Festival Forays – Hokitika (Part One)

“On a Mish” #279 Festival Forays – Part One. Hokitika Wild Foods Festival. Te Anau to Hokitika. 9.3.2019. It is not surprising that the Hokitika Wild Foods Festival sells out each year. To go with the amazing food is the incredible atmosphere and hospitality of the people of the west. To top everything off is the fact that the South Island’s West Coast is one of New Zealand’s most beautiful and pristine areas. Bush and forest covers from snowline to the surf on the beaches, and above stands the country’s biggest peaks. I haven’t visited the coast as much as I would have liked to, and on this adventure I was going to find out what I had been missing out on. As a crew (on the Fiordland Navigator) we had saved our tips with the idea of using the cash to fund our trip on the coast…

As it was a very busy year in Patea / Doubtful Sound we had easily enough money to pay for the festival and to also pay for a vehicle to get us there. The scene was now set for an epic, and after meeting up in Te Anau, we piled into the Mercades Sprinter and headed west. I have only been over Haast Pass(562m) once in the other direction, and on this trip I not only was going in the opposite direction, I also was a passenger with large windows to look out of. We crossed over the pass and made our way down to the coast, and on the way we stopped in at the legendary Hard Antler Bar & Restaurant for an epic lunch. The first day ended in the small village of Fox Glacier, and with clouds covering the peaks behind we spent the night chatting and getting excited about the festival. An early-ish start the next day was rewarded with views of the massive peaks above the village. On the journey we got classic West Coast views of Aoraki / Mt Cook(3724m) and Mt Tasman(3497m), a view I had seen many times in pictures and books, and was now taking in for the first time in person. Eventually the winding road made its way to Hokitika, and as we rolled up to the supermarket for supplies we could see the town was packed with people. Our campsite was in the grounds of the old Seaview Hospital, and with the slight elevation of the hill the hospital is built on, we could look out at the Tasman Sea and the town below. Now ready for battle, we headed down the hill and into town. The rumbles in my belly were telling me it was time for a feed and luckily for me I had a whole festival dedicated to kai. To go with the weird and wacky foods were delightful delicacies like Whitebait patties, oysters and Blue Cod. For me the highlight was the Nz Army band playing all the classic kiwi songs, enhanced by the many instruments of the band. Before finishing off the day we ventured into town and down to the beach for some fireworks, then it was time for some bar crawling.

A Glorious West Coast Sunset

Early-ish the next morning I woke feeling better than I thought I was going to, and in no time we were packed up and on the road heading for our final camping spot in Hawea. With passion in his voice the skipper / driver said we must head to Okarito Lagoon on the journey. The detour was definitely worth it when we saw the little village, lagoon and beach. Looking east from the beach we could see the countless snow capped peaks of the Southern Alps, a truly dramatic demonstration of New Zealand’s natural diversity. It was now time to head back east and our last night together on our adventure. While watching a perfect sunset on Lake Hawea we appreciated how lucky we were not only to avoid rain, but also have days full of sunshine and good times. Years of hearing about the festival had increased the excitement, and when reminiscing about it I can say that the festival was even better than expected. I’m rather easy to please, and with food, views and music and Hokitika Wild Foods Festival ticked all the boxes and more!

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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