The bus from Nelson to Hokitika was long and the driver was grumpy. Normally, the InterCity bus drivers have been friendly and helpful, but this guy was very stressed and lashed out at one or two passengers for no real reason.
Hokitika is a small place, and one I wouldn’t have visited at all, were it not for the lovely German lady I met at Rainbow Springs in Rotorua, who told me you could do Jade Carving classes there. New Zealand Jade, or Greenstone (Pounamu) is a type of gemstone found on the west coast of New Zealand. It is very easy to carve as it is quite soft and has been used by Maori for centuries. Maori jade carvings are considered to be treasures and gain prestige as they are passed from generation to generation.
I arrived in Hokitika and checked in. It was hot again, I seem to always be bringing the good weather with me. I got food and began to cook. While cooking, I met Iris, a lovely German lady, who later invited me to come and see the sunset with her and some other Germans. In New Zealand, there are loads of Germans travelling – it would be very unusual for a person to travel round New Zealand and not meet anyone German!
We walked out to see the sunset. There is a lovely long beach at Hokitika, with a driftwood sculpture of the town’s name. It was beautifully silhouetted against the sky.
We strolled up the promenade a little more, then crossed down onto the beach over some large rocks. We walked along, admiring the sunset, the sea winds making me glad of my hoodie. The sun shone brightly on the sea and illuminated the clouds opposite in a delicate pink.
After watching the sunset, we went back to the hostel and played cards. They taught me a game called “Schwimmen” (swimming), where you get three cards, then you can swap one out at a time and try to get a high scoring combination. The one with the lowest score at the end of the round loses a life. You get three lives, then you are “swimming”, hence the name. If you lose while swimming, you are out. It was pretty fun.
The next day I had my Jade Carving class. Turns out it was more casual, one on one. I had decided I wanted to make a fish hook (Hei Matau) which means strength, good luck and safe travel over water. It took a lot less time than I thought it would and was a very easy process – I think it’s a must-do for anyone visiting New Zealand!
Here is the process:
1. Draw a template of what you want it to look like.
2. Draw around that onto your chosen piece of Greenstone.
3. This gets roughly cut out for you.
4. Grind it down to the lines (the grinder wheel is very safe – you can touch it without hurting yourself).
5. Drill the hole for the string and for any internal parts that can’t be reached by the grinder.
6. Use a dremel (little whirry cutty tool) to hollow out any internal parts.
7. Sand the whole thing. A lot.
8. Buff the stone using the buffer wheel.
9. Dip the final piece in oil, to seal any tiny cracks.
10. Tie on the string.
I was very happy with my finished piece, even though it was a bit rough.
In the afternoon, I went for a walk on the beach with Liza, another German lady who was staying in the same room as me. We discovered a stone armchair, which was placed by the sea as a memorial to someone. We went all the way along to “sunset point” where we hadn’t managed to go the night before, when it was actually sunset.
After dinner, the Germans and I decided to go to see the sunset again, this time from the actual sunset point. We also took Lukas, a Swiss guy, with us. Spending time with so many German speakers made me realise how much German I remembered (and how much I forgot)!
The sunset was equally beautiful as the previous night and we spend some time taking some lovely cliché photos (like the featured photo for this post).
After watching the sunset, we returned to the hostel for drinks, then headed out again to see the glowworm dell, down the road from the town. It was dark when we went out and the dell was pitch black, apart from the bluish glow worms shining brightly all around us. A lot of people were taking photos. It took a lot of messing with the settings to get something good.
The glow worms were beautiful to just look at, so I didn’t spend the whole time taking photos. As much as I love photography, I don’t want to have only seen something through my camera lens.
We returned to the hostel and continued drinking – I may have accidentally finished a whole bottle of wine! Oops!
The next day we travelled on to Franz Josef, a very small place with a famous glacier. After checking into the hostel, we had a little walk around and saw the tiny town, with the beautiful snow capped mountains towering above. The first evening was spent drinking and chatting with the German crew.
The following day, my only full day in Franz Josef, started with meeting Iris and Lukas to go to the Glacier. It is about an hour’s walk to the glacier valley track from the hostel, but Lukas had a car, so we could get there much more easily. We walked up to the glacier. It is a nice walk, through a stony valley with waterfalls coming down the sides and a milky river running through.
The glacier itself is impressive, if very far away. It had receded so much in the past ten or so years, that the walk is no longer a very good way to see it. The best way is by helicopter – they take you right up to the top and then you hike on the glacier itself for a few hours. Given the money and the time, I want to return and do this!
The rest of the day was spent souvenir shopping, appreciating happy hour and sitting in front of the hostel in the evening.
One of the wonderful things about travelling alone is the people that you meet – I had so much fun hanging out with the German speaking crew over those few days. Sadly, I had overlooked staying at Wanaka, where they were all heading next and booked straight to Queenstown, so our time together was at an end. Thanks so much to all of you for keeping me company on my west coast adventures!