From Greymouth we drove 40km south to Hokitka. Hokitka’s claim to fame is as a producer of jade jewellery. The local stone is also called Pounamu. It’s a stone I’ve loved for a long time. My grandfather’s side of the family were all from New Zealand and on one of his return trips to NZ he bought me a tiki. He said it was my good luck charm and I still have it to this day. It holds great sentimental value to me. I wanted to treat myself to some jade jewellery while I was there. Unfortunately we were only given one hour to have some lunch.
We parked at the back of one of the jade shops so I quickly went into the shop; intent on buying jewellery before I went anywhere else. I did a few laps of the large shop before going back to pick out what I wanted. I gathered up the different pieces I wanted. I couldn’t find the tiki necklaces so asked one of the staff. She noticed the sapphire ring I was wearing and started asking me questions about it. Apparently it was similar to what a colleague of hers was wearing.
After I picked out what I wanted I worked out I could afford all three pieces; 2 necklaces and a set of earrings because the exchange rate between the Australian and NZ dollars works to our advantage. Yay for me.
Having satisfied my need for jade jewellery I began a walk around town. First stop was the tourist info centre to see what was in the town. Not that I would be able to see much today but I’d love to come back one day. I walked in to a cafe to buy a bottle of coke and the friendly man behind the counter asked if I was enjoying my tour. I chatted with him for a few minutes and when I was leaving wondered how he knew I was on a tour. Not long after I realised I was wearing my name badge. It was at that point that I only wore it when I have to.
After a quick lunch at another cafe I hopped back on the bus for the next drive to Fox Glacier.
This was the first real day of our tour. It began with our first wake up call and buffet breakfast. It was a novelty to have bacon, eggs and fruit, cereal and any number of juices to choose from.
After breakfast I went back to my room, collected my case and met the others at the bus. We were being dropped off at the Christchurch station for our tranzalpine train trip to Greymouth on the west coast with Tranzscenic. This was the first of our optional extra tours. We had the choice of going all the way to Greymouth or getting off the train at Arthurs Pass and completing the rest of the journey by coach. I was going the whole way. It was one of the things I’d really been looking forward to.
After leaving Christchurch station we travelled through quite flat, brown land before rising slowly into the mountains. The mountains became a lot greener too. We had a quick 10 minute stop at Springfield where we could buy souvenirs but that was really crowded so I didn’t buy anything. Apparently the stop is well known for it’s muffins but I wasn’t interested in them. Back on the train, the scenery changed once again. It was my first taste of how tall the mountains are in NZ. Many of them rise hundreds of metres straight up from the ground. Our group had most of a carriage to ourselves. Many stayed inside and tried to take photos through the window but the reflection was ruining them so I decided to go to the open carriage. I had to walk through three carriages to get there which was quite an obstacle course. However once I got there I realised I had done the right thing. It was very windy so we had to hang on tight and take our photos. It was great to feel the wind rushing through our hair and watch the mountains whizzing past. Our next stop was at Arthur’s Pass.
Arthur’s Pass is a small village in Arthur’s Pass National Park and is a very popular base for exploring the park. It is 740m above sea level and surrounded by beech forest. There is a ranger’s station, visitor centre and some accommodation but not much else in the village. It’s also the place where people who aren’t travelling the whole distance to Greymouth disembark and continue by coach, which is what a lot of people on my coach tour did. That meant the rest of us had a lot more room to spread out. After they left I bought some morning tea from the food carriage and settled back in my seat to take some photos and update my travel diary. As we left Arthurs Pass we entered the Otira tunnel, an 8.5km tunnel that took us through the mountain. It was spooky going through such a long tunnel but we were through to the other side in a matter of minutes.
The scenery changed dramtatically once we reached the other side of the tunnel. Whereas it had been cloudy but sunny on the eastern side, on the western side it was dark, misty and very gloomy. It was like being in a different country. I’ve never seen such a dramatic change before. I didn’t go back to the open carriage. I got some very interesting pictures which really showed what it was like.
After the four hour journey we reached Greymouth. The coach was waiting to collect us to drive us to Hokitika where we were going to have lunch. I was disappointed we didn’t spend any time in Greymouth. Mum and Dad had been there years before and went to a few places I would have loved to have visisted. Hokitika is only 40kms away so we were there in around 30 mins.