|A glance at Pupu Springs. Click for more pictures.|
Our visit to Golden Bay went literally by the book. We opened a travel guide, noted down the places of interest and checked them out one by one. The first was Pupu Springs, a famous spot with natural springs and apparently the clearest water in the world. It's so clear and seemingly so precious that the government forbids any physical contact with the water (no drinking, washing, swimming, spitting... you basically can't even stick your finger in it). Ah, and it's also sacred to the Maori, although the settlers who devasted the place during the gold rush in the early 1900s probably didn't know. Anyway, the springs really are beautiful, although it's just a short and easy walk. You can go for a picnic, though, and relax a bit while nobody else is around. The pools are several metres deep and the water is so clear that you can see the bottom, where a pleyade of colours creates amusing images. There are supposed to be "dancing sands", too, but we haven't seen any.
A stone's throw from the springs is a small power station that was originally part of the gold mining business. The settlers had built a water race ending in a steep pipeline drop, and used the pressurized spray to melt whole hills into a muddy stream, to then sift and pan for gold. A 24-men crew spent eight months building the race with picks, shovels and dynamite, but everything was abandoned once the gold rush ended. It wasn't until the 1980s that a local benefactor bought the place, repaired it with his own sweat and money and turned it into a 240kw power station that is still operational. It's impressive how clear the water is, and tourists can see it if they're willing to climb up the hill; it's a 1,5 hour loop walk, but unfortunately, big part of it is on a boring gravel road, which spoils everything.
More than a cave it's a big maw in the rock face, and it's a hell of climb to get to it. The interesting thing is that the stalagtites don't grow in a straight line, but lean to one side. Apparently, moss and lichens grow on them and naturally tend to reach out towards the sun, then they get cemented into the stalactite as water keeps coming down, then more lichens grow on top of that, lean towards the sun, get cemented... The result is a cave full of weird protuberances with funny shapes like a dragon and crocodile heads, a big baby vulture, and whatever else your imagination lets you see. If you want to see this place, be ready for some serious hiking. It's only 2.2km from the car park, and half of the way is on an easy path along a dried river, but then it suddenly turns into a hellishly steep and windy climb to several hundred metres above sea level. I was sweating like a pig at the top, but it was so much fun to run down at neck breaking speed, jumping from rocks and ledges, barely managing the sharp turns on slippery soil and swinging on overhanging branches like Tarzan. Yeah baby!
Ok, enough for one post. The rest of Golden Bay's trip will come next time.