FEB 7 // DAY 9

Being such a unique sleeping option at the Trip Inn, the caravan had a limited number of keys. Guess who locked our only set inside sometime durning breakfast? Yes, unfortunately, that was me. We had to wait a half hour or so until the other set arrived, so bummed around the main areas and decided that the Oparara Arches just north of Karamea were on the menu for the day. Boy, am I glad that happened.

The Oparara Arch and its neighbor Moira Arch were breathtaking and each uniquely beautiful in its own way. We drove on a windy gravel road for a half hour to reach the parking lot and hiked around for the remainder of the rainy afternoon. Oparara Arch is gigantic and intimidating. We got throughly covered in a viscous clay material as we tromped around the interior. Moira Gate Arch was entirely different. We entered it through a hole in the ground that looks like a descent into the Waitomo caves. The ceiling is low and the space echoes from the river that flows through it.

After a lunch of shooing away sandflies and chasing wood hens, we headed southward toward Punakaiki. The clouds parted somewhere after Westport and we enjoyed a breathtaking, neon orange sunset on the beach surrounded by soaring limestone cliffs. The Punakaiki Beach Camp has a kitchen, laundry and fresh eggs. Highly recommend, even though the showers were subpar.