Backpacking Pensioners travel blog

The mail boat

Leaving Havelock

Collecting the poast

A view on the mail run

Another mail drop

Another view on the mail run

Arriving at Te Rawa Resort

Where is my biscuit

A view on the mail boat

The green shelled muscle beds

Seeding the muscle beds

Jacob's Bay

The muscle restaurant

Our campsite for the night

Morning coffee at Portage

Portage Bay, Kenepuru Sound

A view at Anakiwa the end of the Queen Charlotte Track

The Flying Haggis Staff

Sylvia’s comments.

This morning the hills were shrouded in mist and we were on yet another boat trip. For a non sailor I cannot believe how many boats I have been on since beginning our travels, at the last count it was somewhere in the region of 25. Our trip today was going out on to the Pelorus Sound in the boat to deliver the mail, a full day’s outing. This is a popular sail running to different parts of the sound on three different days. Our captain said that usually by this time of the year most of the tourists have finished their NZ holiday and gone home, but somehow this season was different and the boat was still leaving fairly full on its weekly runs. Today we had many NZ tourists also on the boat; it is Easter this week-end so they are taking the opportunity of this long, late summer weather to enjoy a last holiday before the winter.

As we boarded there was quite a stack of supplies to be delivered as well as a few boxes of wine and a selection of spirits, including gin, vodka and Bells Whiskey. Perhaps this is going to be one of my better boat trips. With all mail, supplies and passengers loaded we left the mooring and slowly made our way out of the harbour and into the sound. Once passed all the speed restrictions our captain put his foot down or perhaps I should say opened up the throttle and the boat surged forward and belched out a lot of smoke from the back covering us all. It was now hard to tell what was exhaust fumes and what was mist.

Our first stop was at Paradise Bay and a lady came out from the beach in a small dinghy to collect the mail. Sitting up in the prow of the boat was a little fox terrier dog looking very excited to see all the travellers. Mail bags were exchanged and we turned back into the sound only to realise something had been left, so we had to turn in and hail the lady to return. This time the dog was not quite so excited to see us. By now the sun was beginning to burn through the mist and it was clear we were in for another hot day.

Over 40 people live out in the Pelorus Sound area permanently and more people have holiday homes, or a batch, as it is known over here. It must be quite a lonely experience as the mail boat only visits once a week and for some there is no other access other than by boat. The houses we passed ranged from small cottages to really modern designed ones looking well out of my price range. All the other stops we made were at jetties and the procedure was the same, someone with a dog brought the out going mail bag to the boat and exchanged it for a full one. At Nikau Bay we dropped off passangers with their fishing rods and large backpacks. We were told it was a of commune and people went for holidays.

Our next stop was at Maud Island, a wild life reserve area, which had controlled entry. This is owned by the Department of Conservation and it is another predator free island. The ranger collected the mail here but with no dog. No pets are allowed into any National Park or Nature Reserve area’s in NZ. The views as we travelled around we varied, we were in and out of little coves, we passed beaches, and the hills were either covered in pine trees or natural bush. In some areas the land looked devastated where the loggers had been and the natural bush had not begun to regenerate yet. No more pine forests will be planted on these hills due to the high cost of recovering the wood, so once the existing pine tree’s are logged the area will be allowed to return to its natural state. I know we need wood but on gazing at the natural bush hillsides and those with pine forests, the natural bush won hands down for beauty.

The boat now had reached its furthest point and we circled Maud Island to make a couple more stops before starting the journey back. One of these was to a house which the post lady told us was now occupied by a couple house sitting for the owner. The boat had brought them out last week and they will be here for a couple of months. What an ideal spot for a get away from it all break. We made a stop at the last farm on the Marlborough Sound to deliver the mail. At one time the area had been dotted with farms around the place, now only this one remained. It had been in the family for 5 generations and it looked like a family occasion had arrived to collect the mail with Gran, mum and a small child. We were just pulling away when the farm dog came rushing around the path and along the jetty. It was here that I discovered that the post lady had a bag of dog biscuits on board and each dog was given one from her. So it was not the pleasure of seeing us that brought the dogs out.

