Road Trip to Amethyst Springs on the Wanganui River, Hari Hari (West Coast)
Despite a dreary forecast, it was time to check out the West Coast of the South island, this time Hari Hari about 45 minutes south of Hokitika and with a population of 348. The West Coast on a whole, is sparsely populated which gives you plenty of opportunity to enjoy wide open spaces, which is exactly what was intended. Freedom camping/Independent travel is great, as it lets you explore all the little nooks and crannies in New Zealand and you leave with a richer appreciation for the New Zealand culture. You don't get the complete picture of a town that you would get by living there, but over the course of a weekend you get a snap shot of what life is like.
Asking at the local dairy is a great way to find out the 'must-do's' in any town. We stopped in at the HariHari dairy (-43.150661,170.564849-it's on the CamperMate app) and had something to eat, respectfully people watching and making a plan of attack for the two day stay. First on the list was the Amethyst Hot Springs, at the lower end of the Wanganui River (not to be confused with the Whanganui River in the North Island). It's a 5 or so minute drive north of the town, crossing the Wanganui River bridge before you see this Coke sign on the left hand side. Head down that road for a few hundred metres, you'll see a power station on the left. If you've got a big vehicle or a low bumper I'd suggest parking here as there's a ford that is a little tricky to navigate. Grab your swimming gear, towel, spade if you have one, sandfly repellent and start walking down the road. At the time of writing (October 2013), parts of the river had been washed away, so when you get to the white gate on the left hand side, head up the track for about 3oo metres, you'll get to this awesome bridge which you'll need to cross. After 150 metres you'll see a small track on the right hand side leading into the fern, it's really small so keep watch! After walking along this little track for 40 metres you'll come onto the river bed.
Head down the river (true right) for about 60 metres and you'll see some pools already dug out. You might need to walk a little further depending on how high the river is (-43.16921301655767, 170.6285850798438 -it's on the CamperMate app under 'Interesting Tips'). The deeper you dig the hotter it is, so it's a balance between digging a deep hole and it being too hot, and too shallow and you being exposed to the sand flies. I'm told that if it's a cloudy day, you'll be eaten alive, if it's sunny then they tend to avoid the sunlight, like a true vampire!