Jade Country

Trip Start Feb 17, 2005
Trip End Feb 27, 2006

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Where I stayed

Flag of New Zealand  ,
Tuesday, July 12, 2005

I arrived at Birdsong on Sunday afternoon, a beautiful cosy backpackers just 2km outside of Hokitika. The place was bright and cheery, with huge paintings of native birds on the walls. It really did feel like a home, especially as the log fire roared constantly throughout my stay.

On my first afternoon, I went for a walk along the driftwood-strewn beach, and had a browse around the shopss in town. It seemed like a tranquil kind of place, but there was enough there to warrant a stay of a couple of nights. The main attraction came in the form of the numerous jade factories and souvenir shops. I purchased a necklace with a jade pendant for $20, but some of the more intricate designs were on sale for hundreds of dollars. I spoke to one shop owner who informed me about the carving process, and it was interesting to hear that he sometimes makes more than 300 pendants in a single day!

I had such a relaxing first night in Hokitika, as I was the only person staying at the hostel! It is so nice not to have to worry about anyone else, and it's the nearest thing you'll get to being back in your own bedroom! Of course, one night like this is enough as one of the best parts of travelling is meeting other people, but occasionally at least, it feels like heaven! I spent the evening reading in front of the log fire, and listening to music - a great way to relax after the hustle and bustle of Punakaiki!!

The next day I ventured into town again for another couple of hours, before strolling back along the beach. I met Karen from Wellington back at the hostel, and it wasn't long before I was beating her at Connect Four! In fairness though, she did beat me at Battle Ships! There was no TV at Birdsong, and I've found that this creates a better atmosphere as people are more inclined to talk, as opposed to gawping at old movies the whole time!

Just before sunset, I headed out onto the beach to get some good views of the red and orange colours that were illuminating the sky. On return I met an elderly traveller from Holland whose nickname was Fred. Similar to Angus in Paihia, he was such an interesting, friendly guy who had travelled to most countries in the world. This is why travelling is an education in itself, as he shared his knowledge and stories with Karen and me.

Later on in the evening, the three of us went for a walk to the Glow Worm Dell, armed with torches of course as it was pitch black. After a short walk uphill, hundreds of bright little lights came into view and it made a beautiful sight. Back at the hostel, I stayed up until 2.30am completing a 'world map jigsaw' with Karen which took over 2 hours to do, but it was very satisfying when we did eventually finish it (especially as no pieces were missing for a change!).

I decided to stay a third day at Birdsong, and when I heard that Karen was going to the clear blue waters of Hokitika Gorge, I cheekily asked if I could tag along! Luckily she agreed, so we had a steady 33km drive along deserted roads before reaching our destination. I wasn't disappointed as we walked onto the swingbridge, and the gorgeous glacial blue water came into view. The water was a similar colour to the Emerald Lakes on the Tongariro Crossing, but this was a clearer day and so the water seemed to glisten in the sunlight.

We called at Dorothy Falls on the way back to town, yet another beautiful place just a couple of minutes walk from the road. Another 5 minute walk brought us to a pebble beach that overlooked Lake Kaniere. It was great to get further out of town and see yet more of the many sights along the west coast.

The hostel was busier on my final night, as 5 Irish girls and a few couples had arrived. Once again, it was a relaxing evening playing Battle Ships and doing jigsaws (this time unsuccessfully) in front of the fire.

The next couple of weeks are going to be quite busy as I move towards activity-obsessed Queenstown, and so it was nice to recharge the batteries (again!). The next part of my journey should be very interesting as I get to see the amazing glaciers in Franz Josef and Fox...

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