Showing posts with label Hokitika River. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hokitika River. Show all posts

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Hokitika Weekend: Hokitika Gorge Walk (post III of IV)

A visit to the Hokitika Gorge Walk

On day two of our trip to Hokitika my partner Karen and I went to the beautiful Hokitika Gorge Walkway. I wasn't expecting much as it looked dark and rainy in the mountains around the gorge but when we got there we had a period of fine clear weather. 


Looking down on the Hokitika Gorge Swing-bridge, Hokitika

Hokitika Gorge is famous as a featured scene in post cards from New Zealand....the water running through the gorge has a brilliant aquamarine color to it which makes for spectacular photos. The walkway is short...about 45 minutes return and leads you down to a swing-bridge over the gorge and to a good vantage point at the end of the track. 


The car park at the Hokitika Gorge Walkway


After visiting the gorge we went to Lake Kaniere via the gravel road around the head of the lake but I will be talking about that interesting trip in the last installment of our Hokitika trip. 


Walking down to the Hokitika Gorge swing-bridge

For the extensive car park at the start of the track it is about 20 minutes walk to the swing-bridge and from there to the end of the track near some lookout rocks. The track quality is very good as this is a well worn and well used tourist track visited by A LOT of people......



Toilet block at start of the Hokitika Gorge Walkway
There are a couple of information panels at the start of the track which explain a bit of the history and geological features of the area. Stop and have a look as they will add to your enjoyment of the rest of the walk. 



Hokitika Gorge Walkway: information panel 1 at the car-park


Hokitika Gorge Walkway: information panel 2 at the carpark

The start of the track is located right next to the information panels...from here it is about 20 minutes walk to the end of the track next to the lookout on a rocky promontory located there. The track is fringed with typical dense West Coast bush and there are some magnificent examples of podocarp trees as well. 

Start of the Hokitika Gorge Walkway


Karen at the start of the Hokitika Gorge Walkway

A wide accommodating track...Hokitika Gorge Walkway

Most of the trees are Kaihikatea but I also saw some Totora, Rimu, Miro and Matai trees mixed into the forest. Some of them are 30+ meters tall and totally covered in a whole mini eco-system of flowers, epiphytes and vines. 


Old growth podocarp trees next to Hokitika Gorge Walkway

There are extensive areas of boardwalk along the Walkway...some of it is required to by pass bluffs and side streams but most of it is to protect the delicate eco-system which exists in the under story. The ground is swampy off the track and supports a whole range of plants which enjoy those type of conditions. 

There is a lot of boardwalk on the Hokitika Gorge Walkway

You get your first view of the Hokitika Gorge about 300 meters along the track...a view down onto the area around the swing bridge over the river. It was a bit dim and rainy on the day we visited but still spectacular...the river running through the gorge is a otherworldly blue color...it is quite beautiful really.


First view of Hokitika Gorge Walkway swing-bridge from the track

Main course of the Hokitika River.....from the Hokitika Gorge Walkway

Hokitika Gorge from the Hokitika Gorge Walkway

There are information panels spread along the track which talk to different aspects of the local flora and ecology. They also explain the history of the walkway which started out as a little known local curiosity but quickly became a modern tourism mecca visited by literally hundreds of thousands of people a year. That is why the tracks are built to such a high standard....


Information panel along the Hokitika Gorge Walkway

No drones are allowed along DOC tracks......

Generally this is a very safe destination BUT I would keep a close rein on any children you bring here as there are a couple of places where a fall from the track could cause significant injury or death. I'm assuming that the adults among you would have the good sense to stay on the track and away from the edges but then I have seen some true idiocy from supposed grown ups before...



Heading down to the Hokitika Gorge Walkway swing-bridge

Closer view of the Hokitika Gorge Walkway swing-bridge

There are a profusion of ferns along the track ranging from small ground dwellers 5 cm tall to massive Tree Ferns 6-7 meters tall. They are especially beautiful when they grow over the sides of the track and cascade down the face...


Fernery along the Hokitika Gorge Walkway

Epiphytes growing in trees along the Hokitika Gorge Walkway


More epiphyte covered trees on the Hokitika Gorge Walkway

Typical thick bush along the Hokitika Gorge Walkway

Eventually you arrive at the swing bridge it is one of the larger versions I have seen with a wooden walkway and strong and sturdy looking support infrastructure. You get magnificent views both up and downstream so make sure you stop and take a couple of pictures while you are on the bridge. 


Anchor point for the Hokitika Gorge Walkway swing-bridge

The impressive swing-bridge over the Hokitika Gorge


Hokitika Gorge Walkway: Jon on the Hokitika Gorge swing-bridge

...more Jon on the Hokitika Gorge swing-bridge...

Karen taking photos of the Hokitika Gorge

Hokitika Gorge Walkway: Hokitika Gorge looking east....

Hokitika Gorge Walkway: Hokitika Gorge looking west
You can just stop here and admire the view but for a different perspective keep walking down the track for another five minutes and visit the rocky promontory at the end of the track. 

