This morning we headed north from Westport toward Karamea. It was cloudy but comfortable. At Ngakawau (you try remembering the names you can’t begin to pronounce!), we turned off to take the Charming Creek trail. This trail follows a rail bed used in the past for timber and coal transport. This is still a coal mining area. The RR stopped operating in about 1958. In many places the rails still form the sides of the trail. It also follows the Ngakawau River for the portion we hiked. (Charming Creek is at the far end of the trail.) Railroad tracks make nice trails – just dump gravel between the rails and, presto, an instant trail. (Except where rock slides have dumped the rails into the river.)
This river is not so charming. Keep in mind that it rained, probably quite a bit, last night, which might make the river muddy (although the side creeks were clear). But what explains the white foam/scum on the river? Mining may not be the cause, but one can’t help but wonder.
Nevertheless, it was a nice hike. We followed the trail for about 1 ½ hours to a big waterfall—lots of spray; lots of water coming over; the water was a bit brown—mud? tannin?? ??? Along the way there were some remnants of the railroad—a switching area, a locomotive cab, a boiler, etc. And, as I mentioned, rails lining the trail. Some ties. In some areas, rockfalls had covered the rails, and the trail was routed around or over those areas. There were a couple of short tunnels.
So it took us 1½ hours in, and about 45 minutes out (fewer stops, and it was downhill), and we decided we had had our hike for today. We decided not to drive on up (another 65 km or so) to Karamea, where there is another hike to “the longest limestone arch in the Southern Hemisphere.” Instead we headed back down to Westport, where we checked with the local i-Site about whale watching in Kaikoura which we had been thinking about for quite awhile. We decided Thursday might be the best day for that, based on weather reports.
So we headed inland from Westport, through the Buller Gorge, then north to Motueka, on the north coast. Tomorrow we explore Abel Tasman National Park.