New Zealand- Round The World Tour 3 2004 Day 366 (176)
Wednesday 9th March (2005)
Our hostel in Hokitika was mostly populated with German guests. We tend to find that some hostels attract a majority of one specific nationality of travellers. This is usually because either the owner comes from, or that they do a lot of advertising in, that country. Whatever the reason, we were in the minority this morning around the breakfast table as the only non-native German speakers. We sat and mixed with them all anyway whilst making breakfast and packing our lunch for the day.
The hostel occupies the top studio floor of a jade shop and factory so we spent a few minutes, after packing and checking out, exploring the shop below and admiring all the wonderful things they do with the green stone. Eventually, we made our way over to the nearby hardware store to pick up a gold panning bowl. We’ve decided this would be a nice souvenir to remember our gold panning days here in New Zealand by. We also wanted to put it to good use later on this afternoon when we arrive in the next gold bearing town of Ross. The only pan they had at the hardware store was rather large and heavy so we went back over to the same gold jewellery shop we visited yesterday afternoon and picked up one of their smaller ones.
The small mining town of Ross lies just half an hour South of Hokitika and we made the journey through some rather persistent drizzle in about half an hour. The weather did clear up later in the afternoon but it has been very changeable over the past few days. Ross is a very small place with just a couple of main streets. The whole place exists purely because of the gold that was discovered back in the eighteen hundreds. New Zealand’s largest ever discovered gold nugget was found here. At over three Kilograms, it must have whipped up quite a storm back then. ‘The Honourable Roddy’, as the nugget is known, was presented to Henry V as a coronation gift after changing hands a few times first.
There is still a commercial gold mining operation in service her in Ross but being on private land, we have no hope of getting anywhere near it. Our best bet of to see what the information office has to say about where to go to try our luck. Other than the one hotel/pub here in town, where we have checked in to an upstairs ensuite room for NZ$65 (€37,70), the information office is probably the busiest place in town with the odd tourist stopping in from time to time. We rented another panning bowl and small shovel from them for NZ$5 (€2,90) and were sent on our way to the one spot on the nearby river where the public are allowed to prospect for gold. We found the spot and waded in ankle deep to see whether we could put our increasingly refined panning techniques to productive use. Sadly, we weren’t able to pluck a single flake of gold from any of the several spots along the fast flowing freshwater creek. I think the last of the gold must have been lifted from this river long ago. The slow but steady flow of tourists to this spot must have sifted through everything many times over too. I’m starting to think that the enthusiasm for, and hopefulness of, still finding any gold that is projected by the information office staff is nothing more than an attempt to keep alive what little life there is left of this near ghost town. After the cold water had drained much of our body heat from us, we went back to ask about any other spots around town that we might try but were told that this was the only one. We sat in the car and ate lunch whilst warming up a bit before going back again to try farther up the creek. When we did, we were no more successful at finding any gold but we were confronted with a strange looking creature that neither of us had seen before. We had initially thought it might be a tree kangaroo because of the way it seemed to hop up into a tree but we later learned that it was a possum. At last, we found a possum in the wild. This got our blood pumping more than the anticipation of finding gold.
Back at the pub, we sat through a rather nice dinner. With pretty much no other guests here at the moment, we had the kitchen staff all to ourselves. Just like pretty much every other pub or restaurant here in New Zealand, there are a few pokies machines sitting in the corner and these sucked another few notes from our pockets. We’re going to have to stop doing that.
The weather here is very fickle. It warms up nicely when the sun shines but cools off rapidly when the cloud comes out or the sun sets. This very large and very old pub is also quite chilly upstairs and we spent most of the evening huddled together in front of the TV for an hour before slipping into bed.