Heading to the Hokitika Gorge lookout

The track continues down towards the rivers edge...it is of the same type and condition as the rest of the walkway but this is another section where caution is required. Keep your kids close as there are spots along here where they could fall into the river if they stray off the track. 




Hokitika Gorge Walkway: on the track to the rock promontory...

Track to the rock promontory...Hokitika Gorge Walkway

More beautiful track heading down to the Hokitika River

At the current end of the track there is a very nice lookout platform with a short track right down to the waters edge. There is an awesome view of the gorge in both directions as well as the swing bridge just up stream. 

Safety messages at the lookout on the  Hokitika Gorge Walkway 


Jon at the river lookoutHokitika Gorge Walkway 

As you can see it is worth coming down to the end of the track up close you can see just how deep the gorge is...The bush comes right down to the high water mark along both sides of the river and is a mixture of moss, dense bush and large podocarp trees. 


Great view of the Hokitika Gorge from the lookout


 Hokitika Gorge Walkway : that is some seriously deep water.....

If you decide to climb down to the river take extreme care on the rocky path...it was very slippery and I saw several people fall over as they tried to climb down the track. Karen was not keen on the idea at all and stayed up near the platform...I very gingerly climbed down to have a look at the river up close. 


Jon carefully descends to the Hokitika River,  Hokitika Gorge Walkway 


 Hokitika Gorge Walkway lookout: view down stream to swing bridge

Take especial care walking along the edge of the rock promontory..the rock is so slippery it would be very easy to fall into the water. It would be icy cold and it would be a crap shoot if you survived for long enough to get rescued. There is a life buoy near the platform but no-one is around to fish you out if you take a swim. 

I saw one totally crazy European couple sitting right on the edge of a rock suspended 30 odd feet above the river taking selfies...nut-bars! It made both myself and Karen cringe waiting for them to fall into the water...yikes!!!


Jon looking at the super deep water in front of the  Hokitika Gorge Walkway  lookout

...care is needed at the end of the Hokitika Gorge Walkway .....

The Hokitika river has deeply incised the rock in the Hokitika Gorge

Super slippery rocks at the end of the Hokitika Gorge Walkway 


Safety buoy at end of Hokitika Gorge Walkway 

There is a new and exciting development to the Hokitika Gorge Walkway...DOC and the local Regional Council are extending the walkway further along the gorge. Eventually the track will go another kilometer along the true left of the river before crossing a new swing-bridge to the right hand bank. The track will then follow an old but upgraded track back to the car park. This will nearly double the length of the track and make this a 1.5 hour circuit track. 

Work has already commenced as some of the track is due to open in December 2019...I will come back to visit when it is finished as it will be a great we circuit track. 


The fenced off new section of the Hokitika Gorge Walkway 


New section of the Hokitika Gorge Walkway as seen from the river


More of the new section of the Hokitika Gorge Walkway 


 Hokitika Gorge Walkway: new section of walkway due to open in December 2019...


 Hokitika Gorge Walkway: heading back to the swing bridge 

After 20 minutes at the track end we started the climb back up to the car park...the track gradient is mild so the climb back is not all that taxing...the return route for now is back along the way you came. 

Back to the Hokitika Gorge car-park


I visited the Hokitika Gorge back in the late 1990's at that time it was a little visited local point of interest with a basic and very muddy track. You can get an idea of what it was once like down near the end of the track where an area of muddy swamp surround the walkway...this is what the track used to look like...


Natural state of the forest floor along the Hokitika Gorge Walkway 

Walking through Tree Ferns on the Hokitika Gorge Walkway 

On of the side bridges on the Hokitika Gorge Walkway 

There is a track next to the swing bridge which leads further up river through the forest...if you were heading up the Whitcombe River Valley which feeds the Hokitika River this is one of the ways you get there. 

The Whitcombe is real tiger country..in its lower reaches over grown track, very basic huts and some bush bashing but further upstream it is a whole world of hurt. Dense impenetrable bush, bluffs, dangerous stream crossings and an alpine pass which dumps you into the equally tough and remote Upper Rakaia River...lovely tramping country...but only for the knowledgeable, well equipped and plainly insane...yeah its on my to do list!!!


 Hokitika Gorge Walkway: the track heading up the wild Whitcombe Valley...

We spent some time taking photographs of the bridge and its surrounds before starting the climb back to the car...It is a very nice place for photography.


Detail of the Hokitika Gorge Walkway swing-bridge...

Support post, Hokitika Gorge Walkway swingbridge

Detail of Hokitika Gorge Walkway swing-bridge


Karen crosses the Hokitika Gorge Walkway swing-bridge

Look closely....you can just see people standing on the rocky promontory at the end of the Hokitika Gorge Walkway...it gives you an idea of the scale of the gorge as they look like ants from only 300 meters up river....



