Hokitika on the Beach at Sunset
Driving on roads less traveled, I repeatedly slam on the breaks of my red rental car to gawk at the wave-carved rocks and listen to the unending surf pounding the west coast of New Zealand
's South Island. In Hokitika (population just under 3,000), seaside setting for the bestseller, The Luminaries, I meet civilization again. Quaint shops line the streets selling beachy kitsch and the green carvings of the Maori. I stop at a charity shop to purchase a wine glass in anticipation for a picnic on the beach, not wanting to spoil New Zealand's fine wine by drinking out of a paper cup. At a beachside cabin next to mine, four men sit on the porch drinking beer as they wait for the sun to drop into the ocean. On the beach, revelers gather driftwood for bonfires and create monuments that throw the sun's fire back at it. Dogs scamper toward the waves, picking up coveted pieces of firewood, while their owners stop to chat with me remarking on the sunset that is sure to be amazing and on the picnic I have spread out of cured olives, smoked salmon, and crackers and cheese. Perched on a piece of driftwood in the waning light, a paper napkin spread on my lap, I sip my wine while I wait for the spectacular sunset.