Sunday, 12 April 2015

Moria Gate Arch- Oparara Basin

The 30 minute walk to the second arch in the Oparara Basin is through some stunning scenery, the rainforest is an enchanted wonderland; a large variety of mosses in all shades of green cling to and drape off every available trunk, branch & twig. Soft green ferns cover the forest floor and taller tree ferns spread their feathery fronds overhead. There’s also alot of birdsong and the odd alarm call, as flashes of movement catch our eye as birds fly from tree to tree.

A lot of foresight, money, hard work & volunteer hours has gone into making the Oparara Basin the jewel in the crown of the northern West Coast’s ecotourism attractions. It’s a pity that the road can’t take bigger tour buses & motorhomes as many people miss out on seeing this spectacular area (actually, that in fact might just be a good thing after seeing the over-run carparks surrounding Punakaiki Rocks later on in our trip).

More enchanted forest and a natural moss topiary.

The track eventually led to this rocky hole in the ground. We were thinking this can’t be the Moria Gate Arch surely? Then David spotted a chain rope down the side of the rocks and after clambering through we inched our way down over the boulders into darkness.....

…to be greeted by this amazing sight- the Moria Gate Arch! The arch was named in 1984 after the mythical gate to the dark world in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

And just to show you the shear size of the cavern, there’s David standing on the rocks to the side, looking for blue ducks again.

The Moria Gate Arch is viewed in 3D, there's the arch above- looking into the cave- then the one below looking down stream from inside, the rocks in front are about where David is standing in the photo above.

And the third one, looking back in the other direction, up-stream.

And up-stream again, with David silhouetted to put things in perspective.

Moria Gate Arch is spectacular and by far the loveliest of the two arches, a visual treat and an amazing feat by Mother Nature. Absolutely stunning.

We clamber back out through the opening in the rock meeting another couple finding their way inside. If you ever visit Moria Gate, don’t be put off by this odd entrance, it’s quite safe with the chain to help you up and down but sturdy shoes are a must to help with grip on the slippery rock surfaces.

The Moria Gate Arch Track forms a loop crossing over the Oparara River and passing the Mirror Tarn on it’s way back to the carpark. I decide to walk the loop- it’s another hour back to the carpark, David retraces his steps and will then drive to the Tarn carpark and meet me there. It is a shame as just a little further on the forest becomes even more beautiful- if that is possible- I could explore out here for hours, studying every little plant, moss and insect I came across. There are so many beautifully formed miniature mosses & lichen. I’m not sure the short bit of track with the moa print paving stones over the top of the arch is quite the look but I guess it’s providing protection.

It’s actually a surprise when I come to a short side track that leads to a lookout with a view back towards Moria Gate Arch. At this stage I hadn’t realised that those moa print pavers actually led me over the top of the arch. You couldn’t see down either side, it was just a track through thick bush. Clever idea and it does protect the arch.

The arch was stunningly beautiful from this angle too, and that tannin stained Oparara River just adds to the beauty and mystique of the place.

As I said the track just gets prettier and prettier, this has to have been one of the most beautiful walks I’ve done. I just wish David had done it with me.

I caught sight of movement a few steps ahead of me and found this beetle scurrying across the path. This is a native Stinking Ground Beetle, the Maori name Kurikuri means dog-like. It can give a sharp nip- one look at those pincers tell me that- and also emit a powerful stench if disturbed. I was unaware of that defense. I carefully transferred it to the end of this stick, took some photos and then poked the stick in a log, which the beetle quickly disappeared into. He must have been happy with me, no stench detected!

I stopped once again at the Mirror Tarn, the sun had come out a little since my earlier visit and the reflections were not so sharp. I found a henna painted WWOOFer with a weird hairdo contemplating life beside the tarn and taking up most of the tiny viewing space. He told me he’d brought a car load of backpackers up to the Basin for the day and they were off walking. He just wanted to soak up the beauty and I got the impression I was disturbing his peace with my clicking! Smile

I left him to his solitude and headed back down the track which was running along side the Oparara River again. I met David about halfway, he’d brought the car up and was walking in to meet me.

