The cross country road took us through some wonderful, mountain shadowed landscapes, where with the low cloud, looked as though the forests were smoking. The road at times had a river running alongside as we wound our way through the valley floors. On arriving in Greymouth, we opted for the Sundowner Motel which offered spacious units with kitchenettes meaning we could cook for ourselves.
Greymouth has a scenic train service running daily, the Trans Alpine train, which travels through the mountains of Arthurs Pass down to the east coast town of Christchurch. Greymouth itself offers numerous shops and cafes.
Today, after having read about Paparoa National Park in one of our guide books we headed up the coastal road north of the town. This coastal road has been described by the Lonely Planet guide as one of the best coastal drives in the world. And it is extremely pretty, gradually winding its way along the Tasman Sea coastline.
After stopping at the National Parks visitors centre, we decided to complete the Fox River Tourist Cave hike. It starts at the carpark of the Fox River and takes you uphill through native bush and forest on a track running alongside the river (although for the first part of the walk you can´t actually see the river, just hear it). It is cool and damp in the forest with slippery covered stones under your feet covered in wet moss and rotting leaves. We walked along a narrow track with soft, wet mud oozing around our boots. We reached the banks of the river where the guide book had said that you might need to get your feet wet. The water, as always was crystal clear with the surrounding banks and river bed made up of small, rounded stones. Dani made it across using large strides and more balance than I have over some widely spaced stepping stones. I however, took the advice of our book and stripped off my hiking boots and socks and waded across the calf deep water, and my goodness it was cold!!! The hike becomes slightly steeper as you re-enter the forest and follow the muddy track upwards towards the Fox Cave. Towards the summit of the trail, you are walking on very slippery stones covered in damp vegetation so you do have to watch your step.
Dani did go in and explore the cave, which is open to self exploration, but although we had read that this would take about 30 minutes, he was in and out in about ten minutes. About fifty metres long featuring both stalagmites and stalactites it was nice, but not overly impressive. We made our way back down the slippery track to come across another native Weka pecking around on the side of the track hunting for insects.
Once back at the car, we made our way towards the parks Pancake Rocks and Blowholes located opposite the visitors centre.
The walk here takes you along a asphalt path surrounded on both sides by local plants towards the impressive sight of the Pancake Rocks formed 35 million years ago below the surface of the ocean. Intriguing limestone outcrops and columns which have developed a layered appearance from the constant erosions of both rain and the sea. The sea surges into eroded tunnels and, at high tide, the oceans force pushes the spray upwards through naturally formed blowholes. You also get to look down on large surge pools as the ocean roars in. The whole area is a one of natures spectacles and goes to show visitors the extend of erosional effects from wind, rain and seawater, a must see if you are traveling down the beautiful coastal road of this part of the west coast.