Just north of Karamea lies the protected Oparara in the Kahurangi National Park. In Oparara, "today's biodiversity reflects the patterning of the last ice age 20,000 to 14,000 years ago, when much of Kahurangi was spared the destructive force of scouring glaciers. An array of plants and wildlife survived the alpine conditions in pockets of refuge. As temperatures rose, forests flourished once again."
Like many remarkable journeys, this one began on a 16K one-way gravel road, heading for the Oparara Basin.
If you meet a car head-on, I suppose you just...fake it?
The quiet outpost has an exceptional visitor center with lots of deep background, much of which I'm quoting in this post.
Once parked, we headed down the Oparara Arch Track, and it feels a little like we might encounter a dinosaur at any moment. In truth, there are worm-eating snails here with shells 3.5 inches long, along with tree-dwelling bats.
Historically, the dino sensation isn't far from actual.
Birds of NZ: Moa
Look at that giant moa!
Little bush moa
Not difficult to see the dino-bird connection
The Oparara River inserts itself into our walk at every turn.
It's in the 60s, but feels warmer in the sun, with brief showers. Each year, nearly six meters (18 feet) of rain pour into the Oparara River Basin. Percolating through dense forest, the water forms a mild acid that dissolves the basin's limestone into monolithic patterns.
For the last 1 million years, the tannin-filled, acidic water has been rushing, dripping, and seeping through Oparara Valley limestone, formed deep beneath the sea 30 million years ago atop 350 milion year old granite. Mind boggling.
It's simply not possible to photograph the terrific arch while standing under it.
Do not go beyond this point (the Eagle Scout is breaking a rule).
To get this picture under the arch
We head back down, though nowhere's actually down here.
As astonishingly beautiful walk,
Birds of NZ: Roroa
Next time: Oparara caves.