Part Ten! Greymouth is famous for being a source of pounamu, or New Zealand jade. It’s only found on the west coast of the South Island, and when storms wash new rocks down the Grey River, people go out looking for pounamu.
This stone is significant in Maori culture for several reasons. First, because it was historically used instead of metal to form their best tools and jewelry. Second, since the stone is porous, it absorbs one’s natural oils and, it is believed, one’s spirit, which is carried forever within the stone. Third, its relative rarity makes it precious. Though nephrite jade can be found around the world, it is only found in a very small portion of New Zealand. It’s also a protected natural resource, with the NZ government recognizing the Westland tribes that traditionally controlled pounamu trade as having legal ownership of NZ pounamu starting in 1997.
This is the work of Garth Wilson, who has a lot of soul and commitment to authenticity. He and his family find all the pounamu he uses in his work. His workshop and store is adjacent to his house, so he doesn’t travel to a separate place to work. He doesn’t sell any of his stuff through any outlets–just from him.
After our stay in Greymouth, we headed north to Motueka on the newly-reopened highway. This is agricultural country, with a little town you might recognize the name of:
Braeburn apples, ripening in the New Zealand summer.
In Braeburn, there is the loveliest little U-pick berry place where we found ripe, huge, mouth-watering berries. I was picking next to a lovely white-haired lady whose husband came up and said, “Are you ready, dear?”
She said, “No… not quite yet.”
He said in an understanding tone, “Yes, the hunter-gatherer instinct is strong.”
This was just one berry! They’re a huge variety of blackberry, the Karaka, that was bred specifically for this location. They’re amazingly fragrant and helped make up for our sorely-missed berrying trips on Bainbridge last summer.