A Journey of Waterfalls and Hot Springs in the West Coast

Day 99: The Journey to the West Coast. That is what this day will be known as for centuries to come. (Or not). We have lake hopped, hopped on jetties, and took a delightful trip to the medical centre in the Nelson Lakes. Now, it’s time to leave that all behind and head to the next region on the map, the West Coast. It’s simply named but with a rugged and wild reputation, it is anything but simple.

After a morning of work in St Arnaud’s Alpine Lodge, we are packing up our van when who should visit us other than Jeff, Sonia and the puppy?!! We met these guys yesterday in Lake Rotoroa, and they thought they’d stop by on their way to Nelson. How awesome!

Travelling through Lewis PAss

We have a quick natter to the Kiwi, Romanian and the canine, then hit the road once again. We take the very same route we took yesterday to Murchison, but after that, everything we see is new to us! We are making our way through a mountain pass on our way to Reefton called Lewis Pass. The road steadily climbs higher and higher but we’re surprised that it is all on long straight roads for once – not the winding ones we have become so used to.

A Spontaneous waterfall viewing

It’s a pretty lengthy drive today. After two hours on the road, we notice a sign for Maruia Falls. In New Zealand, you can always count on a roadside waterfall to break your trip up!

Robin has low expectations for the waterfall. Boo, shame on him. The French always complain before they give anything a chance! But once we see the wide and powerful falls whisking whole tree trunks in its plunge pool, we have to say we are pretty impressed!

It is a minute walk to “The Best Views” of the waterfall. (Well, 10 minutes to walk 200 metres according to the Department of Conservation‘s sign). Indeed, it is the best view from near the base of the waterfall!

This has given Robin the chance to stretch his legs before getting back into the driver’s seat. Next stop, Maruia Springs!

A pitstop at Maruia Falls A pitstop at Maruia Falls
Mmm, lunch at the Maruia Hot Springs Mmm, lunch at the Maruia Hot Springs
... And desert! ... And desert!
Steamy! Steamy!

A detour to Maruia Hot springs

We don’t know how we made it to day 99 on this gap year in New Zealand without bathing in some natural hot pools. The North Island is full of them! But here we are, anticipating our first natural hot pool dip in the Lewis Pass of the South Island.

The road to the springs is a bit of a detour from Springs Junction, travelling an extra 15km to get there. But, after a day sat mostly in the van, we’re sure it will be worth it.

Roads in the forest

To make a difference from the highland farm landscapes we’ve been travelling through, somehow, we are now surrounded by massively tall trees. It feels like this area has been left untouched all except for the road that leads through it.

Soon enough, the finale of this journey approaches at Maruia Hot Springs! When we see what landscape this thermal resort is set in, we are pretty excited to get soaking and relax!

Walking into the wild West Coast hot pools

Food for flashpackers!

Since it is 1pm, we can justify having a “lunch package” which is deal with lunch and access to the hot pools. When the receptionist asks what we prefer to do first, Laura practically jumps on her to have food first!

A selection of sandwiches, wraps, pies and rolls sit behind a cabinet ready to be eaten! Laura opts for a pastrami wrap, while Robin gets a salmon ciabatta. For desert, we share a strawberry cheesecake and an almond cake. Coffee and hot chocolate is an added extra.

We demolish our lunch with the sun and the views of snowy mountains beaming through the cafe’s large windows. We feel like right flashpackers here!

A tour of the Maruia Hot Springs

Now the receptionist asks if we are ready for the hot pools, which we so are! So she gets the robes and towels ready for us, then gives us a tour of the facilities.

Not only are there a selection of hot pools, three outside and one inside, but there is also accommodation and camping.

Natural mineral water

She explains how the hot water for the pools are pumped from a natural spring across the braided river, containing all sort of minerals and algae that is meant to be good for the skin.

We are then left to enjoy.

Relaxing among mountains Relaxing among mountains
Walking along the braided rivers of Lewis Pass Walking along the braided rivers of Lewis Pass
Not a bad roadside view! Not a bad roadside view!

Hot pools with a view

Togs on, we shower our dirty selves, dip our toes in the inside hot pool, then head outside where we really want to be! We want to be enjoying the outside: the mountains, the snowy peaks, the forest and the sound of the river just a few hundred metres away.

How’s your waterfall massage?

One of the hot springs features is a thin waterfall over a stone seat which is meant to be a good back and shoulder massage. There are pebbles to roll your feet on too. Robin is finding it pretty nice on his back, while Laura is screaming at the shock of being half cold in the mountain breeze while having contrasting hot water water plunge onto her back!

Now, let’s get in the hot pools! It’s warm, it’s relaxing. Perfect! Do you feel relaxed?! We feel relaxed!

Sandflies: our worst enemy

The water stays around a temperature of about 40 degrees Celcius, which is nice to dip in for a while, then sit outside of to feel the chill, then put your body back in again. However, we are really tasty to sandflies as we have discovered in the Abel Tasman National Park, plus, Robin found out recently that he is allergic to them. So once we have our full bodies out of the water for a while, the sandflies start attacking! By that point, we are ready to get our clothes back on then check out a walkway to the river.

walking along the braided river

Clothes on, insect repellent sprayed, we follow a subtle path to a Japanese-style bridge leading over to the braided river. We can walk along the stony river bed avoiding the two routes the river is taking. A suspension bridge holds a pipe where the hot spring water is being pumped.

When we walk back to the hot pools, we notice two more groups of people have arrived, all sat outside of the pools with not a single sandfly on them! Is it something about us?!

Arriving in Reefton: The Town of Light

Nevertheless, the Maruia Hot Springs was a great way to break up this journey and an introduction to the West Coast! We are now on the last leg of our drive to Reefton, a town we don’t know too much about but has a lot of stories to be told!

A sign into Reefton says: “The Town of Light”. We realise that this has quite a few meanings. First, the streets are still lined with the old street lamps of the past. Obviously they are not on, but it gives the town a cool and quirky charm. When we meet our hostel host at The Old Breadshop Backpackers, Trevor, he tells us how Reefton was the first town in the Southern Hemisphere and the fifth settlement in the world to supply electricity to the public!

Tomorrow, we plan to explore more about the fascinating town of Reefton, so join us then!

Laura and Robin

The beautifully braided Maruia River
The beautifully braided Maruia River Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

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