Oparara Basin (Free Caves in New Zealand) – Day 105

Oparara Basin in Kahurangi National Park

Today we are checking some free caves in New Zealand in the Oparara Basin!

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Oparara Basin in Kahurangi National Park - New Zealand's Biggest Gap Year – BackpackerGuide.NZ

Video Transcript:

Start the day at Rongo Backpackers… Rongomobile… Oparara [singing continues]… then we are going through the gravel road. We have lunch with a weka and we don’t eat really a weka. We walk to crazy paving caves [singing]. Alright, today we’re making our way to the largest limestone arches.

This morning we are getting well and truly off the beaten track as we head toward Kahurangi National Park. The guys at Rongo Backpackers in Karamea have have advised that we borrow their car to get there rather than taking our giant campervan and we’re about to see exactly why. It’s on board the Rongomobile that it’s cutely named that we are entering the Kahurangi National Park. The road is unsealed and very winding and it’s also a one way road so basically if we encounter any other vehicle we are kind of stuck if we had our big campervan but because we have the Rongomobile we can just park it in a ditch and it works.

We arrive in the parking and there is a couple of cars but there is also heaps of weka which are these very cheeky birds very well known for stealing the food from tourists so we are guarding fiercely our food while eating because feeding the wildlife is not advised.

And in no time we are on our way to the first sight that we want to check out. The Oparara Basin encompasses a lot of different geological features which are definitely worth seeing so we are heading toward the crazy pavings which are basically a clay mud dried flooring which is looking really awesome. It’s only a few steps inside the cave and it’s absolutely unusual. The reason why these caves are called the Crazy Paving Caves become apparent straight away when we see all this dried curled up clay-type mud on the floor looking like pavement. As we move further into the caves it gets darker and narrower. We have to crouch down to make our way through. And then we come out the other side and get ready to go into the next cave which is the Big Box Cave.

Box Cave has a massive entrance it’s a stairway that goes down about 2 to 3 stories and as soon as we’re inside the cave we can definitely feel the sheer size and the immense scale of the cave but we can’t really see all of it due to the fact that our torch light are quite dim. We get to explore a little bit the cave around and even get inside some nooks and cracks.

We are in the Box Cave in the Kahurangi National Park.

It’s a really eerie feel to the caves and there’s all these little side rooms with rock formations, stalactites and stalagmites and little pools of water. it sort of reminds us when we went to the Waitomo Caves but without anyone else being here.

But those caves are just a small side attraction to what is the main drawcard for the Oparara Basin Which is the Oparara Arch. So we are heading in a complete different track on the opposite side of the road that we used to come here and the track goes through huge thick dense bush and heaps of little waterfalls making it a dream for photographers like us we stopped every 10 minutes to take pictures it’s crazy how good-looking this area is. You will also notice that the water is a very different colour than what you’ve seen on our previous videos. It’s because there’s been a lot of rain lately creating landslips that just basically dirty a bit the water. It’s nothing about chemicals or stuff like that and usually the water is crystal clear here.

This walk is about 25 minutes to the main event but there’s lots of reasons to stop along the way like this beautiful beach along the river side and we also like walking really slowly through this beautiful rimu and kahikatea forest which is towering above us right now.

We’re on the lookout for these arches which should really be unmissable considering they are 200m long, 49m wide and 37m high. How can we miss this thing?

But eventually we do see the Oparara Arch and it absolutely takes our breath away. We can’t show you on film just how huge this place is. It just doesn’t do it justice but this arch is incredibly big.

The other striking fact of the arches is the fact that they are stunning limestone formations all around the arch and almost every single wall of the arch looks different some of them have stripes some of them have stalactites, it’s just crazy so we spend over 15 minutes down there taking pictures and filming it but then we are on our way because the drive to the arches is about an hour and half and we want to be back at the hostel on time because tonight it’s food night.

We can’t believe how many different features we’ve seen and not really had to walk too far to see them all. that’s like three different caves or arches beautiful forest. We feel so lucky that we’ve got to see this today.

On the way back the main topic of discussion between laura and I is the fact that almost nobody goes to the Oparara Basin and we do not understand how it’s not more popular.

But back at the hostel tonight is pot luck dinner and like we did in Golden Bay it’s about everybody making one different dish and just sharing it all together so we are eating all night long with our fellow backpackers sharing travel stories from all around the world.

The reason why I’m putting a tissue over my headlamp right here is because we forgot the diffuser and believe it or not a paper tissue is the perfect diffuser. So here you are. Backpacker trick number 20,203 that I’m giving you today.

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