Marlborough Sounds and Picton

Trip Start Jan 01, 2008
Trip End Dec 29, 2008

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Marlborough Sounds is an area of many bays, reserves, islands, coves, penisulars and winding coastal tracks.  One of the main walking tracks is a 5 day tramp cross country  (The Queen Charlotte Track), which we hoped to be able to find and to follow for a while.      

Starting at Havelock (home of the Green Lipped Mussel as they say!), we started up the single winding road into the Marlborough and Pelorus Sounds.   As we followed the road along the coast line, the views were stunning.   Along the road we found a sign for a lookout and headed up to a very small car park crammed with 4 other camper vans, which was something of a shock as we have been used to having these places all to ourselves.  It turns out they were all headed int he opposite direction to us, so it really was just a one off (although it was a real pain trying to get teh van back out of the very tight and crowed carpark!).  

Travelling by boat Pelorus Sound is 42km long end to end, but has 379km of shoreline!  When I mentioned earlier that the road was winding this gives you some idea of how much and how many bends there are on the road (to say nothing of the ups and downs of the hills just to add further interest!). 

We found a delightful and secluded DOC campsite on a a beautful cove which we had completely to ourselves.   The cove was strewn with rocks all along the waterrs edge which were covered with mussels and, upon closer inspection, oysters, all ready for the picking.   As Clive was suffering with a (yet another!) bout of stomach trouble, I cooked and ate all the mussels oysters which I have to say were wonderful.  Although I also collected a bucket of oysters, shelling them proved too painfully slow without a proper knife, so I carefully replaced them all back in the oyster bed.  There seemed to be many clams too, but not being entirely sure of exactly what a clam looks like, decided that it might be prudent to leave them be!     

I have been searching the bookshops hoping to find a book to help me to find and identify (and what to do with) foods from the sea.   We have seen people in various towns out with buckets on the beaches, so it is a fairly common way of sourcing seafood.  Incidently, absolutely huge live green lipped mussels are for sale in the supermarkets for sale by the kilo at a price less than the cost of a bag of crisps (about 80p per kilo).   In summer time the done thing is to buy a bag of mussels and a bottle of "Sauvie" (Sauvignon Blanc) at the supermarket and head of to the beach to barbeque the mussels for a picnic - fast food as it should be!

The driving was tricky as the road was so narrow and winding, but we could not find an entrance point to the walking tracks.  We did however have a shock when sheep on the road decided to panic and run in front of us for about half kilometre until eventaully deciding that they did like the look of the grass verge. 

After a spending a few days around the Sound we finally ended up in Picton, a a strange town and the port from which we were to catch the ferry accross the Cook Straits to Wellington in the North Island.   As I sit here typing this, the news on TV  is telling me that Picton has just declared a state of emergency due to the extreme weather conditions.  The fire chief (who is at least 85!) is on TV detailing the evacuation procedures.......but I digress.

The continuing saga of clive's stomach upsets took an amusing turn during a conversation with a woman in the chemist.............

Me :     Can I buy a bottle of Andrews Liver Salts please
Her :    No my dear, we have not had those for years.
Me :    Oh, do you have anything else similar ?
Her :   No my dear, not since I was child have I seen Andrews.  They no longer exist.  You could try drinking Epsom salts, but it might make you sick.
Me :    I will just ask my husband what he would like, be back soon.

I return back and the pharmacist says :  Andrews Liver Salts do exist, but we do not have them, try the big supermarket.

The shop assistant gave me some very detailed directions to get there. " Go out of here.  At the end of the road, turn right and at the end of that road and you will see it on the left.You cant miss it "
Having followed her instructions to the letter, and not finding any supermarket, we ask a fellow shopper who directs us back to the chemist.   And there, in the same shopping centre only 10 yards away in the opposite direction to where the assistant  said was the (only!) supermarket in town.  And NO, they did not have Andrews Liver Salts !

The campsite at Picton was also a little strange as it also doubled as a halfway house for those on housing waiting lists.  People living in caravans or cars and, right next to us was a guy who told Clive that had emigrated from the East End of London 30 years ago and had lived in his bus ever since. It was a very nice bus complete with ornate chandeliers and nice net curtains, almost like a country cottage on wheels! There does not to be the same hang ups about four walls an a roof here although it can be quite sad to see some of the old people whose home and security seems to be nothing but a caravan(or even just a car)  on campsite.

After a night at this site which bordered a train line - complete with freight trains running all night we decided to bring the ferry crossing forward to the next day.    

Despite the deterioration in the weather over our last week in the South Island we absolutely love our time here and a month is really not enough to amke the most of it.  For different reasons it is on a par with Japan as our favourite place on the trip so far.
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