We started our next rain soaked day on the west coast by popping into Hokitika centre to see what it had to offer. Given the rain situ we were confined to indoor activities so after visiting the local i-Site (NZ’s national tourist information centre), we plumped for a look at the local jade museum/gift shop/carving show centre type thing and a trip to a glass blowing workshop too.
Like a number of towns in south NZ, they were busy in the late 1800s when gold was discovered but once all the greedy Europeans had mined the shit out of the place, the towns fell into destitution and Hokitika is no different. The one thing that Hokitika has cottoned onto, or kept up, was jade mining. There are more jade galleries in Hokitika than there are people. Its quite a Mauri traditional thing and you can read up in these shops about how they use traditional methods to carve it and make it into funny characters and figures which are supposed to protect you from evil or make you more fertile or summat like that anyway. Considering they look like they’ve got an abundance of it it certainly isn’t driving the price down. A fist sized lump of the green stone will cost you a fist full of green notes (if you work in dollars of course) and although it does look pretty, some of the fellas walk around with about a kilo of the stuff hanging from their necks which ain’t gonna be good for your posture.
The glass blowing was good to watch although it wouldn’t be too hard for the ‘blowers’ to crack a smile out now and again. Granted, they are working it quite uncomfortable temperatures but I’d rather be keeping warm than be freezing my arse off in camper van (which is falling to bits) each night.
They made some cute glass kiwis and penguins whilst we were watching and in the shop part there was a huge chess set (made out of glass) with different types of penguins for the pieces – very impressive. Would have got a picture but there was a camera ban in the shop and I didn’t fancy getting poked by one of those molten red glass blowers’ rods.
After the glass blowing shop we nipped to a nearby cafe for a brew and muffin and put a good hour or so into our books. The rain was teaming down at this time; the level of rain when everyone in the office stares in wonder out of the window saying ‘Oh my god, look at the rain’, and it continued at this level pretty relentlessly for the rest of the day.
Another idea we pulled out of the i-Site was a trip to the Montieth’s brewery which was a bit further up the road in Greymouth. We ventured up north to Gremouth and found the brewery nestled in a small industrial estate. It was a lovely place as I hope you can tell from the pic below and although we were too late for one of the scheduled brewery tours we could get a sample of the different ales on offer and take some pics of the giant fermenters and barrels. After a spot of fish and chips which we swilled down with our samples, we jump back into Bruce and headed for the road.
Our route back to the east of the Island took us through an alpine road called Arthur’s Pass. Arthur’s pass is around 1000 meters above sea level and there are some notoriously difficult but amazing walks which you can do around there. There’s also a few camp sites and lodges nestled between the mountains and the views are supposed to be some of the best in New Zealand (and that is really saying something). Unfortunately, as you’d expect, with the weather not being our friends we didn’t see much. The weather was actually that bad that we had concerns about crossing the Pass. The streams and culverts were gushing with water and the rivers which we went over were dangerously close to the bridges that straddled them. At one point there had actually been a small landslide on the opposite side of the road which had caused the road to turn into a ford. It wouldn’t have surprised me if they had shut the Pass soon after we went through as it was forecast for significantly more rain to fall. Given this forecast we also decided to sack-off staying over the night and hoping for better weather in the morning and we headed on to a campsite on the east side of the island in a small village called Oxford.
As soon as we’d pulled away from the mountains the sky was clear and a brilliant blue and we’d left the monsoon of Arthur’s Pass behind. A shame really because we were very much looking forward to flexing about the place for a couple of nights. Also, there was some quite freaky looking rocks which mae up the scenery; like they were covered in tar. God knows what it was – anyone hazard a guess?
We got to Oxford and pulled up in one of the National campsites where its cheap and the toilet is effectively a small hole in the ground. It was a nice place- about 2 acres of field surrounded by pine forest. Given that the weather was nice, we headed on one of the local walks which took us about an hour or so to complete and return back to base. There was only one other van on the whole site and it belonged to an elderly couple from Sussex. We got briefly acquainted (although we didnt get their names) and they mentioned that one of the park wardens had been up to the site earlier to warn them that the storm was heading over to us and to expect winds of 160kph. Shit – That sort of wind will topple a bloody tree or two! Suffice to say we didn’t get much sleep as the wind was making ridiculous noises which sounded like impending doom.
Literally as soon as the sun rose we headed off to our destination which was Hanmer Springs. The weather had improved which was sweet and meant we could play out for the day.