NZ Journal Day 13 (11/21/16): Today we traveled northeast from Westport to Pohara located on the western, and more remote, side of Abel Tasman National Park on the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island. Plenty of green, blue, and a cave!

Stanley Brook sheep Takaka

The Stanley Brook region of South Island is the definition of fairy tale bucolic. This certainly must be where the Windows XP desktop was imagined!

Lower Takaka Hill Valley

The serpentine climb over Takaka Hill is the only way in or out of the western portion of South Islands northern tip. Due to the long trek up over the hill, most folks visit the eastern side of Abel Tasman. The countryside of Lower Takaka more than makes up for the extra drive time.

Rawhiti Cave opening phytokarst, Manson Cave, Dry Creek Valley

The Rawhiti Cave, located in the Takaka area, is simply astounding! It is a pretty steep and technical climb to get to the entrance but the reward is one of New Zealand’s most impressive, and diverse, cave openings.

Rawhiti Cave opening inside stalactite

Descending down into the cave, the temperature drops significantly, and you begin to get wet from water dripping off the stalactites from high above. Glancing back at the cave entrance, which is the New Zealand’s largest at over 130 feet wide, it is hard to imagine spending much time down here as the mood is tense.

Rawhiti Cave inside stalactite

Although this is as far as we ventured into the cave on this day, it continues far deeper than we could see. Finding these more obscure natural wonders throughout New Zealand has been terrifically rewarding, and Rawhiti Cave was no exception. We were the only souls there, and the experience of taking in this bizarre and beautiful place, deep in the jungle, will not soon be forgotten.

Rawhiti Cave trail sky

Hiking back out from Rawhiti cave, the sun was beginning to set and we could catch the last of the daylight high above us on the walls of the deep canyon.