Another fascinating bus ride of about 3h along the wild west coast took me to Hokitika. The reason to come here was to cycle the West Coast Wilderness Trail from Ross to Greymouth. Ross is a really tiny place and the distance is to the next stop Hokitika is just about 30 km and therefore too short to fill a day. Bike rental companies that help to organize that trip are located in Hokitika. So I decided to cycle on my first day from Hokitika to Ross and back, and on the second day to Kumara and on day three to Greymouth. While I was waiting for my bike to be ready and the day of departure I enjoyed exploring the little but fascinating town of Hokitika.
An orientation walk through the little town and its historical city center does not take long. Hokitika, located at the mouth of Hokitika River, has a few beautiful old buildings and a broad, dark sanded beach. The most impressive in terms of architecture I guess is the old cinema that somehow was preserved throughout the time even though there are hardly enough people to fill the impressive big showroom. I had to give it a try and bought a ticket to watch “The invisible man”. Unfortunately, their projector was as old as the cinema itself and the movie was blurry. But a new projector was on the way they said and it should be better soon.
Hokitika is full of galleries specialized in jewelry and handicrafts from Greenstone. Greenstone was traditionally extracted from the Arahura River, which flows into the sea north of Hokitika. Jewelers, turners and potters also offer souvenirs in Hokitika. Another prominent point in Hokitika is the clock tower, the Hokitika Town Clock, and not far from there is the huge i-Site, the tourist information. There I had booked my trips to the Hokitika Gorge and the Scenic Waterways.
Hokitika Gorge is an amazing, maybe enchanted place about 33km east of Hokitika where the Hokitika River cut a narrow passage through the rocks of the mountains creating a place of unique natural beauty. The most amazing thing about it seems to be the colour of the water: a stunning blue-green. To go there it needs a car or private transport as there is no public transport. As I did not have a car I was doomed to book the much overpriced private tour and paid 80$. It is definitely not worth that amount – the better option is to go and visit Arthurs point near Queenstown with a public bus (2$ and of similar natural beauty). But forgetting the price tag, it is a very beautiful place worth exploring. I could sit on a huge rock towering above the rushing waters watching it squeezing through the narrow gorge. The colour of the water was not the stunning blue-green but a milky blue-greyish colour due to the rain of the previous days that had flushed sediments from the mountains into the river. From the car park, I walked only a short walking track for a few minutes through a dense hardwood forest before emerging onto a suspension bridge crossing the river, and a viewing platform on the other side. There I could sit at the river’s edge, among many other tourists. But a new hiking trail was just under construction and very soon it should be possible to follow that 2km course along the river.
The most important event in Hokitika is the “Wildwoods Festival”, which takes place every year at the end of the summer. That is the time when people collect the driftwood and create amazing pieces of art along the wonderful broad Hokitika beach. When I was there the festival was long over but a lot of the artwork was still there. I have never seen a beach full of so much driftwood! And only on the second look, it reveals that the hands of artists put it there and arranged it the way it was. Very creative, beautiful, funny, impressive, lovely ideas put into wood and sand, big and small ones, masterpieces as well as amateur creations. Apart from the driftwoods, the beach around Hokitika is wild, dark and beautiful, hence worth a stroll anyway. I went jogging a few kilometers up north where hardly anyone goes and where it’s just windy and wild – unforgettable!
Talking about unforgettable things, Hokitika has another highlight: the Glow-worm Dell. It takes a walk of maybe 15 min to the outskirts of Hokitika, just at the roadside left-hand side, there is a path that leads to a place sheltered densely by trees. And there lives a massive population of glow-worms. It is free of charge to visit and anyone can just go there. Standing there at night is a unique experience: it is a really dark place, nearly black I would say, but amazingly above the head, there are those thousands of tiny glow-worms hanging from the trees. The trees are not visible at night, just blackness (I was not there during the day), and so one has the impression of a fascinating starry sky arching above.
Another absolutely fascinating adventure was my kayak trip along the scenic waterways. Usually, there is a big boat that goes into those waterways where tourists are loaded onto the rooftop for a grand view during the exploration of the jungle and the wilderness along the waterways. But that boat was off duty for repair. But I could rent a kayak – even better! So I paddled my way along the Mahinapuha Creek, starting about 4km outside of Hokitika, proceeding all the way to the magnificent Lake Mahinapua. That lake is huge and of wonderful blue water. In the distance, the majestic snow-capped mountains rise. It was just me and the boat in the wilderness, no other tourists around. What a feeling! I had the whole river and the lake for myself. Incredible! The scenery is not from this world, an ancient jungle of trees and bushes, and loads of waterways cutting through, a rich birdlife and the sun mirroring on the silver-ish surface of the lake. The current in the waterways is very strong and the water is crystal clear, I nearly thought I could not paddle against it but it wasn´t a problem at all. The weather was very warm and sunny, I couldn’t have spent that day any better!
I saw the waterways again a few days later when I finally started cycling the Wilderness Trail to Ross as I crossed them on bridges while following old tramlines through the jungle.