We had an awesome day exploring the Oparara Basin, seeing amazing limestone arches, unusual caves and the most beautiful scenery- my highlight was the Mirror Tarn followed a close second by Moria Gate. I’d highly recommend a visit to this very special place if you are in the area. If you’re in a motorhome though, I’d beg, borrow or steal a car so you can get there safely. Or arrange a tour from Karamea.

I have a little story to share before I leave the Basin-
I very nearly lost my phone to the Oparara Basin- now that would have been a disaster & you’d most probably still be waiting for blog posts. I’d be lost without my phone’s ‘hotspot’ (yes, I could have used David’s, but he’s rather protective of his data).

You’ll remember I very nearly killed my phone when we walked the Sawcut Gorge, forgetting that I had it in my back pocket as we waded through a deep pool. After some tender loving care and much swearing and frustration David managed to nurse it back to health. Phew many $$$$ saved.

So it was with great alarm and an awful sinking feeling when I heard a ‘kurplunk’ as I rearranged my clothing after visiting the loo before we left the carpark for home. ‘Oh no, bloody hell’ I thought (or words to that effect) and without any hesitation (which really does surprise me) I reached into the bowl to retrieve my submerged phone. YUK, YUK & DOUBLE YUK. All I can say is thank God it was only number ones and double thank God that it was a regular toilet and not one of the usual DOC loos with the balance plate that empties into the tank as the weight goes on, or worse still, a long drop. It really would have been a gonna then.
I raced outside to the ute where David was waiting, clutching my dripping cellphone. All kudos to my ‘knight in shining armour’, he didn’t hesitate in whipping the cover and the back off and was straight into trying to rid it of the moisture. The phone died immediately (who wouldn’t), but he quickly smothered it in tissues & dried it as best he could then we wrapped it in tissues and I sat on it(!) to try and keep it warm to get rid of more moisture. Then we waited. 
The hand sanitizer and wet-wipes we keep in the glove-box were certainly put to good use that day.
Later, after a few false starts, some weird noises & crossed messages my phone burst back into life. And in fact a couple of quirky things it had been doing after the first save have now gone. It’s like new again! I wonder how many lives a phone has.....


  1. Hi Shellie, I've very much enjoyed reading about your visit to the Oparara Basin. I've visited the West Coast twice in the last couple of years and have had vague plans to visit the area but Westport has been as far north as I've managed to get. I can see I will need to make a concerted effort to get up there next time I'm over that way. Your beautiful photos are making my camera very envious! :)

    1. Hi Lisa, lovely to hear from you and to know you're still following along! Yes, you'll certainly have to set aside some time to visit the area, it's a photographers wonderland- I want to return already! Keep warm down there- I think I might like snow rather than all this rain! :)

  2. As usual superb photos Shellie, that are becoming exceeded by your stories...actually am surprised you didn't take photos the iPhone resurrection, once again McGivver to the rescue.

    1. How dare you swear Jimu, Samsung Galaxy for me! :) If it had of been an iPhone I bet it would be dead ;)

  3. PS, Comments about access to Oparara Basin noted...Thanks!
    Double PS...did you visit Trumans track (about 10klms North of Punakaiki)...another photographers dream...and Craig Potton Hotspot!

    1. Yes Trumans Track done, Cave Creek done, all in amongst this persistent rain. Not sure about Craig's Hotspot- haven't heard about that unless could it be a rock stack beach just north of Greymouth?

  4. Hmmm..... amazing what a little misplaced typo i does;.......Craig Potton did a whole book on the Paparoas, with many shots of the beach at Truman's Track... I revisit every time I'm in the area!
    At the mo planning a trip to Seattle & Vancouver for this August & will resurrect my blog for this!
    Enjoy further south!

    1. I had to stop and think about that 'i' for awhile before I got it! Too early for the grey matter me thinks :)
      That is an amazing beach at Trumans, quite scary in rough weather- which is most of the time.
      Those are beautiful areas you'll be visiting in August, I'll look forward to the photos.


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