We rounded out our wild weekend in Hokitika with a well-deserved cappuccino and basket of wedges to introduce our internals back to food that sits within the “normal” range. After a short wander up and down the main streets of Hokitika (short due to a serious lack of shops being open, this despite it being the biggest weekend on Hokitika’s tourism calendar, although we did get to play with real gold at the Gold Room – that stuff is seriously heavy), we stopped in at Stumpers cafe down by the beach.
The welcome was most un-West Coast like and we hung around the counter unsure whether they were actually open for business. Finally, a young girl nervously made eye contact and we ordered 2 cappuccinos and wedges. Unfortunately this was her first time using the EFTPOS machine and I stared at a screen that wasn’t giving me any prompts while she waited for something to happen, possibly imagining the ‘zip zap’ fairies would do the rest. They didn’t and in the end she roped someone else in to help and after a short training session my money had been taken and the transaction was complete.
We chose a nice table by the window and began the customary ‘hope and wait’. It wasn’t long before the cappuccinos arrived but sadly after some good froth we were greeted with weak coffee, more latte than cappuccino. But still no wedges. I was starting to think after all the fun with the EFTPOS machine that maybe the order never actually got to the kitchen. 15 minutes turned into 20 and I’d decided that I’d make a small enquiry. If they’d forgotten, I’d get my $9 back and be on my way. Strangely just as I asked they appeared – like magic. The manager was coming out with them but saw me and thought I’d enjoy the privilege of carrying them myself – of course, why wouldn’t I? That’s what customers are there for, carry their own food, fix their own electronic transactions and be nice to themselves. To their credit the wedges were hot and crispy, although the plum sauce was an odd addition to the plate. After our experience and casually observing how other customers got treated, I’d give the place 4 out of 10 – nice building, layout and location but the poor customer service was disappointing.
Our other food experiences over the weekend were probably just as noteworthy. Wandering the Wildfoods festival on Saturday was as much a gastronomic roller-coaster as it was a visual feast of the human zoo – crazy outfits and drunken antics is just entertainment waiting to happen. The whole event seemed to be well organised and you would expect that considering it has been running for 21 years now. Like a lot of these types of festivals, it has degenerated into more a drink-fest with the huhu grubs and mountain oysters an interesting side act but it’s still a lot of fun and I’m glad we got to be a part of it, even if it was more as observers than participants.
We went to the Elemeno P concert on the Friday night and for $20 it was a pretty good deal, with a bunch of oddball entertainers as the warm-up acts including a fire show with Chris Devious, and the Vague-As Brothers (bad karaoke), who kept the crowd mildly amused but who are we kidding, everyone was there to see one of the biggest NZ bands, Elemeno P, rock the stage. 10pm came round and the rowdy drunks surged towards the stage. We were right up the front against the rope barrier with nowhere to go so we had to contend with a bit of pushing from behind and over-eager 14 year old girls wearing just slightly too much to be referred to as naked but I felt sorry for the security guards, backs against the stage, getting groped and manhandled like they were fair game. Elemeno P didn’t disappoint and did all the favourites with a few extras and nice drum/percussion solo between Dave Gibson and Scotty (which I’ll be adding to YouTube soon).
Saturday arrived soon after and we headed to Cass Square for the festival around 10am. It was a good time to walk freely around the different food stalls without worrying someone was about to condition your hair with some West Coast lager (Monteiths lost the contract – either something to do with moving the brewing to Auckland or wanting a bigger cut, who knows). When you consider how many different types of animals, insects etc are on this planet the actual range at the festival is pretty small, with venison appearing frequently as the timid man’s choice. Crickets, sandfly toffees (the stall owner couldn’t confirm whether it contained the blood of a strange human or not), mountain oysters, ostrich pies, cow colostrum, worms, huhu grubs, whitebait, lion balls (authenticity untested), punga and cava were some of the offerings on display. The stall owners all knew they would be busy in the afternoon when the alcohol started to take over that part of the brain that makes rational decisions, but for now it was mostly just curious passers-by like me.
We stuck around until just after five enjoying all the programmed entertainment (New Entrants, Black Velvet and the NZ Army Band were all good fun) and the unintentional entertainment like the Indians and the Power Rangers invading the stage while the Vague-As Brothers were belting out YMCA. The list of conquests for the day included: worms in red bull, rose petal wine, jeds moonshine, whitebait patties, garlic snails, pickled huhu grub, cava, punga, bratworst & sauerkraut, white bread (buttered too), dutch donuts, venison sausage and, yes, the one and only, pukekohe, which tasted a lot like chewy beef. I wondered how many festival-goers would be sick the next day and unable to trace it to an excess of alcohol or food poisoning.
It was a great weekend and the fabulous drive through the majestic Arthurs Pass and across the Otira viaduct (where, for the official record, I did not feed the keas) makes it all worthwhile. I did spare a thought for the volunteers who were in charge of clean-up the next day. We strolled down to Cass Square Sunday afternoon taking Bailey for a walk and there was rubbish everywhere, including plenty of broken beer bottles on the footpath. I guess they’ll console themselves knowing they’ve made more money in one day than they will for the whole year. And the residents will reclaim their sleepy town until the same time next year when they’ll do it all again.