I am planning a trip to New Zealand, leaving on November 1st for
a one month RV tour of the country.
G’day Kelly; Providing the weather is kind to you, you will be most
reluctant to go home at the end of your trip; You’ll love the place!
Whilst we don’t speak American, we do talk an understandable version
of English, and we gave up eating people quite a while ago.
On a more serious note, you will find very little here in the way of
jewellery places to visit. There is a very large place (used to be a
dairy factory) at the base of the Coromandel Peninsular - an hour or
two’s drive from Auckland - which has an enormous amount and variety
of rough gemstone material - but nearly all of it is imported. The
address is:- Wilderness Gems, 3 River Road, PO Box 87, NGATEA.
Phone(07) 867 7417 Fax (07) 867 7884 They have quite a bit of jade
(popularly called greenstone (pounamu) here) but it all comes from
Hokitika on the West Coast of the South Island. Last time I was
there (admittedly several years ago) the quality of their jade was
poor; one had to really search for decent stuff. They are very
pleasant people, however; they’d probably even put you on to other
gem places you could visit.
There is some agate in the Coromandel, but nothing spectacular, and
there is a working open cast gold mine not far away from there; the
Martha Mine. I don’t know whether they accept visitors though; I
doubt it. There is some obsidian around Lake Taupo, but again, not
spectacular and difficult to find.
There is, as I have said, jade on the West Coast of the South Island,
not actually in the little town of Hokitika, though that is where the
carving and shaping factories are; they welcome visitors literally by
the bus load! They even invite one to walk around and talk to the
workpeople (buttonhole one and heshe will teach you how to polish it)
and watch the 4 & 5 foot diamond saws cutting the jade boulders.
And, of course, buy the jade artefacts, though they do have bins of
waste material which they let you fossick around and select priced
pieces. I have had one or two very nice pieces from their waste bins.
There is the occasional piece of worn jade to be picked up off the
beach close to the mouth of the Arahura River near Hokitika, but it is
usually cracked and battered from it’s journey over the boulders in
the headwaters, and scarcely worth the bother.
There is quite a bit of gold left in the lower part of the South
Island, and you can pan for it in several rivers and streams in
Central Otago. But you’ll find little more than ‘colours’. Most of
it went in the late 1800’s. They say the Shotover River in
Queenstown was the richest river in the world, and umpteen dredges
went up and down many times, removing many tons of the stuff - and
there is still the occasional tiny nugget to be found - I have two the
size of a grain of rice from the Shotover! But the country all
around there has to be seen to be believed - wildly beautiful. There
is also jet boating, river rafting, and even bunjy jumping off the
Shotover Bridge; a very long drop.
I reckon your best trick is to contact travel shops in your own area,
tell them you want info on NZ - and you’ll get inundated with
pamphlets! Then when you have a general ‘feel’ for the place, give
me a shout if you would like my 5? worth. When you get here, you
will find that every town has an Information Centre, run by local
volunteers, signposted by a large lower case ‘i’ and they will tell
you anything you want to know - with no charge.
You will find the pace of life here is far easier than what you are
probably used to; (most American visitors remark about that!) and
other than in the bigger cities like Auckland, many shopkeepers and
salesfolk will happily spare time for a brief chat. In fact outside
the cities, if you walk in parks, and so on, practically everyone you
pass will smile, nod, or say ‘lovely day’ or something.
Perhaps I should end by saying we emigrated from England in 1957. And
have never regretted it for a moment; I reckon I’m a Kiwi’ now!
Cheers and happy travelling, PS - What’s an ‘RV tour’? – John
Burgess; @John_Burgess2 of Mapua Nelson NZ