We wobbled back to our Kapitea Ridge lodge on the hilltop north of Hokitika, plonked ourselves down on the upper deck and didn’t move. Seriously.
We were a step away from heaven. We had just done a two and a half hour walk around Lake Mahinapua on the west coast of the South Island. It is the most beautiful gentle bush walk around a glassy lake on earth.
It was like stepping back in time – no sign of human life. All stillness, just nothing: 100 percent pure bliss. The beautiful native tui fed off flax seeds along the track unperturbed just a metre or so away from us.
We have done many walks around New Zealand. This was the defining moment: through the rimu grove; over the wetland boardwalk, past the blue gum stand; up and over the rough, gnarly windy track and down to the lake. We will go back again and again; and next time kayak the lake. Maybe next time have a brief drink at the Mahinapua pub, made famous on television.
We headed back the five minutes’ drive to Hokitika – or Hoki as they call it. First stop was the Hokitika Deli. The girls gave great service; fast, friendly – great coffee and yummy Greek salad. We’re exhausted but keep going in this quaint old gold mining town which once boasted 100 pubs.
Next stop, John Burns’s art gallery in a converted old storeroom. His art is sensational; so brooding; so evocative and his colours are riveting. Better than any gallery in Christchurch.
Our throats are parched so we stagger down to the West Coast Wine Company. I clasp a buttery Waimea chardonnay and Chrissy grabs a Mt Difficulty riesling. We sit out in their pebbly courtyard, put our feet up. This is a defining moment. At peace with the world and just one glass goes to our head!
We need to eat and there is only one place anyone should ever eat anywhere west of the Southern Alps and that’s Fat Pipis Pizzas. We meet owners Mike and Pam, who put a whitebait pizza in the oven for me. Drooling, drooling.
Mike takes us one door up the road and shows us over their new restaurant which he is doing up and will open in a few months’ time. It will be rammed every night. They own the land and the building – and the courtyard out the back, just right next to the ocean. I’ll be back for the opening! Even Kiwi-based London chef Peter Gordon could not resist one of their pizzas. We walked a couple of steps out the back and sat on the beach munching Pam’s whitebait pizza, just the best in the world. And Lonely Planet pretty much agrees.
With almost zero energy less, we slid slowly back to Kapitea Ridge boutique lodge, where we are staying. We stumble into our room, slip into almost next to nothing and sit out in our balcony. The sun blazing in; the waves pounding; the view majestic. Doreen, our hostess, makes us some soft juicy whitebait fritters for supper. Life doesn’t get any better. Kapitea is a tidy haven. We slept like logs until the songs of the bellbirds happily roused us just after dawn. We’ll be back and Hokitika is such a lovely quirky place they even export sock-making machines worldwide. I kid you not.
Good guy and former dairy farmer Geoff made us a perfect diced fresh fruit and yoghurt breakfast. They made us feel welcome and at home at Kapitea which is just a small slice of West Coast tranquillity.
We escaped Hokitika before the annual Wildfoods Festival – but if you like worms, snails, grubs, slugs and other crazy food, it’s on March 12 this year.