Jolyon Atwooll, The Daily Telegraph, October 17, 2013
Local media reported there was only one copy of ‘The Luminaries’ left in Hokitika on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island yesterday morning. Not surprisingly, perhaps: the day before, the novel, written by the 28-year-old New Zealander Eleanor Catton and set in the picturesque seaside town during the area’s 1860s mining boom, was declared this year’s Man Booker prize winner.
Julia Bradshaw of the Hokitika Museum told 3 news : "People are going to want to see where the story was set and I think it's a really good thing."
Here are 10 activities on offer – suggested by Tourism New Zealand – to those following the trail of the world created in the book.
Join the gold rush
Eleanor Catton‘s novel is set at the height of the gold rush in the 1860s. The largest gold nugget ever found (2.8kg) was unearthed in Ross – 30km (18.5 miles) south of Hokitika – in 1909. Visitors can try their luck panning in the historic goldfields of Ross and Goldsborough. You can even buy your own gold pan and try your luck in an official fossicking area.
Cycle the West Coast Wilderness Trail
The West Coast Wilderness Trail will be an-120km long (74.5 miles), four-day cycle trail running through historical gold and rail trails between Ross and Greymouth, passing through Hokitika along the way.
It passes from coast to wetlands, rainforest and lakes, and is an exhilarating way to see the area.
Take the TranzAlpine train journey
The TranzAlpine Rail Journey from Christchurch to Greymouth (north of Hokitika) has been rated as one of the ‘top six train journeys in the world’. The train passes through 16 tunnels and several viaducts with panoramic views of snow-capped peaks, icy rivers, beech forests, gorges and river valleys.
Go hunting and gathering
Hokitika’s Wildfoods festival is a weekend where everything from huhu beetle grubs to seagull eggs are fair game. It shows off the culinary creativity of the area, including live entertainment and cooking demonstrations.
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Walk through the treetops
The exhilarating new West Coast Treetops Walkway, 20m above the forest floor, winds for more than 450 metres through rainforest giants in the Lake Mahinapua Scenic Reserve.
Go “tramping” (walking) in the bush
The west coast of New Zealand is great for walkers. For an easy gold rush-inspired bush walk try the Ross Historic Goldfields walks, starting 30km south of Hokitika.
The one-hour loop Water Race track climbs to an old hillside channel, which it follows through regenerating native forest, numerous old gold workings, tunnels, several dam sites and a replica miner's hut.
Within Hokitika itself, the Gorge Walk provides stunning views of the Hokitika gorge and river from the swing bridge. For a longer day 'tramp', head to Goldsborough – once a thriving mining settlement – where walks range from four hours one way.
Hit the rapids
There are plenty of white-water rafting and kayaking opportunities in Hokitika – with rivers dropping from the Southern Alps to the sea. There are level 1 and 2 rapids for beginners while the more adventurous can enjoy “hell runs” – through sheer gorges and back country wilderness
Stock up on greenstone
Before the gold rush, Hokitika was known as a source of pounamu (precious greenstone/jade), from the Arahura River, which enters the sea just north of Hokitika. It was used by Maori for weapons, tools and ornaments; now it is prized as jewellery and New Zealand souvenir. Tours are available to greenstone carvers at work, and several Hokitika galleries and shops specialise in jewellery made from the stone.
Take a scenic flight over the glaciers
The topography of the Southern Alps is stunning. Scenic flights take off from Hokitika and are a great way to take in the huge glaciers (Fox and Franz Josef), ice caves and snowy landscapes. Or you could try a “hell hike” – landing on the glacier yourself.
Drive the coast road and visit the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks
The Pancake Rocks at Dolomite Point near Punakaiki are a heavily eroded limestone area where the sea bursts through blowholes. They are the most popular natural attraction on the West Coast with good reason (and they do actually look like pancakes).
- For more information on visiting New Zealand see newzealand.com