A big hello from New Zealand to all the Perceptive Travel readers.

As an introduction to my world, I’d like to take you all on a road trip…to the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island.

Last week I decided to run away from home for a few days. I was tired and grumpy – a sure sign that it was time to get away from the computer and spend some time in the great outdoors and recharge the batteries. And where better to do this than the West Coast.

After all, it’s only a three hour drive from my hometown of Christchurch if you go via Arthur’s Pass (an alternative route, via the Lewis Pass, will take you a few extra hours).

Leave at sunrise and you can be on the Coast mid morning, just in time for a late breakfast at the popular Cafe de Paris in Hokitika. Located on the corner of Tancred Street, this cafe has been serving up ‘French food with a Kiwi accent’ for the past 20 years. But before you place your order, go across the street to the Information Center (housed in the historic Carnegie Building) and pick up some brochures and maps to study while you eat.

Don’t let the towns quiet demeanour fool you. It might seem like a sleepy little town but there’s more to Hokitika than meets the eye. It has a wild side that shines through every March when the Wild Food Festival comes to town and challenges those with cast iron stomachs to participate in the ultimate taste test. We are not talking about the traditional Sunday roast here. We are talking weird, whacky, and downright strange dishes. Dishes like ‘crouching grasshoppers’, ‘worm terrine’ and ‘bull semen shooters’.

I was too late for this years Wild Food Festival but that was okay. I had another challenge in mind. I wanted to do some jade carving and create my own taonga (treasure).

It would, of course, been much easier to slip into one of the many jade studios lining the streets of Hokitika and purchase a jade pendant. But anyone could do that. I wanted to do something different.

So I headed for the Bonz ‘n’ Stonz Studio and Workshop a couple of doors down from the Cafe de Paris. Run by Steve Gwaliasi, this carving workshop is truly a hands-on experience. From tracing the design onto the jade to the final polish and buff, the work is all your own. It’s messy work – the jade is held under running water while you grind away the sides and carve out the design. Along the way, I was splattered, dusted, and attacked by rotating sandpaper but luckily no fingers or blood loss occurred.

The gentle guidance, instruction, and direction by Steve (and his apprentice) make it safe and easy – so much so that the final product looks and feels as good as anything I could have bought in the studio shop. Granted, there are some imperfections, but they are my imperfections and they make my jade pendant a real treasure.

So where, you might ask, is this magnificant creation? Why haven’t you added a before and after photo?

All I can say is ‘technical difficulties’. I’m having trouble getting the images transferred from camera to computer…but as soon as I get it sorted I will be showing off my handwork.

Tomorrow: The Journey Continues – From Jade Carving to Ice Climbing.