116 Days on the Road
Have you ever walked on a raised metal platform in a thunderstorm? Probably not, because you’re not that stupid. We threatened to be that stupid when we started the Westcoast Treetop Walkway yesterday in the midst of a storm, but then our wits came about us and we decided to come back today instead.
We’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy some awesome forest hikes around New Zealand so far, from the dense forests of Taranaki to the regenerating forests of the Abel Tasman National Park. Although the forests all look pretty different in their own way, we have always seen more of what’s happening on the forest floor. We’re pretty excited to see a New Zealand forest from a whole new perspective atop a 20m high walkway.
Bizarre West Coast Weather
So here on a bright and sunny day in Hokitika making our way to the Treetop Walkway. Today’s weather couldn’t be more contrasting than yesterday’s heavy showers, which actually creates a weird weather in itself…
As we’re driving back out of Hokitika to the walkway, we all of a sudden hit a thick and isolated fog. A section of the road goes past farmland which is releasing moisture at a crazily rapid rate creating all this mist. Laura pokes her camera out of the van to get a photo of the natural wonder and brings her camera back into the van to find it covered in moisture. However, just over the treetops in the distance, we can see blue skies. Bizarre!
We make it out of the fog, not being abducted by aliens like we started to wonder, and arrive at the Treetop Walkway & Cafe. We walk past the umbrellas and shivers run down our spine as the memories of yesterday’s thunderstorm come flooding back.
Treetop walkway: sun Vs. Rain
Don’t get us wrong, this activity is meant to be “great under the rain” and it was great! The forest colours were so vivid and we were seeing the elements that make the rainforest as luxuriant as it is. But, it wasn’t great for our cameras. Take a look at yesterday’s post to see how it compares to today!
The Forest floor
Now, we are seeing the forest in a whole new light – that light being that we can see as far as our eyes will let us! The gravel road to the Treetop Walkway takes us past heaps of information signs about the vegetation and the birds we’re likely to see on the walk.
Also at this point in the walk, we are seeing the smaller plants occupying the forest floor, such as an array of ferns. Plus, a lot of the smaller birds like to hang out down here, like the tomtits and the fantails.
Let the treetop walkway begin!
After a short and steady ascent up the gravel road, we arrive at the beginning of the metal platforms. Instead of the walkway rising up really high, like you might expect, the ground actually drops below leaving a level walkway among the forest canopy.
We now have a bird’s-eye view of the ferns and their symmetrical patterns only seen from above. We can really establish the layers of the forest: the low ferns, the medium trees, and the scarcely scattered giant rimu trees. These huge rimu trees even tower above us, but the walkway is placed so close to them that we can even touch them. All sorts of other vegetation grow on these high trees, from mosses to little baby ferns.
Heading toward the tower!
The treetop tower
Halfway through the 1.2km walk, there is a spiral staircase leading up a 40m-high tower. We work the thighs powering up to the top to reveal sensational vistas of the surrounding landscapes, such as the nearby Lake Mahinapua reflecting the blue skies and even as far as the Tasman Sea. Usually on a super clear day, we would be able to see the Southern Alps from here too.
Because Robin is sh*t-scared of heights, Laura notices that he has left the tower as soon as he has got up here.
A gnarly platform
Back down on the more reasonable height (for Robin) of 20m, we move onto the next section. Little does Robin know that this part is way worse for his phobia.
Where each section of the walkway has large metal poles keeping the walkway in contact with the forest floor, one platform just hangs into the nothingness. With each step we take to the end of the protruding platform, the whole structure slowly bobs up and down. Robin is not happy.
Laura takes great pleasure in making him pose for photos at the end. Tell him that it is for “work” reasons and he’ll do anything.
Embarrassed wood PIGEONS
Back on the more stable sections, Laura finds Robin watching some wood pigeons (kereru) flying clumsily between trees in the medium section of the forest. Every branch seems to want to buckle under their weight, as these pigeons are a lot heavier than your grey street pigeon that steals all your fries.
One pigeon is sat minding its own business on a thin and dying branch, when another one joins him. Snap! The branch disappears from under them and they fly off in a flurry beating their wings against their huge round bellies.
This wood pigeon incident made us realise how flimsy some of the trees look. These tall rimu have grown so high that some of them seem to be on a bit of a lean, while we can also see where trees have snapped in half leaving just a tall jagged tree stump. Even yesterday, we saw them swaying in the wind.
Back in Hokitika
The walkway ends back on a gravel road which loops back to cafe and car park. It’s back into the van we go and back to the Mountain Jade Backpackers that have just had a new kitchen installed!
Tomorrow, the time has finally arrived to carve each other some jade necklaces! Our designs from our first day in Hokitika will be revealed. Don’t miss it!
Hells yeah! Check out this articles:
- 6 Reasons Why Hokitika is Such a “Cool Little Town”
- 11 Animals and Birds Unique to New Zealand
- 23 Unforgettable Walks in Hokitika
See you tomorrow!