- Two hours to Ballroom Overhang, add another hour for a side-trip to Tourist Cave
- Camping, pit toilet available at Ballroom Overhang
- Park at the DOC car park at Tiromoana, 10km north of Punakaiki
- BS19, BS20
Ballroom Overhang, Paparoa National Park
Backed by a perfect weather forecast on Waitangi day weekend we started our trip from Tiromoana on the West Coast.
An easy track follows the true right of the lower Fox River for a while before we were getting our feet wet for the first time. For trampers looking to visit Ballroom Overhang, wet feet are an integral part of the experience. River crossings are numerous, but luckily for us the water was warm enough for a few quick dips.
We reached our first decision-making point after half an hour: To cave or not to cave? The track offers a short detour to the Fox River Caves (marked on the map as Te Orumata), one of which is easily accessible for everyone.
Leaving our packs behind, we made our way up the slippery track and across moss-covered rocks to the dramatic cave entrance. We descended a tunnel to see stalagmites and stalactites. Progress further into the cave was hampered by flooding and none of us liked the idea of wading through the frigid water so we turned around and made our way back to our packs and the warmer water of the Fox.
With the sun on our back and countless sandflies driving us on, we made good progress. Our late start turned out to be an advantage as the setting sun cast a warm glow over the steep-sided river valley. The contrast between rich green foliage and the snow-white rocks of the riverbed was magical. The very air seemed aglow.
It took us three hours to reach Ballroom Overhang, our much anticipated destination. The overhang is a half-dome cut into the soft limestone by a bend in the river. It makes for a most spectacular campsite.
Pitching our tents and preparing dinner, we had to cover ourselves like Bedouins to keep the sandflies at bay. Despite the excessive use of expletives, we agreed that being eaten alive is a worthy price for camping in such an amazing location. Later, we lit a fire beneath the overhang which gave us some respite from the biters.
Trees hanging over the entrance to the overhang helped keep a lot of heat in and some of the humidity out. It was a night spent in comfort with a luxurious pit toilet available between the trees for those in need.
Ballroom Overhang is a good stopping off point for parties going further into Paparoa National Park. An option for those with more time is to take the track into Dilemma Creek Gorge where further adventures await. Dilemma Creek eventually turns into a network of smaller gorges that all lead to the Inland Pack Track. The track sidles through dense native bush all the way back to Punakaiki and the Pancake Rocks. Hitching a ride back to your starting point should be easy from there.
We woke to sandflies pit-pattering on our tents like drizzly rain the next morning. Gearing up with gloves and head-scarves, we enjoyed a big breakfast before starting the return trip back down the Fox.
– Dennis Radermacher
PIX CREDIT: Dennis Radermacher/lightforge.co.nz