Pelorus Bridge – Circle Walk
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.
28 Nov Lazy morning gives way to Picton, cafe, shops, a walk, and blue cod and chips in Havelock, and a drive back under the full moon, whose markings are inverted. The moon’s reflection in the still waters of the sound is clear and dramatic.
This morning we wake up to find the verandah wet. Rain? We haven’t seen any since the tropical downpour in Port Douglas. We even spread washing out inside to dry, as it looks unlikely to stay dry all day.
After coffee, Harry decides that Blenheim is the place to go.
A mere hour’s drive away, and a pleasant town. Bigger than it looks at first, with lots of facilities. We park, wander, buy a “home-made lemonade” from a man who tells us his mum was from Birmingham, and he and his wife lived and worked in London for a couple of years.
We eat our cheese and crackers and drink the lemo on a bench near the market square – another slightly incongruous mock Tudor clock. My faithful Opinel knife cuts the cheese.
Back to the car, and then on to the Aviation Heritage Centre at Omaka,
just outside the town – an excellent display of genuine and reconstructed world war 1 planes, some of which are still flown in exhibitions. Alongside these planes, there are films relating to the time, uniforms and other ephemera from the Allies and the other side. Models of people engaged in various activities add to the atmosphere. The whole is housed in a large building with subdued lighting. Peter Jackson, who directed Lord of the Rings is an aviation and WW1 enthusiast , owns some of the displays, and was instrumental in setting up the displays.
We arrive half an hour before closing time, but we’re told that they kick everyone out an hour after that. Last entry at 4 pm. This gives us plenty of time to look and absorb.
A refreshing change in some ways. At least we’re not having to hide from the strong sun!
Along the road from Picton to Blenheim we saw the “shoe fence’ referred to here by Robyn Carter, aka The Ambling Rambler.
Dec 2nd to Kaikoura
The cleaning, the disposal of rubbish, the filling and return of the hire car , check-in of our luggage for KiwiRail, then a wander round the metropolis of Picton, coffee in Le café , sarnies in the park near the playground, as we watched kids chasing ducks, and the Interislander coming into port.
Back to the station in time to board the train.
At first the word scenic seemed an exaggeration. We made our way between hills which looked bleak and bare, some of them had been cleared by logging. Then a patch of wasted willows – more unwelcome invaders needing to be eradicated? The farmsteads looked like temporary settlements, the sort of place that is put up on a hurry and the owners never quite get round to replacing. Old machinery rusts away before it has a chance of being reused. Cows and sheep are slightly fewer than on the lusher pastures.
Then we pass vineyards, vines in rows so regular that you see patterns in all directions. The train makes a short stop at Blenheim to drop and pick up a few passengers. There’s Lake Grasmere, and the salt pans, where sea water is evaporated by sun and wind. Interesting, but not scenic.
The commentary on the headphones is sporadic and laconic.
As we continue the scenery improves, with a magnificent view of the snow capped Mt Tapuae-o-Uenuku (2885m). This was used by Edmund Hillary as practice for Everest.
We cross the Clarence River, and there’s a tale of a boat lost while the captain was “entertaining a lady in his cabin”, and further tales of him abandoning the ship, and being drowned with vast amounts of treasure which are still on the seabed somewhere.
A little further south we see a colony of New Zealand fur seals, once hunted to near extinction, now recovering. They loll about idly on the rocks, though I spot two having a set to.
The mountains of the Seaward Kaikoura Ranges, are still in snow-capped evidence as we pull in to Kaikoura station. We are spending the night here, in the Aspen Court Motel.
Once we’ve found it and booked in we laze for a while before hot-footing it into town to find a meal – at the Adelphi, where a Spanish waitress serves us, and later explains that everything shuts down at 9pm, though at the height of summer they may stretch to oh – 10pm.
We walk back admiring the mountains to the north, and the almost overdone sunset to the west.
The motel was pretty decent, but a bit noisy compared to our previous isolation.
We took the local shuttle taxi to station and whale watch place, where we waited for about half an hour to see if they would sail. We whiled away the time with decent coffee and toast. Then on screen the announcement changed from pending, to cancelled. “seas too rough for safe sailing”. The later trips which were probably ok to run wouldn’t be back in time for our train, so we decided to walk along the esplanade, and out to the seal colony on the headland of the peninsula. The wind was still fairly strong.
Out past endless motels, and a park where a plaque explained that Kaikoura was name (meaning the crayfish?) because a Maori chief had stopped to cook food here, while on a journey chasing three of his wives who had left him. Not a popular guy. When at last he found the first one she had been changed into greenstone. He found the other two and the same fate had befallen them. Anything better than returning to their husband?
Alongside this legend, were the street names – Yarmouth, Ramsgate, Margate not forgetting Scarborough.
