Where We Be
The West Coast, New Zealand
There’s not a single traffic light along the entire length of
the West Coast of the South Island! This whole region is a
UNESCO World Heritage Site. A 40 km (24 mi) strip of land
lies sandwiched between the Tasman Sea to the west
and the Southern Alps to the east. The region has the
feel of the Fiordlands with its lush beech forests and
highly capable sandflies. Here are the highlights for us:

FOX & FRANZ JOSEPH GLACIERS. We hiked up the Fox
Glacier Valley and ended within 50 yards of Fox Glacier's
massive terminal moraine. At Franz Joseph Glacier (18
miles north), we hiked up Sentinel Rock Trail for fantastic
views. What is most amazing about these glaciers is their
proximity to temperate rainforest. Seeing “ice rivers”
adjacent to lush green forests is both odd and wonderful.

KIWI SIGHTING. Possibly the highlight of our time on the
West Coast was our night-time kiwi tour in the tiny
seaside town of Okarito (pop. 35). Okarito is the only
place other than Stewart Island where you have a halfway
decent chance of seeing a brown kiwi in the wild. Our
guide Ian took six of us out into the bush at night and
strung us out in a very long line. Each of us had whistles,
and we were supposed to signal each other down the
line if we saw or heard a kiwi. It was a very strange
feeling standing alone in the dark in the middle of the
bush, listening to every rustle and tiny twig snap and
wondering if a kiwi might be near. Robin said she was
scared a stoat or a possum might jump out of the bush
and startle her. The moreporks (owls) kept calling out
“More Pork!” Mostly what I heard was the whine of
mosquitoes in my ears. Thankfully, Ian had provided us
with hats that were draped with mosquito netting.

It was nearly 11 pm when we heard a whistle from the far
end of the line. We ran as fast as we could to get there. A
steady rustling in the undergrowth indicated the kiwi was
only a foot or two away. “There it is!” Ian breathed. In the
next few moments the kiwi emerged onto the trail. We
could see her quite clearly in the full moonlight. She was
brown and soft-feathered and round with a long curved
beak and no tail. She stood stock still for a moment or
two, then dashed into the bush. “Congratulations,” Ian
told us, “you’re now among the select few who have
seen a brown kiwi in the wild!”

JADE CARVING. Hokitika is the jade carving capital of New
Zealand. We decided to do-it-ourselves and carve our
own jade “taonga” (treasure) at Bonz ‘n Stonz for our
moms' birthdays under the guidance of master craftsman
Steve Gwaliasi. We drew our designs on paper,
transferred them to jade blocks, then used wet-grinders
to grind the jade down to the outlines of the pattern. This
was my favorite part of the day—shaping the rough
design to something close to its final form. The rest of
the day we drilled the two holes and shaped the figure-
eight at the top (the scariest part), then polished and
buffed them to a sheen.
Bob's finished product
Mirror-like Lake Matheson near Fox Glacier. Wow!
Fox Glacier and the rainforest are almost touching -- how strange is that!
Robin wears neon-yellow for the night-time kiwi tour
Same pic as above but larger (gorgeous Lake Matheson)
My initial concept drawn onto the jade block -- and the finished product
Robin grinds the jade using a wet grinder -- master craftswoman at work!
We carved jade pendants  for our moms' birthdays in Hokitika -- my finished piece of jade jewelry is shown above against the black velvet
Bustling downtown Okarito, population 35
We went kayaking on Okarito Lagoon, New Zealand's largest wetlands area
Cute kiwi doll in our room in Okarito, where we got to see the real thing
Robin having a nice 'n easy day in Okarito
Robin's initial concept drawn onto the jade block -- and her finished product