115 Days on the Road
Spontaneity: it happens a lot when you’re travelling. We’re about to have our random and spontaneous experience in Hokitika – the West Coast’s “Cool Little Town”.
Our not so spontaneous plan is to go to the Tree Top Walkway today. Why? Well, we have had the amazing opportunity to do so many forest walks on this Gap Year around New Zealand so far, such as the Enchanted Forest in Taranaki, the Mangawhero Forest in Ruapehu, the lakeside forests of the Nelson Lakes, and the list goes on and on and on and on! The Treetop Walkway is a unique chance to walk among the forest canopy, rather than the usual forest floor bush walk.
Great under the rain!
Despite the grey skies, we hop in the campervan and make our way to a walkway which promises to be great under the rain!
15 minutes out of Hokitika, we arrive at the Westcoast Treetop Walkway and Cafe and are offered some effin’ huge umbrellas. As soon as we put the umbrellas up, it chucks it down! Then the rain is accompanied by thunder. Are we really going to walk among the forest on a huge metal platform during a thunderstorm?
Hoping that the weather will go as quickly as it came, we make our way up a wide gravel road into the forest.
We can see what they meant by the Treetop Walkway being “great in the rain”. The colours of the forest are so vibrant, from the green ferns to the orange fungus. But this is still the forest floor! We’ve seen it all before! Let’s get up in the canopy!
A bird’s-eye view
Soon enough, we spot the metal walkway that loops around the top of the rimu forest towering high above the ferns but all up in the rimu trees.
The thunder has stopped for the time-being so we are more inclined to step onto the metal walkway. We get a bird’s-eye view of a stream below, the tops of ferns making a perfect symmetrical pattern, and the odd bird dashing across the open space.
What surprises us the most is how much these tall rim trees, that we are so close we can touch, are swaying in the wind!
Calling it a day
Just as we think the rain has gone on for so long it might clear, we are hit with harder rain and more thunder. Taking photos and filming with one hand while risking damaging our equipment due to humidity and the splashes of rain that can’t be avoided makes our job extremely challenging. We decide that it is just not going to work. We turn around and head back to the cafe…
Bumping into a glass blower
Late afternoon tomorrow, it is meant to clear up so we really want to return then and experience the Treetop Walkway properly! Until then, we are driving back into town and regrouping at one of the town’s brilliant cafes, Stella Cafe.
Whilst sipping our coffee and watching the bees making honey within a glass hive, we get talking to a guy that just happens to own the Hokitika Glass Studio! You know, the one we walked into the other day but too late to see any glass blowing. Barry invites us to come over to the studio to watch how its done and even try to do it ourselves! Awesome! One point for spontaneity!
Hokitika Glass Studio
We hop just next door to the glass studio with its array with colours and patterns within all sorts of glass ornaments. Kiwi birds, koru, candlesticks, bowls, paperweights, swans, mushrooms, baubles, and our personal favourites, the penguins!
What’s more, you can actually watch all these trinkets being made by Anthony, who has been honing his craft for 24 years!
Barry and Anthony take us “beyond the wall” (a little Game of Thrones reference for you there) to have a closer look at the glass blowing process.
Hotter than hot
“Stand back,” Anthony says as he opens the door to a 1127 degrees-Celcius oven containing a pool of molten glass. “You won’t be wearing that jacket for long,” he says to Laura as he is currently wearing shorts and a sleeveless T.
Soon enough, we are shedding the layers as Anthony dips a metal rod in the pool of glass, dips the glass in some fine grains of coloured glass, puts the rod in another fiery heater of 417(ish) degrees to cool it down, then sits in a chair with arms to support the metal rod. The whole time, he does not stop rotating the rod with his fingers.
The glass blower at work
Now he is taking some different shaped metal tongs and pinching different parts of the glass. A shape is taking form! Is it a whale? Is it a penguin? No, it’s a swan! It’s so fascinating watching and guessing what he is about to make.
From there, he puts the end product into another oven to bake in 200+ degrees to “cool down” further and the glass can harden.
Now that we have seen Anthony make about five different ornaments in front of our eyes, it’s time for us to blow!
Anthony grabs a rod with the runny glass on it, twizzles it in his hands constantly as we both have a go at blowing the other end of the rod (cheeky)! Robin blows gently to creates a weird three-balled globe, while Laura blows as hard has she can until the glass pops at the other end. This makes the glass go thinner than paper.
Our glass blowing Souvenirs
Watching some glass blowing was something we really didn’t expect to do and it turned out to be such a fascinating art to watch! The things that they make here are so beautiful, we couldn’t resist picking up a couple of trinkets for gifts that are surprisingly affordable, considering we have just seen the effort and skill made to make such objects!
Treetop attempt # 2!
After such an awesome day, we kick back at the Mountain Jade Backpackers, watch something from their huge movie selection. Tomorrow, we will attempt the Treetop Walkway again! Wish us luck!
What animal is he making now?!
Absolutely! Check out these articles:
- 6 Reasons Why Hokitika is Such a “Cool Little Town”
- 23 Unforgettable Walks in Hokitika
- West Coast – Guide for Backpackers
See you tomorrow!