Our next stop was at Te Rawa Resort which was just a little way round the same bay as the farm. Here we would be able to leave the boat for a short while to buy an ice cream in the shop or a drink in the bar. But before we could disembark the dog blocked the steps until he got his biscuit. I bought an ice cream and wandered back to the boat and was surprised to see the farm dog had run around the bay and joined us for another biscuit. We were told he was deaf, defiantly not daft, and when any of the passangers rattled their ice cream wrappers he was over. The post lady said that when the boat left the farm dog would go to the hotel kitchen door and be given some scraps to eat. Obviously worth his while making the trip. Back on board I found the booze had been off loaded so there was not going to be a party after all.

Once more out on the sound our captain took us through some of the muscle beds and gave us further information about muscle farming. We were able to see the different size muscles growing on the posts and ropes along the beds. Close by we came across a muscle boat out planting small muscles and we got close enough to it to see the process at work. As we made our return journey it became clear there was a problem with the boat. We had stopped on the way out to put more oil in the engine but now it needed a part replacing, so we were pulling into Jacobs Bay for a short stop whilst running repairs were made. There was a small bush walk to a viewing point and this gave us a chance to stretch our legs a little, some took the opportunity to laze on the beach.

With the running repairs completed we were on our way once more and back into Havelock, a little later than usual, but having had a lovely day. We had made some new friends from further up the North Islands and with promises to call in when we passed their way we said good-by. After our experiences with all the muscles over the past couple of weeks we decided to eat out at the local café and try the local produce, which was very tasty.

Wednesday morning we left the campsite and Havelock for the final time. We drove back on the Queen Charlotte Drive as far as Linkwater and then turned left and drove over the hill to the Mahau Sound and on to The Kenepura Sound. We passed a number of small bays and lodging places for the walkers on the Queen Charlotte Track. At the head of the sound we found a Department of Conservation camp ground right by the mud flats. We pulled in and found a nice place to stop, got our chairs out and enjoyed the warm sunshine. Across the site another motor home was parked and they joined us for ‘happy hour’. As evening fell the tide came in and the water was gently lapping up on the shore close by our van. What another idyllic place to stay

Thursday and our last full day on the South Island. We made the journey back along the sounds stopping for a coffee at Portage to sit up on the café deck looking out over the sound. A little further along the road we saw a sign saying home made jams and chutneys, so we stopped and bought supplies for our van. It is always nice to have home made produce rather than shop bought ones. The lady further tempted us by bringing out trays of white and dark chocolate truffles, well it would have been rude to refuse. So suitably stocked up we were on our way once more. We made one further stop at a little place called Anakiwa, the final stop for the trampers on the Queen Charlotte Track.

We did not have a lot of spare time as I was anxious to get back into Picton before the shops closed to replenish my supply of sea sickness tablets for tomorrow’s journey. It being Good Friday none of the shops would be open. It is not a long sailing between the two islands but it can be one of the roughest journeys in the world. Why do people keep telling me these things? We were staying at the same camp site so once parked we walked back, did our shopping and then went to the Flying Haggis for tea. This time we had something to cheer ourselves up with as I heard that Scotland had managed to win one game in the Six Nations tournament, cannot remember who we beat!!

I have enjoyed our time on the South Island. We have met so many lovely people and been made welcome in the home of Wensley and Roger and their family, Tub and Robin and Adie. I only hope that if they ever visit Scotland in the future we are able to welcome them to our home. The island is less populated than the north and the pace of life was nice and gentle. The scenery was just fantastic from the snow covered peaks we saw on arrival to the glaciers and majesty of the West Coast and Fiordland. Central Otago with its lunar type landscape and lovely Stewart Island. Our final days in the Abel Tasman and Marlborough Sounds brought a different ruggedness. We are asked which bit we liked best and the answer is all of it. But time moves on and tomorrow we go to the North Island and I look forward to all that it has to offer.

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