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9. The Southern Alps

Day 9 – Wednesday 27 February – Kiwis, greenstone and ice

We left Greymouth to go to Hokitika home of quite a few official 'New Zealand Greenstone' jade art (‘Pounamu’) outlets. We bought a jade necklace for my Mum. Jeff also bought me a fishing hook greenstone pendant necklace that symbolises strength and leadership as well as abundance and prosperity; so everything really(!). It's lovely anyway. You’re supposed to receive jade pendants as a gift from someone else so that its powers work. All greenstone belongs to the Maori; and this is a source of some tension between non-native New Zealanders and the indigenous Maori people. Only Maori people are supposed to ‘mine’ greenstone, and they have agreed to supply Pounami outlets; some of which are owned by non-Maori folk. Jeff didn't want a necklace, but I did plan to buy him something. In Hokitika we also visited a professional photographer’s shop and a Kiwi Centre where we saw numerous indigenous lizards, frogs and fish and two Kiwis in captivity. They’re in captivity because they’re part of a breeding program, as Kiwis are endangered. To see them in the wild, you’d probably have to camp out for a long time and wait…


After Hokitika we made our way past the forgotten gold miner’s towns of Hari Hari and Ross. We passed areas of woodland on the hillsides where recent 'slips' had happened. This is when the rain causes landslides that leave muddy scars behind. These slips can be quite dangerous because they take trees and debris with them onto the roads below. 


We drove on down the West Coast to Westland National Park; toward the Southern Alps to the Franz Josef Glacier. We went on a little walk up to see the Franz Josef Glacier from a viewing point. The glacier has receded quite a bit; and the face of the glacier was quite high up in the mountains. This is the story all over the world with receding glaciers and calving icebergs in Greenland, due to global warming. We went on to Fox, another glacial town; and booked into our motel. I'm really impressed with motels in New Zealand. They are so clean and well equipped the people who are travelling and moving on. We had a lovely fried seafood rice meal at a small cafe in Fox for dinner before going back to the motel. We woke up the next morning to the sound of helicopters preparing to take tourists on flights over the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers.


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