Looking up stream to the end of the Hokitika Gorge Walkway


Karen at the Hokitika Gorge Walkway swing-bridge....

...Jon on the Hokitika Gorge Walkway swing-bridge...

There are some very nice retaining walls on the true right of the river...It looks like a lot of time and effort has gone into trying to blend these vital supports into the natural fabric of the bush. Even the support cables and bridge stays are carefully blended into the back ground..nice work DOC!!!



Anchor point for the Hokitika Gorge Walkway swing-bridge

Stone retaining wall next to the Hokitika Gorge Walkway

Hokitika Gorge Walkway: detail of a stone retaining wall

We saw a few Weka along the track...mostly on the true right of the river...Karen is looking at one just out of frame in the photo below. The West Coast of the South Island is really ground zero for Weka..most of the population live here. There were a lot of birds in the local forest we saw some Fantails, Bellbirds, Keruru, Tui and the Weka. 


Karen watching a Weka just out of photo, Hokitika Gorge Walkway

From the walkway you can see just how deep and dense the bush is over here on the West Coast...lots of rain and relatively mild conditions for most of the year mean massive growth rates. 



Typical dense West Coast bush, Hokitika Gorge Walkway



Hokitika Gorge Walkway: lots of boardwalk....

A variety of under-story plants growing along the Hokitika Gorge Walkway

Last view of Hokitika Gorge from the Hokitika Gorge Walkway


Large Rimu tree next to the Hokitika Gorge Walkway

We finally made it back to the car after about an hour....you can visit the end of the track far more quickly but we were just taking our time. If time is short I would suggest at least walking down to the swing bridge for a clear view of the river. 


Rounding the last corner on the Hokitika Gorge Walkway

Hokitika Gorge Walkway: finish of the walkway at the toilets next to the car-park

Both Karen and I thought this was a great wee walk...the forest is beautiful, the gorge looks lovely and it would be a nice short trip for a family. If you find yourself in the area I would encourage you to give it a go. 


Visiting the Kawatiri Incident site, Kawatiri, West Coast....


You pass through Kawatiri on the way to Hokitika Gorge...some New Zealanders will recognize the name but not know why. This was the location of the first multiple shooting incident in New Zealand and the focus one of the largest man hunts in our history.

It became know as the "Kawatiri Incident"....

Karen read the inscription on the Kawatiri Incident memorial

Back in October of 1941 one of the locals Arthur Stanley Graham started to act in a peculiar way. He became highly irrational, including threatening some of his neighbors with guns and because he had multiple firearms the local Police visited his farm to question him...

Stanley reacted very badly to this and shot dead five people...four Policemen and the local school teacher who attempted to come to their aid. He then escaped into the local bush which he knew intimately as he was a skilled bushman with much knowledge of the local area. 


Stanley Graham a couple of months before the Kawatiri Incident

In response several hundred men of the Army, Airforce, Home Guard and Police were dispatched to try to bring him into custody. The local populace were removed and armed men occupied the local farms and settlements. Stanley got into a second shoot out with the authorities several days later and killed another two men but was subsequently fatally injured.

Stanley Graham died in hospital on the 20th October 1941.


Armed Home Guard members during the Kawatiri Incident...

There had always been murders here in New Zealand but for a more simple, naive New Zealand the scale of loss was both shocking and disturbing. In 1941 New Zealand was fully involved in the Second World War and things were not going well for the Allies so the Incident added to a general sense of confusion & fear.

At heart Stanley Graham was a good family man but he was suffering a severe mental health crisis..possibly schizophrenia by the sounds of the symptoms. Of course that does not take away from the heinous crime he committed...a lot of individuals have mental health crisis and do not murder seven people.  


Plaques with the victims names and coat of arms or Police, Army, Education Board etc. 

There is a memorial to the people killed in the incident...it is located right outside the old entrance to Stanley Graham's farm and is well worth a visit. If you are interested in the Incident try to find a copy of Manhunt: The story of Stanley Graham by H.A. Willis...it is the definitive book about the case.






If you ever happen to be in Hokitika make sure you go and take a look at the Hokitika Gorge..it is always interesting but it is most spectacular on a clear sunny day when the water most attractive.

Cheers!!!


Access:The route to Hokitika Gorge is extremely convoluted so it is worth mapping it out before you start. From Hokitika head east out of town towards Kaniere, take the road to Kokatahi and hence to Kowhitirangi. From here follow Johnston Road to Neilson Road then Whitcombe Valley Road to the car-park at the start of the track. As I said...convoluted!!!!
Track Times: It is 20-25 minutes walk from the car park to the lookout point above the rocky promontory over the Hokitika Gorge. Total return walking time is around 45-50 minutes.
Miscellaneous: The track is built to a superior standard as this is a very popular track. The track is suitable for just about everyone. There are a set of toilets at the start of the track but none down nearer the Gorge. Work is underway to extend this track into a 1-1.5 hour loop track over two swing-bridges with work expected to be finished by mid 2020.