Underground, Overground

Our well used map of South Island

Having admired the dahlias in the garden of our Mapua Homestay we set off up the coast on Highway 60 through Motoeka from Ruby Bay towards Golden Bay. We climbed over the range, stopping to admire the view at Hawkes Lookout and learn about the taniwha (giant lizard) who captured and enslaved a beautiful Māori girl called Ruru. She made a clever plan to free herself and trapped and set fire to the taniwha. He was burnt up and his charred scales are scattered all over the hillside.

Taniwha “scales” at Hawkes Lookout

Then driving over the Takaka Hill Saddle (790m above sea level) and round the scary Eureka Bend we descended to the trendy town of Takaka, well known for its alternative lifestylers and art galleries. It was heaving with cars and camper vans – so we drove on to Collingwood. This isolated little township provided a lovely lunch in the garden of The Old Courthouse, and views over the coast.

The Old Courthouse cafe at Collingwood

On the way back to Marahau are the rare and beautiful Ngarua Caves. Not much from the outside: a roadside sign saying “Caves”, a rough car park and a shop cabin, but a real treat. We arrived just in time to don hard hats and join a tour. Our lovely guide explained the rare dry marble cave formation and answered every question.

Limestone stalagtites Ngarua Caves

Hubby was quite animated and enjoyed this experience, although I had to concentrate on keeping on my feet through the twists and turns of the dimly lit passages. We admired the bones of moa and kiwi birds that tripped and fell in the cave hundreds of years ago. We experienced true darkness and hallucinations when our guide put the lights out (spoilt only by my phone which emitted a chink of light through its case. Ooops!). We looked at graffiti left by early explorers and had photos taken. Then we were invited to shout or sing to hear the acoustics. As all four of us on the tour were a bit shy, our guide treated us to a beautiful solo rendition of the chorus of Hallelujah. We applauded as enthusiastically as four people can, and then climbed up the ladder and out into the sunlight. On the way to the car park we stopped to admire a rocky field used in the LOTR films, stage directions: “Frodo and Sam crossing a rocky field”.

Rocky field with a view

We left the cave feeling that we had had a unique and special experience, waved goodbye to the life-size Moa statue and headed for Marahau, gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park.

It took about an hour to reach our next “short-notice” accommodation choice at Kanuka Ridge Lodge, a pleasant back packers accommodation in a bush setting.

Bush varandah

No sooner had we checked in than our new host was booking us on an Aquataxi to see the National Park the next day. He then packed us off to Marahau to find our supper at “The Fat Tui” van where we joined a variety of travellers and several (live) Weka birds, and ate huge portions of fish and chips on picnic tables overlooking the shore.

Dead Moa!
Scarily cheerful Replica Moa!




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