Sandwiched between the wild Tasman Sea and the high Alps, the West Coast region is isolated, and even more so the small strip of coast at Karamea, at the northern end of the road.
At Karamea we enjoyed grandparently hospitality from Pip and Joe, the caretakers at the town domain (which is really just the amenities building next to the sports field which doubles as basic accommodation for travelers).
Peter, a local volunteer, took us on a tour of the Honeycomb Caves in the lush Oparara Basin. The basin is a fascinating limestone area full of sinkholes, natural arches, cave formation, and on top of it all, native forest dripping with ferns and vines.
The Honeycomb Caves are unique because they contain bones of hundreds of animals that have fallen into or otherwise died in the caves. Or shall we say, there were many bones – at some point the University of Canterbury removed two tons of them for research. Bones of the moa, a long-extinct flightless bird much larger than the ostrich, were among the most common preserved in the cave due to the cool carbon dioxide rich environment.
And not far away: the surf beating on golden sand beaches, and the magnificent Heaphy Track.