Hokitika, West Coast, South Island
Posted Monday evening, May 9th, 2011
Wanaka, Central Otago
Hokitika, just south of Greymouth on the West Coast, is the Greenstone Capital of New Zealand, home to the vast majority of the country’s Pounamu, or nephrite jade, a beautiful green stone used to make traditional pendants, weapons, and sculpture. Greenstone is the literal translation of the Maori Pounamu, and Hokitika contains about 10 different shops and studios specializing in greenstone jewelry and artwork. See Matt’s blog for more details on greenstone and the significance of it in local culture.
Hokitika has proved to be a great little town, with plenty to keep us busy for the last two days. The weather even cleared up yesterday afternoon as we were walking around, so we got some great views of the mountain ranges to the east, although it wasn’t clear enough to see Aoraki/Mt. Cook, New Zealand’s tallest mountain, which stayed hidden in the clouds. The town contains a lot of gorgeous views of the river and mountains:
(Click on Photos to Enlarge)
A lot of neat old buildings:
An Antique Sock Machine Museum:
And the National Kiwi Centre, where we fed giant 100-year-old longfin eels, and got just a glimpse of a kiwi (of which we weren’t allowed to take photographs). Even a glimpse was good, to know that we were in the presence of one, one of our goals before leaving New Zealand.
At the Kiwi Centre, we also got a chance to see two Tuatara, New Zealand reptiles known as "living fossils" because they have not changed or evolved since the time of dinosaurs. They are endangered now, and can grow past a metre in length and to ages around 300 years old.
We also had a great time walking Hokitika’s beaches, which we had been told contained the occasional piece of greenstone. I had thought it would be a bit of a wild goose chase, but as soon as we walked onto the beach, we started finding it everywhere. Greenstone comes in all different shades, from palest green to black jade.
Just a fraction of the Pounamu we found on the beach.
A photo we found in one of the shops, of a greenstone boulder found in the Arahura River some time ago.
Matt and a couple specimens in one of the many greenstone shops in town.
We are both glad that we decided to spend two days here, as we have seen and “done” Hokitika thoroughly and enjoyed ourselves doing it. Our hostel, Mountain Jade Backpackers (which appears to be the only backpackers in town), is one of my favorite places that we’ve stayed. It’s small and cozy and quiet, with only about six people staying here. We’ve made some delicious dinners in the well-organized kitchen, watched a few movies, and got a great night’s sleep last night. Tomorrow, we head out early with Magic, heading for Franz Josef glacier, a couple hours to the south. Here’s hoping the weather improves a bit, so we can actually see the glacier and the mountains as we head south.