New Zealand Trails Newsletter October 2014
Seeing the sun glistening off the waves and the rolling hills draped in emerald rainforest at Punakaiki is always a highlight for everyone. Many of our guests have traveled a long way and arriving on the coast, breathing the sea air as the sun sets is the moment when it all sinks in - you're in New Zealand.
Where is Punakaiki and Paparoa National Park?
On the West Coast of the South Island, the settlement of Punakaiki is 45km (30 miles) north of Greymouth, the largest town on the coast. Paparoa National Park extends inland and mostly north of Punakaiki and consists of 30,600 hectares (75,000 acres) of rolling hills covered in lush native forest and pristine limestone river valleys flowing to the Tasman Sea. We travel to Punakaiki in a fun filled day from Christchurch, which includes riding the TranzAlpine train to Arthur's Pass and an afternoon hike in the heart of the Southern Alps before continuing on to the coast.
What makes this area unique and special?
Having traveled all over this beautiful country for many years, if you ask me what my favourite place in New Zealand is, I'll say Punakaiki. The combination of stunning natural surrounds, so much to see and do, a quiet small town feel and truly friendly locals make it the perfect stopover for a couple of days on anyone's South Island travels.
In terms of the natural environment, what sets Paparoa apart is the vast array of caves dotted all over the park, this region is home to some of the largest and complex subterranean systems in New Zealand. Our gateway to the underworld is the Nile River Caves, offering safe and easy access to the abyss and its enchanting constellations of millions of glow-worms.
As well as the amazing caves, Punakaiki is also home to a couple of unique natural features:
- New Zealand's only endemic palm tree, the Nikau Palm, dominates the landscape all around but once you travel 20 minutes south of Punakaiki it's gone and you won't see it anywhere else on the West Coast, Southern Lakes or Alps.
- The Pancake Rocks and Blowholes are right here too. Formed from oceanic sediments over 30 million years ago, water pressure has caused the rocks to solidify in odd looking layers (like a stack of Pancakes) which have been lifted up out of the sea by tectonic pressures leaving them visible and easily accessible to all.
Natural wonders aside, I couldn't sing the praises of Punakaiki without mentioning the people. To me, the Punakaiki pub owners Ian and Lorraine just sum it up - they must see literally thousands of people through their pub each summer, including hundreds of tour guides like me. But when on my first visit last season I spotted Ian having a break from a busy evening serving hungry customers and asked for some local knowledge, he jumped up immediately, took me to the map and couldn't do more to help. To me, that just sums Punakaiki and is why I love the place.
What our guests love about Punakaiki and Paparoa National Park:
- Underworld adventures in the Nile River Caves
- Serene hiking alongside the Pororari River Track
- Friendly locals and great food at the Punakaiki pub
- Campfire on the beach after watching the sun set
Let us explain, it's all to do with the recent drop in the New Zealand dollar and how this helps you:
It's the price of milk - due to a number of factors the per unit price of milk fat has dropped significantly in the last few months. As New Zealand's single largest export product this has a major effect on the New Zealand dollar.
A lower milk price generally means a lower NZ dollar against foreign currencies.
Well this is where the New Zealand government live, our parliament building is called the Beehive. Last week the Reserve Bank of New Zealand announced they had 'intervened in the currency markets', which means they have acted to help lower the NZ dollar, which has been very high for a long time which doesn't help exporters or tourism operators.
Happy Hiking in New Zealand?
The result of this is that if you're visiting from overseas your New Zealand Hiking Tour is getting cheaper, which makes for happy hiking for you and maybe a little extra shopping while you're here too!
All our prices are in New Zealand dollars, so when our dollar goes down the tour gets cheaper in your currency. To give you an example, our 13 day World Heritage Hiking Tour price is over USD500 per person cheaper today than it was in early July.
So if you're waiting for the right moment to book your holiday for the upcoming 2014/2015 season, book now to lock in those savings!
*Please note the above information does not constitute financial advice and we certainly do not advocate investing any or part of your life savings on foreign currency predictions provided by a Hiking Guide!
It's spring here in New Zealand, which means it's time for a travel deal.
Spring Special - New Zealand Trails Goodbye Giveaway
No, we're not going anywhere but we'd like to offer complimentary accommodation and dinner on the final night of your New Zealand Trails tour so you can celebrate your World Heritage Hiking adventure in style. Valid for all new bookings received by 1 November 2014.
The 2014/2015 New Zealand walking season is getting underway in just a few weeks and we're happy to report trips have been very popular and we're all looking forward to a busy, fun summer. Our first January departure is now fully booked and we have only two or fewer seats left on four other departures. We expect most trips for the coming season to be full, so if you are thinking about joining us we would advise booking as soon as you can in order to avoid disappointment. See our full trip schedule and availability here.
2015/2016 Trip Dates now set:
We know that for many of our guests, their New Zealand trip really is a 'trip of a lifetime' and that a lot of thought and planning goes into it all. We'd like to make it as easy as possible for those of you who would like to plan your trip well out in advance, so we have now released our 2015/2016 season tour dates. We have started receiving bookings for this season and with this year's trips filling up well in advance we do recommend booking in advance, particularly if you're looking at the busy months of November and between January and March. See our full trip schedule and availability here.
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