Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Treetop Walk & Lake Mahinapua

We’ve now arrived in Christchurch where we’ll be for the next week or so catching up on maintenance and preparing the van and it’s occupants for winter.

I must get on and post these catch up blogs, it’s beginning to feel like a lifetime ago when we were parked up at the Hokitika NZMCA park. I’ll try to keep the typing to a minimum and let the photos do the talking. We’ve done so much since Hokitika and seen more stunning scenery- we really do live in a beautiful country, such a diverse landscape in such a small package. And I’m only talking about a tiny section of the West Coast and high country Canterbury. Needless to say, I’ve taken hundreds of photos since these ones too.

How many New Zealanders recognise this hotel? Mahinapua Pub was made famous by a long running advertising campaign for Mainland Cheese. The exterior was the backdrop, and along with the two grumpy old men discussing the merits of Mainland Cheese, became world famous in New Zealand.

The hotel is located about half way along a very long (for the West Coast) straight just south of Hokitika and on this day we had a clear view of the Southern Alps and Mt Cook (Aoraki). We travelled this straight a few times while in Hokitika and on each occasion passed 2-3 police cars &/or a speed camera car parked on the road side. I guess this is where recent reports of speeding vehicles, some doing over 160kph, come from. It seems like the drivers have broken free from the narrow winding roads, with their one way bridges, further south and their foot has hit the floor.

Just south of Ruatapu (at the end of the straight) we turned inland and headed to one of the Coast’s newest attractions; the West Coast Treetop Walk which is located at the eastern end of Lake Mahinapua. The walkway opened in late 2012 and as soon as we drive through the entrance to the carpark we can see that building this attraction has been a major undertaking. It’s a lovely sunny afternoon and we decide we’ll have lunch at the cafe after we’ve done the walk; there are a number of groups enjoying lunch at the outside tables in the sunshine, I think this is also a meeting place for friends and families on weekend outings.

Getting to the beginning of the treetop walk involves a short steady climb to the top of hill behind the cafe, if required though, you can catch a ride up in a golf cart. Native trees and shrubs along the way have name plaques in front of them and there are also information boards on some of the native birds found in the forest.

The walkway is 20 metres above the forest floor and forms a 1.2km loop through the tree canopy.

A 107 step spiral takes you up to the platform of the 47 metre tall ‘Hokitika Tower’…..

As you climb the views down onto the walkway are impressive but if you don't want to get vertigo don't look past the walkway to the forest floor below….

Once at the top, the 360 degree views are spectacular. From up here you can see from the mountains to the sea. Looking east towards the mountains….

And north-west over Lake Mahinapua to the Tasman Sea; a tiny sliver of blue in the background.

The small platform at the end of this walkway arm provides a closer view of the lake shore; the end of the arm is cantilevered and has quite a bit of bounce about it, similar to crossing a swingbridge. There are over 13,500 bolts holding the structure together and it was designed to move with the wind which is just as well as the weather on the West Coast is not always as perfect as it was this day.

There are 11 numbered ‘stop’ points along the walkway which correspond to the numbers on a map & guide brochure received when you purchase your tickets. Each stop has informative information on birds to look out for, plants growing in the rainforest or on the tree at that point. Unfortunately we didn’t see any birds other than a couple of silhouettes flying past at great speed off in the distance.

While we enjoyed the walkway, I was a bit disappointed that it didn’t pass through a thicker forest canopy- perhaps we were a little underwhelmed because we have seen such beautiful lush rainforest in our travels. I’m not so sure it’s such a good representation to our overseas visitors of a West Coast forest though. We both thought it was a very brave person who undertook this impressive project and I'm sure once the under-story and the plants along the tracks and paths grow a little more it will have a more established feel about it.

We called in to the DOC reserve & camping ground at Lake Mahinapua on the way home. The entrance is off the main highway near the hotel, the drive in is through a narrow bush tunnel, it’s one way with the exit further down the road which is just as well as you wouldn’t want to meet somebody coming out, there’s no passing or turning around. The lake is a favourite spot of yachties and picnickers and much prized for its clear, colourful reflections from the surrounding bush.There are quite a number of walks in and around the lake but we decided we’d just have a look around today.

We were going to bring the van down here after Hokitika (there’s a large DOC campground), get the boat out again and stay for a week or so but because of all the grotty weather we’ve been having (yes, really) we decided we’ll not risk it this time and perhaps stay here when we come up from the bottom of the Coast later in our travels.

Lake Mahinapua is a shallow lake and only one metre above sea level. Steamers and barges used to ply the seven kilometre length transporting a constant flow of gold-seekers rushing from one strike to the another as rumours of riches flew up and down the coast. One of the old paddle boats is on display beside the lake.

We found this unusual RV parked in the campground. Look closely, it’s not a fifth-wheeler and it’s not a cab-over; it has wheels. Whatever it is, it’s rather cute & it’s somebody’s pride and joy.

Down on the lake front we find the vehicle that tows it; a ute with three tow balls; one on either side just below the back cab doors and one on the towbar. The well-side fits into the slots in the van, everything hooks up and away they go, the van being towed on it’s own wheels. Just like a trailer.

And preparing to go fishing in their inflatable dinghies, we found the owners (in the yellow life jackets) and their friends. We were a little worried about how much air was in the smaller dinghy especially when the husband climbed in and sat on the side. Luckily the lake was flat calm but I bet he had a wet bum before the outing was over. The dog appeared to be the most excited about going fishing leaning over the front and sides willing the others to hurry up and get a move on.

Just north of the lake entrance is the Mananui Bush Walk, a short 30 minute walk through bush to the beach and back. And what a beautiful day to visit the beach. It would seem that if visitors can’t build a stone cairn (or add a stone to somebody else’s cairn) they build a driftwood tepee! There were half a dozen or so tepees lined up near the exit from the track. At least it would be easy to find the track entrance again if you went for a walk down the beach; one sand dune looks like the next on a long beach like this.

How many places in New Zealand (and in the world for that matter) can you see snow capped mountains from a beach where it still feels like summer.

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