not suitable for large campervans or caravans. My Corolla manages it so stories of having to have a certain type of vehicle unfounded in my experience. ’Welcome to the Goblin Forest.’

Take your pick becomes the order of the day. Walk along well formed easy tracks to the impressive Oparara Arch which spans 219m across and 30m high, truly spectacular and/or the smaller but perhaps more stunning, beautiful, Moira Arch which is also about a 30 minute walk one way.

Accompanying you, might be some friendly robins hopping along the path or weka’s keen to steal your food or belongings if you give them a chance. I left my car door open when visiting the little house and came back to find a weka quite at home on the back seat rummaging through the picnic basket. And If you’re lucky, blue ducks might be spotted in the river which runs like a bed of gold – tannin giving the water its unique colour. The ducklings will take your breath away.

Then there is the Mirror Tarn, literally a place for reflection. Tis only a 10 minute walk one way and well worth it. Should you take a photo of the trees which can sometimes be so perfectly reflected in the water you will have difficulty deciding which way is the right way up when you go to hang your photograph.

 If time allows then the Honeycomb Caves is well worth a wander, the floor of the easily accessed cave a distinct honeycomb pattern. I believe guided walks are also possible for these places and other caves and tracks in the area.

This area is great for the nature lover and keen photographer, is an awesome place for families of all ages, the well formed, maintained tracks cut to enable easy access and walking for all abilities. With tracks this good what are you waiting for? 'Tis a place that is good for the heart, good for the soul – soul food and travel at its best. As the camp manager at Karamea said this piece of NZ, which is part of the Kahurangi National Park is probably more widely known and visited by German Tourists than New Zealanders. Given the peace and quiet, so few people on days I’ve returned and ignorance of its whereabouts by folk I’ve spoken to, I might have to believe this gentleman.

I know that the West Coast of the South Island is often missed by tourists and kiwis but I truly love the stepping back in time, the fresh unpolluted smell of the bush, the wide open spaces and the locals who make you feel so at home and welcome. For me it is a long days travel to reach this area but one I have done several times and will continue to do so. If time allows, and inclination to venture far from the madding crowd appeals, come and experience the real NZ.

This story and accompanying photographs were provided to us by Ann Kidd, who was keen to share what she loves about this beautiful region of New Zealand, in the hope that more visitors will be able to enjoy its unspoilt beauty.  We hope you can take the time to enjoy it, leaving only footprints and taking only fond memories and photographs.  Thanks for your story Ann, submitted as part of Omega's Summer Holiday Writing Competition 2015.  

Ann adds, "The mud looking shot below is the honeycomb floor in one of the caves.  And last but not least the sign we saw when leaving Karamea, obviously humour is alive and well in these parts."  Pleased to hear it, Ann! 

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