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Published: February 18th 2019
Greenstone and Kayaking and Who the heck is Queen Charlotte?
We left Franz Josef and headed north to the town of Hokitika, known as the Greenstone (Jade) capital of the country. Indeed, there were at least 15 stores plus a couple of street vendors selling jade jewelry of all sorts. More interesting to us was the wool sock store where the woman running it actually makes the socks on old style one person looms. She was operating the cash register today and we had a great talk about her work.
From their we went on to Punakaiki and the first stop was the Pancake Rocks. An incredible set of rock formations on the edge of the ocean that look like stacks of grey pancakes (limestone). Along with the rocks were blowholes and natural bridges where the ocean crashed in.
Next, finally a chance to go kayaking! We rented a couple of kayaks and paddled for about 70 minutes upstream. We did some walking around rapids on the way upstream. But on the way down we shot through three that would generously be called class 1 rapids. Often our son John,
who has been a kayak instructor would tell us that when he teaches teenagers how to kayak, the first time they hit a rapids all the teaching goes out the window and they throw their hands up in glee/fear. Guess what his mom did? There are pictures, but they are not included in this blog. When we returned from our little two hour trip we asked the guy who had rented us the boats if the couple who had gone out after us had done alright (we did not see them while we were on the water). His response, "I'm not sure who has been out or in, I've been drinking beer all afternoon and lost track." So typical! We did not sign any waivers or agree never to sue if we drown, we just gave him the cash, he gave us water shoes and the boats, and off we went.
We turned inland and headed up the Buller River, full of trout, making our way to Murchison for the evening. A decade ago John had stayed here for a week or so running the rapids, as it is a spot where four rivers come together.
On Monday we knocked about Murchison for a while...me salivating at the number of rivers holding big trout that are totally accessible to the public. And along one of them, the Buller, we drove over 50 km and spotted only one person fishing. I could stand on the side of the road, near paths that led to the water, and watch the fish feed in the clear water. If I every come back here it will be to spend at least a week in this area, fishing...who wants to come with me?
On the advice of the campground host, we decided to head north to the Abel Tasman National Park. On the drive we passend acres of hops fields, the harvest was just starting, they use a machine that cuts the strings holding the hops from the top and then cuts the bottom so the plant, string and all, falls into a cart. It is taken to the harvest room where first the vine and string are separated then the leaves and ultimately all that is left are the hops. There were also miles of apple, pear, and plum orchards as well as hectares of
grapes covered in a white netting that was hauled over them by a tractor with hooks to protect them from the birds. We stopped at a road side stand and bought apples and tomatoes.
At the park we spent a couple of hours hiking part of the Abel Tasman Track, a beautiful path that runs along golden sand beaches. We then turned east and headed back to Picton from where we will take the ferry in the morning to the North Island. Now for today's quiz. There is a Queen Charlotte Track, scenic road, and Sound. (By the way, we learned that sounds, formed by rivers flowing into the sea, are calm ports for ships leading to the 'safe and sound' expression.). So we started asking Kiwis who she is. So far the 10 we have asked have no idea. One transplant from Holland who has lived here 20 years, supposed it was a British queen, but upon further quizzing admitted he had no idea. The last person I asked, the attendant at the gas station, in her 50s and a lifelong Kiwi, said she had no idea, "in fact, probably know one knows, maybe it's just
a nice name." We're going to try and find out without using Google, let you know if we do.
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