We passed the New Wharf, and then the Old Wharf, established by a certain Mr Fyffe, an early settler and whaler. There’s a memorial garden in town, set up by Lydia Washington to commemorate those who died in the world war, and decorated by whale bones.
After the Old Wharf we came to a fishing area which is being conserved to replenish stocks, then came to Harmer’s beach and a drinks and food stall by the roadside. There’s a board walk and benches erected by Kaikoura Lions. A small freshwater area supports several families of mallard, lots of ducklings, though there was a squabble of gulls which made me wonder if canard à l’orange was on their menu. Right at the end of the peninsula we reached the car park leading on to the seal colony. Not many seals around, and those lumbering and lazy.
We climbed the path to the top of Point Kean, but didn’t have time to walk much further.
The noticeboard map of the peninsula looks like a suitably mythical beast.
However, we had a train to catch, so we made our way back towards the station with a pause to finish off some of our lunch supplies, attended by a seagull. I found myself harbouring murderous feelings towards it, and was sorely tempted to lob pebbles in its direction, but restrained myself.
At the station we sat outside, muffled in coat and hat, writing draft blog entries.
Inside for a coffee we noticed that the later whale watching trips were cautioning of the danger of seasickness, but they had at least gone!
Too late for us, as we had to go away on the Coastal Pacific KiwiRail south to Christchurch, through scenery which may have been less majestic than some, but was refreshingly agreeable.
We took a taxi from the station to reach Red Door Cottage, which is spectacularly good, and welcoming, with lots of basics in stock – always a major plus.
After a brief chill out, we explored the nearby Papanui Road, and the Merivale Centre, which yielded a few relatively expensive restaurants, and a decent supermarket. Eggs and beans on toast was,our gourmet choice for the evening, before a quick watch of Tv news and bed.
Dec 4th Christchurch
The sleep of the log like , followed by a leisurely breakfast. This place is beautiful, very similar to England in its vegetation, slightly warmer and drier in climate, perhaps, and we have a clover covered lawn, surrounded by roses, receiving the morning summer sun. Someone’s vision of heaven, and they don’t even live here themselves.
It’s not far from the city and there’s plenty of traffic noise this morning not to mention a gardener with a chainsaw, clearly employed to keep the immediate areas up to scratch, or not to scratch. Lawns, hedges trimmed while you wait? I ramble . . .And then play about with the time settings on my camera. I may have dislodged the battery when replacing the memory card.
Coffee on the veranda, with the awning pulled down part way in the bright sunshine. Then we decide we’ll walk into the CBD. All along the way there is some evidence of rebuilding after the earthquake damage from Feb 2011. As we walk along Victoria Road we see more of it. There’s a clock tower built for Queen Vic’s jubilee in 1897. The decorative ironwork at the top is bent, and we notice cracks in the brickwork, and the fact that the whole structure is held up by props at the base. It’s surrounded by the usual fence, with warning that it’s unsafe.
Closer in there are huge patches where buildings have been demolished.
We walk along close to the river – Avon is its English name. When we reach the safety-fenced Bridge of Remembrance, we turn left into the Re-Start container mall. Lively and hopeful in the face of tragedy and adversity. We shop a bit, and get a cold drink.
We go back to the bridge. The river is delightful with clear green water and ducks. There are grassy banks and further along you can have a ride in a punt. A darker note on the billboard – “we can show you where many of the city’s iconic buildings once stood. ”
We wander by the river through the park near the hospital and then the botanic gardens . All is green, peaceful and dappledly shady. Much like a hot summer day in England. Near a children’s paddling pool and playground we stop for an ice cream.
Gradually we make our way back, for a cuppa, and time to relax.
We walked again. This time to Mona Vale gardens, and Riccarton Bush. Both houses are still closed, and undergoing repairs, but the gardens at Mona Vale are spectacular. I can imagine my mother’s parents going into raptures over them. My grandparents always leap into my mind whenever I visit a well-tended display of roses.
Huge lawns sweep to the small river. Seats are dotted about, and a bridge with wooden sides recalls willow pattern plates.
A few people sit around, youngsters shout and laugh as they run through a water spray. A young woman lies down working on a laptop.
The large white conservatory, the Bath House, is empty, but near by the formal arches of the rose garden attract us, and just opposite, past a modern statue of Eros, is a pond full of water lilies – so full that young ducklings walk over the leaves towards the food source they’ve identified, picnicking lily-worshippers.
We sit in the shade at a picnic table for a while, then move away. Along the path I tread on a large dry leaf , so big that I think I’ve dropped something. I search through my bag – no camera. Back to the table and there it is. Ok, it’s my cheap one, but I’m pleased to find it within two minutes of losing it. Memo to self – check, double check.
Jane Deans was largely responsible for the planting. The bush is a section of native trees, now surrounded by a pest-proof fence. We noticed more birdsong in there – a tui was singing.