Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Our impetus for journeying to Hokitika and the west coast was a shoot Kyle had for Canoe and Kayak Magazine. He was commissioned to do portraits of two bad ass Kiwi kayakers:

Graham Charles


Paul Caffyn

Both of whose kayaking endeavors are well worth a Google.

It felt great to leave a place feeling like we saw all the good stuff (though naively). Hokitika is a small town south of Greymouth and is the bounty center for the New Zealand Greenstone (jade) known as pounamu. The river that empties into the ocean at Hokitika carries with it huge chunks of pounamu that local carvers turn into beautiful jewlery pieces and other carved works of art. The greenstone is rare and the art is an age old practice of the Maori. We met up with a local carver at Te Waipounamu and he gave us the full tour. During which Ava picked up a pounamu necklace and threw it at the carver, who later gave it to her as a gift. Kyle and I picked piece for each other and have not removed them since.
Cultural experience, check.
After downing some delicious fish and chips we headed to Hokitika Gorge to see the fabled majestic turquoise river.

It was so ravishing that I wanted to leap off the 40 foot high swing bridge into its swirling waters.

The hues of blue were not so mesmerizing as to block out the apocolyptic swarms of sand flies that bite on any area of exposed skin.

We escaped them by staying on the bridge - apparently they are afraid of heights.

Before dusk we took a trip to the ocean.

We taunted the sea gulls.

We stacked rocks,

and played with the waves.

The Pass

After spending time in Christchurch we headed up and over the mountains to the west coast. The winding pass from Christchurch to Arthur's Pass is, to put it simply, intimidating. The road itself is narrow and the beauty that surrounds it is imposing.
The sheer faces of the 1587m high mountains seem to rise vertically and with little slope into the heavens. The valley floor is wide and cut with meandering streams and rivers that slow to pause at clear lakes that sit like mirrors for the vanity of the mountains. It is nothing short of breathtaking.
As the road begins its descent into Greymouth you get to experience Kiwi ingenuity at it's finest.
Water is funneled from great heights by concrete shoots that extend, like an awning, over the highway. The highway is truely that. A narrow winding bridge that hovers in space above the turmoil of rocks and water below.

Just as you begin to zone into a peaceful state of humbleness the landscape changes to forest covered hills with enormous fern trees that seem almost tropical. Lush and green the climate becomes wetter and warmer as you approach the coast.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Napier to Wellington

We arrived in Napier, art deco capital of New Zealand, expecting to be transported to the 1930's. Being a fan of the Great Gatsby and an even bigger fan of Art Nouveaux, my expectations were set high.
In 1931, Napier experienced an earthquake that rated 7.9 on the Richter scale and it leveled the city. They decided to rebuild in the architectural style of the day: Art Deco. We found the city to be quaint and a little quiet so no need to turn on all those florescent lights that would have added some color to the town. The stained glass was impressive. It seemed every house, even the shanties were adorned with it.
I fell for this statue on the waterfront that absolutely deserves a name.

This area of New Zealand is called Hawkes Bay and it's known for producing very nice Sauvignon Blancs and Syrahs. We thought we should probably go sample some for ourselves. We visited New Zealand's oldest vineyard, The Mission Estate Winery, for a leisurely Sunday brunch.

Carrie photo

We sat in the courtyard overlooking the vineyard and all the while I felt like I should be dressed as in a Monet or Cezanne painting. It felt a little odd to step out of our hippy van and into a refined lifestyle. One which we happily played along with for a few hours.

Carrie photo

Near to Napier is a special place with an even more special name: Blow Hard Bush. A bush reserve with many beautiful species of NZ birds. It is also the home to some of the most unusual bouldering I've ever seen.

Reactor (v7)

Down in the dark of the jungle are horizontal roofs with perfect hand sized tufas. The rck is dark, the tufas light. It is an artistic contrast that even a non climber could appreciate.

Utopia (v5)

just a shorty clip

Sonic the Hedgehog (v6)

Napier was a full palette: architecture, ocean, art, wine, climbing, nature. It was definitely time to leave the north island and head south.
On our drive down to the ferry terminal city of Wellington, we had to make a few stops...

New Zealand has the best playgrounds in the world!

From the North island to the South Island

The four hour ferry ride was beautiful!