Walking through the West Coast rainforest on my way to the spectacular Hokitika Gorge, I was joined by Sydney-dwelling Australians, Ron and Susie, who were heading in the same direction.
They had swapped a motorhome with a New Zealand couple and were halfway through their month’s holiday.
The two couples from either side of the Tasman have been swapping motorhomes every year for the last five. We tackled the swing bridge across that gorgeous gorge together.
“Sways a bit,” Don said. “Bit like that tower in treetops walk we did yesterday.” They had the jump on me. I’d not heard of the treetops walk.
“Well it’s beaut,” he said. “Just chuck a left on the way back to Hoki and you’ll find it.”
Once I knew about it, the West Coast Treetops Walk was hard to miss. On the Woodstock-Rimu Road, about 15 minutes drive out of Hokitika, this impressive steel skywalk rises 20 metres above the forest floor. For nearly half a kilometre, it pushes through a dense canopy of rimu forest.
We paid through our nostrils ($38pp) to rise to such heights but I regret not
Not only are the views of Lake Mahinapua and the Southern Alps remarkable, but the construction itself is an amazing feat of engineering.
It’s well known that the weather on the coast can be unfriendly, but that day, although icy cold, the sky was as clear as polished glass. A fresh fall of snow glazed the summits of the Southern Alps.
At one point, a steel springboard unfolded like a long tongue across the forest tops affording us closer views of the lake.
It bounced under my footfall, and although it’s undoubtedly safe, my acrophobia kicked in. I admired the view but didn’t linger.
Feeling the fear, I also climbed the 115 steps that spiral up the tower to a platform 40 metres above ground. Even though there was no breeze, it swayed enough to give full meaning to the term ‘giddy heights’, but the view reached to the mountains, over the dark waters of the lake and beyond to the Tasman Sea.
Back on the walkway, I gazed down with a hawk’s perspective through the layers of forest to the tree limbs decorated with ferns and lichens, berries, flowers, saprophytes, and vines, and the tree-fern branches that spread like whirling skirts.
The Australians were right. It was ‘beaut’.