Ngarua Caves On Takaka Hill
On their advertising leaflet the Ngarua Caves are touted as “a middle earth experience” on Marble Mountain. Who would I be to wonder if this is stretching the truth a little without going to find out.
Getting to these caves was not as simple as the route on a map suggested. We headed out of Motueka toward Takaka Hill, acknowledging our hostess’ comment heavy rain a few weeks ago had had an impact. We soon discovered the term “hill” did not quite adequately describe the route. State Highway 60 joins Tasman and Golden Bays by way of a mountain pass – Takaka Hill – with an elevation of 791 metres. At times it felt like we were driving at a 50% gradient although obviously this was not the case. The road twisted and turned in numerous bends, some very extreme. But the “exciting” bit was catching a glimpse of how the side of the road disappeared too close beside our wheels. I wondered that barriers only appeared on a few of the many bends. I would have felt happier driving up there if barriers appeared along the edge of the whole road. A temporary traffic light directed traffic around storm damaging slips, but despite this, the actual road was in good condition.
We reached Ngarua Caves prior to the summit. The area shows scattered karst rocks which have been molded into weird and unusual shapes. The guide explained the rocks had been sculptured by thousands of years of water, but I liked the Maori legend better. Te Ngararahuarau was a horrible lizard-like taniwha of Wainui Bay who devoured men and enslaved women. But when he captured the beautiful Ruru, she escaped and with the help of the Whakatu people lured him to their pa and set him on fire. He fled, and on the top of Takaka Hill he desperately tried to dig his way home, but he was consumed by flames. His charred scales were turned to stone and strewn around the hill… Now, doesn’t that sound much more interesting than the idea of water dripping on these rocks over many thousands of years?
The caves are known for their stalagmites and stalactites as well as some moa bones, including a complete skeleton. The forty-five minute guided tour is well worth the $20 entrance fee. While my photos aren’t so great, you can see others on the caves website.
If you are a “Lord of the Rings” fan, you might recognise the following photo.