Exploring the West Coast’s “Cool Little Town”

It’s time for a colour change. Today, we leave Greymouth and the Grey District and head 40-minutes south to Hokitika a.k.a. Jade Country! Hokitika is famous for a few things: being known as the “cool little town”, being the source of many of New Zealand’s jade/greenstone/pounamu, and for its stellar sunsets! We are going to experience all three today!

So we head on the road once again after spending our final night in the Cat Room of the Noah’s Ark Backpackers. It feels like in no time we are seeing road signs saying: “Welcome to Jade Country”.

Arriving in Jade Country

Just one turn off the roundabout into town reveals that, indeed, we are in Jade Country. The streets are lined with jade shop after jade shop. We are even staying in a jade-themed hostel, the Mountain Jade Backpackers!

We check-in at the spacious hostel above a jade factory, meeting our host, John, who also has a bunch of parcels waiting for us. From there, we get ready to explore the town.

Our hokitika jade challenge

Now, in a couple of days, we are planning to do some jade stone carving. Much like the bone carving we did in Barrytown, we are carving a necklace for each other as it is more traditional to gift carvings rather than make one for yourself. But instead of choosing a template design, we have been asked to arrive at the jade stone carving with a design! Yikes! We are going to need some inspiration.

We made it to Hokitika! We made it to Hokitika!
Getting inspiration in the Jade Country Getting inspiration in the Jade Country
Wandering around the Wandering around the "Cool Little Town"
Sock World! Need we say more? Sock World! Need we say more?

Finding jade design inspiration

“Exploring the town” definitely means wandering into a jade store or two (or 10, if you want!) We choose the nearest stores to the Mountain Jade Backpackers out of sheer laziness, we guess. The Mountain Jade store is a chain store in New Zealand, which feels it is necessary to have two stores in Hokitika!

We walk around looking for design ideas. Jade carvings tend to have five or six different meanings extending to supernatural powers and strength. What seems more appropriate to us are the three designs we incorporated in our bone carvings: the fish hook (productivity and determination), the spiral (peace, bro), and the crossovers (friendship/relationship).

We get a good base for our designs in Mountain Jade that seem to have pretty basic and traditional styles.

Watching the masters at work

Next door, is Nga Tahu Pounamu where we get distracted from looking at designs when we see some jade carvers behind huge glass doors saying: “Haere Mai – Welcome”. We can actually go inside and watch the carvers at work.

Unfortunately, they don’t reveal any secret solutions for a mind-blowing design that would be manageable for us to do. They are working on far more complicated ornaments and carvings we can’t even comprehend. Nevertheless, we get a few more ideas.

Sock world!

Walking around town, a few more places catch our eyes, one being Sock World! “The Sock Museum”, the “Greatest Sock Collection in the World”, “Socks, Goddammit, Socks”! How can we not check this place out?!

The lady at the counter says: “Sorry but she’s gone home for the day so you won’t see her making socks now.” We don’t know who “she” is but we get the feeling we should be disappointed. Nonetheless, we’ll have a look at the socks anyway. At the back of the room are all these vintage sock-making machines with a video of, who we assume is, “she” explaining how they work. There is also a glass wall to look into a sock factory.

Glass blowing

Sock World: check! Now we are trying to make our way to Hokitika Beach but we get distracted once again by the Hokitika Glass Studio where you can view people glass blowing. Again, it’s around 4pm so we just see the glass blowers packing away more than anything. However, the crafts they’ve created are mesmerising with colours swirling within the glass. We especially like their epic glass penguin chess set.

Driftwood makes a great climbing frame Driftwood makes a great climbing frame
Robin working hard on his jade design Robin working hard on his jade design
Watching the stunning Hokitika sunset Watching the stunning Hokitika sunset

Designing jade necklaces on Hokitika Beach

Our final stop for the evening is Hokitika Beach! As we wait for that all-famous sunset, we find a good place to sit down and start working on our jade stone designs. Turns out, there are heaps of places to sit down on this driftwood-riddled beach. We pick a smooth-looking log and get to work, keeping our designs a secret from each other.

As if to prepare for the jade stone carving, Robin gets out his penknife to sharpen the pencils.

Within minutes, Robin has announced he has completed his design and wonders off to the waterside, leaving Laura to draw and erase, draw and erase… Who will have the best design? Find out in a couple of days!

Watching the Hokitika sunset

For now, we are going to end the day the Hokitika way: watching the sunset.

Every year, Hokitika has a driftwood art festival. From that, a huge “Hokitika” driftwood sign has been left permanently for people to marvel at and take photos of. Of course, we are one of those people, but we waiting for the flock of tourists to leave after the sun goes down and all that is left are dramatic colours in the sky. Until then, we are happy to watch the sun disappear from the water’s edge.

A wild West Coast sunset

In true wild and untamed West Coast style, the waves roll in vigorously, giving us a few close calls with the ever-approaching tide. Against the sun dipping ever so perfectly over the horizon, blue and orange colours are cast over the pebbles and driftwood. Man, this is a pretty special place to watch the sunset!

As predicted, everyone else leaves once the show is over leaving “nothing but” some stunning colours in the sky. That “Hokitika” does look pretty badass.

There’s nothing more to do than to go back to the Mountain Jade Backpackers, cook up some vege fried rice, and relax. Tomorrow, we are checking out the blue river of Hokitika Gorge! Join us then!

Laura and Robin

Hokitika Beach awash with sunset colours!
Hokitika Beach awash with sunset colours! Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

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  1. beautiful. trying to figure out what happened in the last decade when there was one Backpacker place called The Jade Experience, right on the beach.

    Comment avatar alan steinbach
    28/11/2016 at 1:54 am
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