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Arriverderci Te Wai Pounamu

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“Nonsense!” I said. “We’ll see about that”.

So I tested it.

“There you go!… nonsense!”.

The tin said “Fruit: 2 servings”. But the whole lot fitted easily into one bowl, and still left plenty of room for the cream.

I was looking at what was very clearly one serving.

“Nonsense” I said again, in case I’d missed it the first two times.


One serving of fruit

I sat down, with bowl and spoon and un-paused the movie… “Pirates of the Caribbean” (Pt 3).

Movies are always my fall-back when I can’t get a TV signal. Usually, it’s due to rain fade on the dish, but tonight it was my location. There wasn’t any place on the campsite that met all the criteria, so I gave away the TV in favour on the others… flat, quiet, fairly close to the toilets, and with a drop dead gorgeous view.

Yesterday I was in Golden Bay, tonight I was in the Marlborough Sounds… right in the middle of them. I was about 2 metres above the high tide line, three paces from the beach looking straight out across the still water of Kenepupu Sound. In the morning, the sun will light the hills on the far side.

Where I was is just 9.5 km from Picton, where I’d get the ferry from in a couple of days, but it’s a 3 hour drive to get there. It’s 9.5km as the crow flies, but there are no crows here. Just a few fat pigeons, and some weka’s trying to figure out where I threw the toast.

From here to Picton by road is only 50km, but it’s 50km of narrow steep and winding road. According to Uncle Google it should take 1 hour 10 mins… but he’s obviously never been here.

As I said it’s 50km from here to Picton by road, but this leg of the Sounds is also very remote by water. It’s over 60km to the open sea, and 120km by boat to Picton. The most direct way here from Picton, is to go the first 6km by boat, and then 3km over the hill by road… which is why the place is called… Portage.

It’s not a big place. It consists of a fancy ‘retreat’ type of hotel, a shop, six houses, a wharf and a DOC campsite that’s down the road a bit.

The road leads to nowhere. Portage is 20km before nowhere.

Being so far from open sea the place has the appearance and sounds of great lakes. You can only tell it’s the sea because its level rises and falls a couple of times a day (and of course, it’s salty). Otherwise it is flat and placid. It is surrounded by bush covered hills, and the water sloshes onto the beach instead of crashing in waves. The shoreline consists not of broad beaches, but countless rocky coves, edged with pohutukawa trees fronting the bush.

The DOC campsites (there are 3 fairly near to here) are each in one of these little bays.

It’s hard to draw this part of the journey to a close, but I had now finished everything I had to do in the South Island, and was making my way North. For the first time in a long while, I was now ahead of Tasman’s position described to date in the blog.

I’d spent a long time in Golden Bay. Originally it was because I had a lot to do there. It’s the setting for the biggest event of Tasman’s voyage, so there was a lot of writing, and a huge filming effort to be completed there. In the end, I’d stayed longer than was strictly necessary, but I couldn’t have wished for a better ending to my stay.

After meeting Penny, and Robert I’d decided I would stay for the activities around the Anniversary of Tasman’s appearance in Golden Bay… December 18th & 19th. At the time I thought I was delaying my departure by perhaps a month, but in reality it only made a few days difference. The weather severely restricted the days on which I was able to film, and I got deep into re-constructing Tasman’s course.

My last day in Golden Bay was Dec 19th. A group of nearly 20 of us met in Wainui Bay and walked out to the Pa Site at Taupo Point. It had been my suggestion that the walk might be a nice idea and this somehow got turned into me leading the group out there.

I was just a little troubled about this. The walk out there isn’t overly difficult, but it’s not trivial either. The Mayor of Tasman District Council had been present at the commemoration at the memorial the day before, but had decided against the walk. However, Christine Hofkens (Cultural Adviser from the Netherlands Embassy in Wellington). I’d checked her out on the internet and saw someone I who looked as though she’s be more in her element organising Embassy functions than scrambling around a rocky shoreline.

I’d suggested that the walk was fairly flat, around the beaches… but “fairly flat” is a matter of perception… and I might have been a teeny bit generous in this description. The Department of Conservation ranks it’s footpath into three classes; “walk”, “track” and “route”. “walk”, you could push a baby stoller along (if you were keen), “track” you could cycle through on a mountain bike, but “route” you could do neither of these. The way out to Taupo Pa is a “Route”, and if you get caught by the tide then it becomes quite a significant challenge… for anyone… let alone Latté ladies from Wellington.

Low tide route to Taupo Pa

Low tide route to Taupo Pa

We were rather concerned for Christine. The rest of the people who turned up would be fine, they were local and knew what they were up for. However, despite being completely out of her element, and greatly to her credit, Christine persevered without fuss and made it there (and back) in one piece. And I’m immensely grateful we didn’t have to take her on the high tide detour over the hill.

Up on the lookout above Taupo Pa, where the Ngati Tumatakokiri had assembled, we walked through the events of December 19th 1642. Looking at who was where, at what times, who moved from where to where, and what they did there. Standing in the landscape of the events is a powerful way to re-live it… sharing the same sights and sounds as them.

There was an impressive assembly of knowledge on the hilltop. Robert and I were very familiar with the journal contents and the details and sequence of the day’s events, but Robert is also probably the country’s leading authority on Tasman’s ships and people. Phillip was another local author, with published work on natural history particularly Polynesian flora . He gave us Maori context by way of explanations of the local Taniwha, and also spoke about the local plants and the Maori uses of them… those that were indigenous, and those that they had introduced. Jim had lived in the area all his life, and had been out to Taupo on very many occasions; fishing, hunting, and guiding various parties of archaeologists. His understanding of the local landscape and how it had changed was just a delight to listen to.

