Not intending to wake up early for 2 days in a row, the plan was to skip sunrise this morning. Body clock had other ideas and I was awake at 6 am on the dot. Yes, too late for sunrise, but too early for a good sleep in.
Being awake anyway, we got up early and went to explore. Sunset Accommodation had kindly supplied complimentary breakfast (another reason it was a great spot to stay at): some Just Right, yoghurt and muesli bars. I had been gifted a handy thermos to be able to make coffee on the road and this proved helpful, especially for these early starts where not much is open.
We went north, thinking we may as well tick Karamea off the list. Our weka count quickly climbed and when we arrived at the Oparara Basin Arches (btw not "just down the road" from Karamea...) we were greeted by cheeky weka #13. He was checking out our car and following around a bloke that was having some brekkie before hitting the trail too.
I was very surprised to find plumbed toilets at this location, or at many of the West Coast locations we visited for that matter. So far, West Coast certainly beats the East Cape in that department.
We started off easy, taking a short walk to a spot called Mirror Tarn. This place had Lake Matheson beat for reflections - Just a small lake but stunning!
I was fascinated with this one tree that stood out from the crowd, tried to make something of it...
Next, we took off to the main event, the Oparara Arches. The walk was nice n easy and the destination was amazing. A beautiful little spot of nature. Of course, seeking the best shot possible, I took to the water and traversed carefully towards the end of the arch.
On our way back, we were greeted by a friendly robin and spotted a few other birds along the way.
Having spent much longer than intended (both in the getting there and in photographing the area), we returned back the way we came. We were hoping to make it back without running out of fuel and without losing a bumper on the treacherous dirt track we came in on. We were travelling in my somewhat lowered hatchback as it came with the much-needed aircon but the downside to this was off-roading was a bit riskier!
Back in Westport, some Subway for lunch, then back on the road to head south towards our next destination. Punakaiki was our next stop. We expected to see more wekas here, hanging out with the tourists as they usually do, but we were disappointed there. Our weka count was now at 18 and that is where it stayed. What we should have been counting from this point on were squashed possums - They were everywhere!
The pancake rocks hadn't changed from what I remembered the last time I was here, back when I lived on the mainland. This spot was just as busy as ever, the ice cream line being far too long, to my dismay.
We could have easily spent another 2 extra days on the West Coast, there were so many spots we just drove past as we ran out of time to check them out. Hopefully, we remember that for next time and schedule in a bit more time!
Dinner was a toss-up between Cook Saddle Cafe & Saloon or Cafe Neve. I should have gone to the Cook Saddle because the chicken wrap I ordered from Neve was half cold, soggy and stale. The chicken was simply a processed fillet similar to Tegal Takeouts. I ate mine sans wrap as but then discovered it was hiding how old the lettuce was! I shan't be sampling their menu again if we're eating in Fox Glacier in the future...
Funnily enough, we were staying at the similarly named Sunset Motel in Fox Glacier. No link to the previous night's stay. Very conveniently located for Lake Matheson, which (after dinner) we headed off to for sunset and a tiresome walk in the dark back to the car.
This motel was modern and tidy, a nice little spot with birdlife flitting around for us to watch. There was just one little niggle that I should have fixed - the blimmin electric blanket was so hard and I could feel every wire through the sheet. If I weren't so exhausted, I would have taken it off the bed. At least the curtains were nice and thick and sleep came quickly.