Published: February 20th 2009February 8th 2009
We used the annual Waitangi Day
public holiday as an excuse to head out on the open road for three days (as if we need an excuse!).
We left work as early as we could get away on Thursday night, left the big smoke and drove north up to Hanmer Springs
, where we stayed the night in a backpackers. The idea was to get an early start on friday morning, crossing the Southern Alps
via the Lewis Pass
We arrived at our destination Hokitika
on the west coast on friday, having had a stunning drive punctuated by a few stops to feed the sandflies and a quick lunch stop in Greymouth
. Leaving Greymouth we enjoyed crossing two combined road-rail bridges - where the railway tracks run right down the middle of the long single-lane bridges - it's a case of have a good look both ways, up and down the tracks, check that no cars on the other side have begun to cross and then hope for the best! Hokitika
is a place name that we have been mis-pronouncing ever since we first visited in 2005. The correct pronunciation is something akin to 'Hokey-ticker' - not the 'Hockey-teeka'
that we were previously uttering (which amused every Kiwi who heard us say it). Most of the weekend was spent practising and remembering to de-Pom our handling of said name, although the locals just call the place 'Hoki' (like the fish), which is much harder to muck up. In fact, that's how we finally overcame the obstacle - remembering the heart of a fish - Hoki-Ticker (the second part as in "Ooh my dickey-ticker")...
Have achieved step one, not being ridiculed, we set into the west coast way of life. A huge part is searching for treasure, beit gold which is still to be found in the rivers or in our case Pounamu
(aka Greenstone and New Zealand Jade). We spent a good hour walking up and down the beach picking up green-ish peddles and rubbing them against our foreheads (the oil is a sure-fire way of bringing out the greenstone in the rock if it's there).
That evening, after cooking Tim's 'pasta surprise', we waited until dark and then drove down the road to a glow-worm dell - a short steep climb up in to a section of bush where you can see said critters. No matter
how many times you see them, they never fail to astound. There were quite few people there - about 10 - it is peak tourist season - and we were entertained by an american woman trying to take flash photos of the glow-worms in their dell, who was not annoying at all.
The next morning we drove out to Hokitika Gorge
to see the amazingly turquoise waters (caused by glacial meltwater particles suspended in the river) and feed some more sandflies. On the way we stopped at a rather somber memorial marking the scene of New Zealand's first ever mass murder. Afterwards we took a drive over to Lake Kaniere
to see the Dorothy Falls
and walk through bush down to the lake for lunch.
That evening we headed into town and ate at what we can only describe as the best Indian restaurant in Hokitika. In fact it was definitely in the top five restaurants in Hokitika. (Hokitika has about five restaurants of which one is an Indian). Then we went to one of the two local cinemas to see Baz Luhrman's Australia
. This was an excellently suitable venue. We watched a film set in the forties
in a picture house that had last been maintained in the forties. There was no air conditioning and the heat made us really feel that we were there with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman in Darwin. It really was one of those 'labour of love' places, just barely staying open, but a wonderful place to find nonetheless.
On the way home, we stopped again to see the glow-worms and as it had been raining we had the place to ourselves.
The next day, we packed up and headed along the 'Old Christchurch Road' up into the Alps. We had decided that taking the main highway wouldn't be as much as an adventure, and the old road delighted us by turning into gravel and giving us a real back-country tour.
After an awesome drive through the mountiains, we stopped in Arthur's Pass
and did the 'Punchbowl Falls' walk, before beginning our long descent onto the Canterbury Plains.
STOP PRESS UPDATE: we were just watching the national weather forecast, and the forecaster just said "Hockey-ticker" and not "Hokey-ticker" like we'd so dilligently rehearsed! It seems even Kiwi's can't agree on the pronunciation of some place names!
There are more photos below