Totally felt like we should be in an Indiana Jones movie on our latest adventure of discovery “A Lost World Uncovered”…….
We had headed to Blackball – little mining town inland from Greymouth at the base of the Paparoa mountains. There was plenty of misty clouds hanging in the mountains helping give a real sense of atmosphere for exploration into some real West Coast history.
Blackball is ripe with coal mining history and the last time we were here on a walk of discovery around the town, we came across a map showing the various walking options and swore we’d be back to explore them.
Well our return visit may have taken longer than planned but explore we did. Starting out with the River Gorge walk. Without any proper signage to show us the way we weren’t 100% sure we were on the right track. Shown on the outskirts of the township behind the Community Centre and described as a steep descent down through the forest into the river bed and then a walk up the river and gorge. Well it was certainly a steep descent. With only a very basic track down through the trees it was also a very slow and careful descent. There was a slight reprieve in among a sea of green. So green it was almost glistening and I was waiting for a fairy or two to come out and show us the way. Unfortunately no fairies were forthcoming so it was onwards and downwards again with great caution.
The river bed is safely reached and all I can say is – WOW! Huge boulders covered in more of those unreal greens, steep mossy banks embedded with huge moss-covered trees erupting up into the skyline, and yes green, green, green – top that off with a couple of waterfalls and we really had landed in GodZone.
The water was flowing quite deep down through the gorge as we tiptoed our way around the edges as far as we could. There were mining relics slowly rusting away on the river bank. We truly felt like we were in another world – could all this really be right here at our doorstep. Yep!
We couldn’t see anyway through the gorge other than swimming and again with not really knowing if we were in the right place and what was up ahead, we felt it best to head back the way we came. It was a fun hike back up the bank – clinging onto tree roots and hauling ourselves up – good full body workout, who needs to go to the gym.
We were parked up at the Community Centre and knew there was another hike within walking distance that would loop back to the car – the Blackball Coal Mine and Kings Knob track. I’m going to cover it in separate blog as it is another piece of significant West Coast history and a great exploration in its own right – deserved of a bit more blogging space……..
By the time we stumble back to the car after completion of the loop track we are well and truly ready for a late lunch and you can’t come to Blackball without a stop-in at the Formally the Blackball Hilton. With tummy bugs rumbling noisily we ordered our lunch and had a nice chat with Cynthia the publican. She informed us that the River Gorge hike is exactly what we suspected it might be – a hike/swim/hike and best left for a return summer visit. Lunch arrived and I’m happy to say it would have satisfied Indiana Jones himself after a morning of exploring.
Our bellies may be full now but we weren’t done with our day of exploring Blackball just yet – we had one more area we wanted to explore – the old tunnels under the town. Yes I know – tunnels under the town. Again – doing Indiana Jones proud we ventured down the obscure trail in the back of the footy field. With our gummies on and armed with our flashlights two intrepid explorers headed into the undergrowth.
After a short scramble down through the bush and tree roots we found what we were looking for. Hidden nicely in the bank with hanging mosses and twigs, it would have been easy to overlook if not for the little stream emanating out from the tunnel. It was a crouch down affair to start with – an ominous looking tunnel entrance with a very watery bottom. Shining the torch in though we could see it was worthy of a little explore, we were guessing this was the tunnel mentioned.
Well only after about 10 metres it opened up so we could stand and then it just kept going. Stephen was ahead of me (with a better flashlight I might add!) and all I could hear was wow, oh wow, wow, oh wow. Ok wait for me will you. We probably walked for about 100 metres or so and the tunnel just kept going. There were lots of side tunnels that had been blocked off – I guess for safety reasons ensuring no-one gets lost down here.
I may joke about being intrepid explorers but we’re not stupid (keep your comments to yourself please) so we didn’t want to venture too far since we hadn’t left our intentions with anyone to know to raise the alarm if we didn’t return by a reasonable time. So out we headed again – back into the light of day.
What a day of discovery – so much wonderful West Coast history surrounded by some incredibly outstanding scenery. I don’t think I’ve seen this much diverse beauty in one small area. I probably say that all the time – we are just so blessed with all the things the West Coast has to offer.
We’re not done with Blackball yet though. There are water race tracks still to explore – we need to get further into that river gorge and then of course there are those tunnels to explore deeper into too.
Thinking of coming to the West Coast – slow down and allow plenty of time. There is so much to see and do. Trust us we live here and we’re still discovering…….
Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth. They enjoy getting out and about and exploring this wonderful region West Coast of the Southern Alps – Untamed Wonderland.