Today was one of those nothing weather days – you know the ones where it isn’t raining but the sun isn’t shining either – worse than that though it isn’t even just overcast – a nothing day.
What to do…… started out with a sleep in, then a cuppa in bed and snuggle with the dogs – so spoilt! Porridge for breakfast – breakfast of champions tee hee. Shall we go and do something we say to each other – secretly hoping the other would say no, lets just blob out and catch up on MySky recordings for the day…….. Nope we should go do something – how about the Fox River Caves – great idea!
The Fox River Cave walk is located – wait for it – at Fox River. It is right off the main State Highway, the Great Coast Road, just north of Punikaiki. Gorgeous area in itself with the cliff formations and the way the river flows out to sea. But we’re heading up the valley – a nice bush walk following the edge of the river to then climb up to the entrance of the caves. It is amazing valley walk in the respect that while you don’t get much elevation until the final climb up the rocks to the caves, it is a bit like a gorge with towering limestone cliff faces surrounding you.
There was rain overnight and it looks like there may have been some drizzle during the morning so the track is reasonably muddy and wet. It is quite a rocky walk so we have to take extreme care as the rocks are incredibly slippery. There are heaps of fantails fluttering in and out of the trees. They are such cute little birds – keeping an eye on us almost ensuring we keep moving.
We have to cross a couple of small creeks but then we get to a river crossing. After a bit of debate we make the cardinal sin of hiking and take our tramping shoes off to cross the river. It is very shallow and slow flowing – or so we think. The river is braided meaning we have to cross it again and the next crossing point is a little deeper and a little swifter flowing – not scary flowing (for me cos I’m a wuzz when it comes to water), but the terrain is quite bouldery so don’t want to take any changes. We put our shoes back on and tackle the next crossing – easy as. Ok, this isn’t funny now, there is another braid and we have to cross it one more time. This time it is just under knee height deep and very swift flowing. Stephen crosses carefully but with ease. Me, well I’m frozen to the spot – watching Stephen closely the whole time thinking I can’t do this. Big deep breaths “come on girl pull yourself together”. I enter with trepidation and carefully find my next foot placing, one after the other, slowly does it until I finally reach the other side. Whew, heavy breathing, big sighs and try to bring my heart rate back down. Will I ever get over my fear of water!
The track leads back into the bush and slowly starts the ascent up towards the caves. Stephen comments on the slipperiness of the rocks – the trail at the moment is just meandering slightly up and down following along the edge of the river. We then come to a sign “caution slippery rocks” – we have to laugh, what were the last lot! As it turns out nothing in comparison to the next section. The track climbs steeply and it is all rock – greasy, mossy, slimy, slippery rocks. It is a bit of a grind to get to the top, between the steepness and the slipperiness – a great combo.
Wow – worth it though. We reach the top and the entrance to the caves. The cavern we are in by the cave entrances is fantastic in itself. You can see why they call many cave entrances cathedrals – looking up it does remind you of the inside of a cathedral – very majestic. The plant life is fantastic almost dripping down from above – ok it is dripping – watch out for the water drops!
Right now here is the thing….. we’ve done a walk to caves…… no laughing now please……. we’ve forgotten our torches. Yes it would seem it is true, we are idiots! unbelievable, all this way to this majestic area and we’ve forgotten our torches. One cave you can’t enter, too dangerous with falling rock but the other, slightly higher up has a walk through it of about 200 metres. We know this from reading the information board – ensure you have good lighting 😦 It is ok though, lovely walk all the same and just being in the cavern entrance is stunning enough – would have been cool though…….
Very tentatively we make our way back down the rocky steps – think it was easier coming up than going down. Now the silly thing is, it is probably about 1/2 hour walk back to the river crossings and my heart beat levels are rising already. I’m trying not to think about it but just can’t help it. Stephen must be wondering what all the heavy breathing is behind him – trying to keep myself calm.
The crossings appear – easy as this time. Crossed with caution of course but we are going with the flow this time so it is actually easier to cross.
Back at the car park and we notice a gorgeous mini lake of some sort hidden with the undergrowth. Stephen goes over to have a look and discovers it is filled with lilies and even has a little jetty. There are remnants of an unfinished building a little further over so maybe someone had some grandeur plans that didn’t quite come to fruition. Makes for some great photos though.
Still a nothing day with the weather but nice to have made the effort to get out to stretch the legs and explore somewhere new. Next time we’ll remember the torches!
NB: Fox River Caves – called Fox River Tourist Caves – are the oldest tourist attraction for the Punakaiki area. This safe cave has a 200m passage, beautifully decorated with calcite formations which have developed over thousands of years. Take plenty of light and respect the cave – no souveniring or writing on the wall please. There is another lower cave, but this is dangerous to enter due to falling rocks and sheer drops in the floor.
Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth. Stephen is an avid photographer and together they love to get out and explore the many wonders that make up the West Coast of New Zealand.