On a road trip up the west coast of New Zealand's South Island last March, I became a bit obsessed with one particular entry in Let's Go New Zealand: 'If it crawls, it's dinner at the phenomenally popular Wildfoods Festival, during the second weekend in March. Opossum, kangaroo, and grasshopper are among the tamer entrees. Book accommodations at least six months ahead.' It was six days before, but no problem—we were driving a 1991 Nissan Vanette with a double bed in the back.
Hokitika, normally a quaint town with wrinkled old men on rockers outside their clapboard antique stores, was bursting at the seams with over 20,000 people filing in for the annual celebration of the West Coast's local culture: crazy cuisine, cold Monteith's beer, and lively music. Admission is about $21 U.S. ($17.50 if you buy in advance), though once inside the gates, I coughed up a few bucks at each stand thanks to my try-anything-once attitude. I slurped down shots of moonshine and soup made with deer genitals, and averted my own eyes as I gobbled up crocodile (it tastes like chicken!), 'sushi' with live worms, and huhu grubs.
Even at the end of the day (when the festival was technically over), the revelry didn't stop: The majority of Hokitika's guests stuck around to show their wild sides, carousing through the streets, cheering and dangling off balconies—New Zealand's own little Bourbon Street. Many had come in groups, brandishing matching homemade T-shirts, animal tails or, like one creative team of 20-something guys, bee costumes complete with tiny yellow tutus.
This year's festival falls on this Saturday, March 10. Who's ready for pig's eye mac'n'cheese?