And that was how my time in Golden Bay ended; in a special place, on a special day, with special people.

I’d had in mind to nip over to Totaranui for the night before leaving the area, but as I pulled away from the car park I saw three very weary looking tourists with their thumbs out. It was a common sight around there. The Abel Tasman coastal track is very popular with younger overseas tourists, but it’s a long way, and when you finish you wind up at the end of a dirt road, a long way from your car, and a long way from “town” or any public transport.

I gave them a lift into Takaka, which was the opposite direction to where I’d intended to go, but that was OK. It left me with some unfinished business, and another reason to go back to Golden Bay.

The following day I was back in the Marlborough sounds again. Gazing across the broad water at the rolling bush covered hills and the rocky inlets.

The language here is different. I’d just come from where the prevailing nomenclature referenced Tasman, here, it was Cook.

I have reached the end of what can be done with patches and ‘liquid nails’. It’s the end of the road for these guys… the South Island won.

It was my last free day in the South Island. I’d moved round to the Marlborough Sounds, before heading to the ferry at Picton, but with something special in mind… after all I was on holiday now.

Today was taking my boots on one last excursion… I hoped they were up to it. I’d re-glued the soles (again) and we were going for a walk up the Queen Charlotte track. I wanted to look out over where James Cook anchored here in the Sounds. I didn’t need to do this, but I had 1 spare day before I caught the ferry, and I didn’t want to waste it.

From the campsite I turned left, down a road that goes to nowhere (there are plenty of these in New Zealand… all are recommended). I parked up where the Queen Charlotte track crossed the Titirangi Road. I use ‘park’ rather loosely here . The car park was full… there were already four vehicles there, so I’d stopped the van where I could. It was steep… very steep. It was one of those places that even with the handbrake pulled to its fullest, and reverse gear engaged, I was still uncomfortable. The van leaned at a precarious angle, with 2 wheels in the ditch, the rest of it nearly, but not quite blocking the road. If there was a way to lock the rear axel, I’d have used it. I had to get in and out of the van through the cab as the side door was too close to the embankment to be able to open it.

End of the road for these old boots

It’s ‘the last hurrah’ for these guys

I pulled my heroic boots on for one last outing… along a part of the Queen Charlotte Walkway.

Just like the Abel Tasman Coastal Walkway, The Queen Charlotte track is another of ‘New Zealand’s Great Walkways’ (it’s a designation, not just my description), and if you prefer ocean and islands over mountains and valleys, then this is the pick of the bunch.

Once I’d gained all the height the track would give me I dived into the bush, heading for the top of the ridge. When I pushed through the last of the growth to look down onto another place, as historic as the scene I had been looking at a couple of days before.

I’d made my way to somewhere with a very particular aspect, and was now overlooking Queen Charlotte Sound, Endeavour Inlet, Resolution Bay, and Ship’s Cove. James Cook had stayed here on all three of his Pacific voyages.

Unlike Tasman’s anchorages, which were well offshore on account of the precarious places he stopped, Cook anchorages in the Marlborough Sounds were sheltered and very close inshore. From my vantage point I could visualise the Endeavour (1st voyage) and the Resolution (2nd and 3rd voyages) sitting there, nestled into in their respective little Bays.

Apart from the occasional passing boat, there was no sign of humanity. The scene I was looking at was exactly as Cook saw it.

I didn’t meet anyone at all while I was on the track, and moving almost silently over the soft grassed track, I had the company of the birds singing to me the whole time. In comparison to the walking I’d done recently, this was a complete pleasure. Underfoot the path was cushioned and even, not sharp and lumpy, the incline was gentle, and I didn’t have to fight the tide to get in and out. It was just a leisurely walk through pristine bush with fantastic sea views thrown in for good measure.

I was on my way back down by 3:00, and installed on the DOC campsite by 5:00, and what a campsite it was. As I pulled in I ran through the checklist:

1. Level… check
2. Water & Toilets… check
3. Line of sight North for the SKY dish… check
4. Mobile signal for the Internet… check
5. Quiet… check
6. Drop dead gorgeous… check.

6 out of 6, top score… I stayed.

Kenepupu Sound, what a wonderful place to end my South Island Adventure.

Monday, 22nd December

Now, I was just counting down the time. Sitting here in Kenepupu Sound I was oddly confused… I had nothing to do, and I can’t recall when this last happened.

I was still 3 hours away from Picton, but the ferry wasn’t until 02:15 a.m… yes, that’s right a.m! There’s nothing I needed in Picton other than to catch the ferry. I could do a little food shopping, but that was all, and really, that was better done on the other side of the Strait… virtually anywhere would do for the few bits and pieces I needed.

So I sat here, looking across the Sounds, listening to the birds, and practiced “just being” for a while.

Kenepupu Sound campsite

Kenepupu Sound campsite

Not bad for $6 a night.


Credit where credit’s due.

In my 9 months in the South Island I’ve been to some extraordinary places. I have also met some wonderful people, and some were very special indeed. I could not have enjoyed my time here if it weren’t for these people:

Thank you to the wonderful Fellows in Hokitika, who straightened me up again when the wheels were coming off.

Thank you to all the wonderful people in Golden Bay; particularly Wayne and Lee and Tony and Trish, on the campsite at Tukurua road. I’ll be back.

And thank you to all the ‘Tasman’ people, particularly Penny and Robert.

I’ll see you all again next time I’m passing by.


Arrividerci Te Wai Pounamu, and Merry Christmas everyone.

Gillespies Beach lagoon

Gillespies Beach lagoon


Posted in My Journey

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