Nov. 1 I lied we really are in another town, Hokitika. We will go to Franz Josef in two days. Hokitika is the plain sister to Punakaiki’s beauty. Her coastlines are straight without the uplifting rock formations. Her waves are sedate and lack intensity.
She does have a southwesterly wind which made G and I hunker down in a sandpit nestled in reeds like two sand pipers awaiting a calmer day.
Another thing she has which Punakaiki did not is a downtown. It is a real town with a museum and a historical walk around its quay. Their local museum is in a former Carnegie library. Like many of these buildings, the city council wanted to demolish it but a group of citizens stepped forward, fund raised, and renovated the building. It now houses a museum which details the history of the city.
Another fun museum is the sock machine museum which is housed in a retail establishment which, of course, sells socks.
The older woman who owns the establishment has been collecting sock machines for many years. She has sock machines for the home and then machines that are set for factory production.
She ran one of the latter for us and it would produce 100 socks an hour. They come out like a narrow, long (really long!) scarf which is cut into individual socks.
The only hand work involved is sewing the heel pieces together. It was quirky and more than a bit entertaining.
The other interesting store was one called The Possum Store.
In New Zealand the possums are considered pests and are hunted. Their pelts are sold and their fur is removed and used to make sweaters, gloves, and knitting yarn. G wants to come back to NZ to be a possum hunting hillbilly. He figures that the NZ government would give him a work permit if he would promise to rid the land of this nasty interloper. I should note that these possums are not related at all to the ugly American possum and really are quite cute. However, they are partially responsible for the kiwi bird’s endangered status and so their pelts can be taken to the corner store and sold.
Going downtown is really a challenge for us. G and I are adjusting to cars coming from different directions. Well, really, we have gotten compulsive about looking both ways, then looking again, and again and, finally, crossing the street. The problem is round abouts—just when you think it is clear, here comes another car and you don’t know where they will go to! We’ve been known to give up in frustration and cross on down the street. We’re sure we provide the locals with a humorous moment!
We stayed at the Drifting Sands hostel. It is an older house which has only 13 beds. A two minute walk out the back put us on the beach; a five minute walk on the beach put us in town. The first night we were there all 13 beds in the hostel were full; the next night we were the only ones. It was like renting a home on the beach except the manager, Mike was there. He was an interesting fellow who had a varied career as a pilot, pilot instructor, teacher, bar manager and, now, hostel manager. He regaled us with WWII stories as told to him by the older patrons of his pub. He also would pop out periodically to add coal to the coal burning stove. It not only heated the house but also the water heater. G had fabricated stories about why the houses had 3' steel pipes sticking from their roofs. He told me they were either wife or cell phone antennas. I thought they were lightning rods. He pooh poohed my idea. It turns out they are vents to release excess heat from the coal stoves. Live and learn every day!
They take earthquakes rather seriously around here. The west coast has both the Pacific and Australian plates running under it. In Hoketika, a large stone Catholic Church had a chain fence around it with signs admonishing people not to cross the barrier. It had been declared a danger zone in the event of an earthquake. It had the appearance of a fully functioning church with cut lawn and sign announcing service times, but it was silent as the flock had left.