Friday, August 28, 2009

Wild West

It was all mood and mist the day we walked along Bullock Creek Road in Paparoa National Park, just north of Punakaiki on the West Coast late last year. It was an eerie sort of landscape that spoke of dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures that might leap out from behind the foliage. Towering limestone bluffs rose out of the mist on either side of the road and river and creatures – probably just a weka or two – rustled about in the dense bush. It was wet, silent and beautiful – a Lost World almost, filled with damp moss, earthy aromas and lanky tree ferns. It was a place of caves and deep, hidden potholes and we were walking to the pretty track that led to the deeply incised gorge where the headwaters of Cave Creek emerge from an underground cave system.There were five of us – an Aucklander, an Australian, two from Christchurch and our guide – and we were midway through the West Coast Trail.
Devised by Christchurch’s Tuatara Tours, this four-day walking adventure had taken us through some of the most beautiful, the most dramatic and the most popular walking trails from Castle Hill to Punakaiki and despite never having been a dedicated tramper – hardly a tramper at all in fact - it was hard not to be won over by the rugged, diverse landscapes we picked our way through. But give me lush ferns, flourishing coastal broadleaf plants, towering nikau palms and flat tracks over tiny tight little flowers, slippery rocks and ridiculously high places any day. And it’s here that the West Coast Trail truly delivers. From the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks Loop Track at Dolomite Point with its mist-enshrouded flax ‘forests,’ its gushing blowholes and wild, breathtaking coastline to the moodiness of Bullock and Cave Creeks, the remarkable variety and lushness of the Truman Track and, my favourite, the quiet unspoiled beauty of the Pororari River Track, it’s green in as many shades as you could ever wish to see. It’s the wild West Coast at its best.

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