We hummed and hawed and then thought what the hell? Let’s go on the mailboat cruise. So, we have to be in Havelock around 9:15. My attempt to set my phone alarm is a miserable failure, but I wake in good time anyway, and we pack a lunch and hit the road. We park just behind the jetty, and I wander off to pay the parking fee, while Harry goes to check us in. I return to find him involved in a “fellow Scots” conversation. The skipper of the mail boat is Jim from Elgin, who spent 3 weeks in New Zealand some years ago, and fell in love with the Marlborough Sounds. It’s a bit like the West of Scotland but with far better weather. He’s settled here with wife and child and garden and does the mail boat run. The tourists make the mail service financially viable, so everyone benefits. The homes he delivers to are those beyond the reach of the normal rural mail, which travels by road. My imagination balks at the self sufficiency of people living away from mains electricity and broadband. A tough breed.
We settle at the back of the boat in the open air, before going up the steep steps to the upper deck.
A Canadian joins us, with the comment, “You look as though you’re having far too much fun!” He and his two friends have walked the Queen Charlotte track, and the Nydia track.
We move out of Havelock Marina, along a channel in the wide expanse of water.
Jim warns us that the scene will look rather different when we come back this afternoon.
After about half an hour we do the first mail drop – each of the houses has two mail bags, one delivered and one returned for the next time. The house dwellers and the mail boat clearly relish the chat. Some deliveries are groceries, and some are school supplies for distance learning without broadband access.
In between drops, Jim tells us some of the history of the mail boat run, and the people who rely on it.
There’s Wendy, who hunts possums for their fur, and has to row out to collect her supplies, since she hasn’t got a jetty. We hear her dogs announcing her arrival. Later there’s a family who are still farming sheep and cattle after six generations, in spite of the steep terrain and minimal returns. Or Bill Brownlees who has rigged up an incredible system with water driven electricity.
Then there’s Nydia Bay, with its accommodation for hikers doing the two-day walk, where a couple of Woofers meet the mail boat.
We look out for wildlife – plenty of seabirds, shearwaters and Australasian gannets, but alas no dolphins – the sea’s a bit choppy and hides any that may be there. We catch sight of a couple of little blue penguins. The same species we met on Kapiti Island a few days ago.
At lunch time we stop at Te Rawa where we eat our packed lunch and buy a lemonade, before going to admire the ‘honeymoon suite’. The owner reckons it takes him forty minutes by boat to get into town.
On we go, round Maud Island, a nature reserve where there are takahe.
Only three people live on this nature reserve. Our last stop is to pick up Murray, a third generation inhabitant who returned to the Sound to look after his mother, who has since died.
Finally, at just after five pm, we turn back into the marina at Havelock, and go to the Info Centre cafe for tea and a date scone, before returning to our magnificent house for the week. Another thoroughly satisfactory day.