After a day spent in Blenheim at the wineries we headed north. We had a rendezvous to get to.
“Be at the pier at 1pm…no cops!*”
That last bit was made up. What was not made up was our transition from State Highway 1 to State Highway 6 (the longest single Highway in New Zealand as it stretches all the way down to Otago), as we traversed the Wairau River, cut through a gap in the Richmond Ranges and headed due north to the port of Havelock.
This town lies on the head of the Pelorus Sound (Te Hoiere) – one of the many Marlborough Sounds – and is the central hive of the NZ green-lipped mussel industry. So much so that it has branded itself the ‘Green Mussel Capital of the World’ and the town is littered with mascots to that affect.
Its not all fishing and seafood though. Science plays no small part here. William Pickering – the former head of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory from 1954 to 1976 and instrumental in early space exploration went to school here as did Ernst Rutherford.
The name of the town is another commemeration to a chapter in British colonial history – Sir Henry Havelock- who played a key part in the Siege of Lucknow during the Indian Rebellion in 1857.
We stopped to take some photos, fill up on petrol and grabbed a bite to eat at the Marina before we would be leaving the comfort of the New Zealand Highway system and taking on the winding Queen Charlotte Drive to Te Mahia and our appointment with a boat captain.
Our drive would encompass a number of the Sounds of Marlborough – a motley crew of drowned river valleys formed after the last Ice Age (10,000 years ago).. Pelorus Sound as we mentioned above is the largest of these – named after the ship HMS Pelorus that in 1838 was the first ship to survey the sound. (Itself named after the navigational instrument on a ship called a Pelorus that is ultimately a reference to a person – a navigator and pilot from Carhtage who served with Hannibal in 203 BC.
Before the Pelorus charted these waters – Abel Tasman, French and Russian explorers and Captain Cook himself passed through.
We also passed Mahau Sound, Broughton Bay and the neck of a peninsula before arriving at the small jetty at Te Mahia – and thankfully, a car parking space awaited. As we waited for our boat we got our first glimpse across Kenepuru Sound.
Our ‘Chariot’ arrived and 15 mins later we were across the water on the north shore of the Sound at Hopewell Lodge – our new home for a few days, surrounded by native forest and multi-hued waters. We had a tip that they allowed you to pick your own mussels and then cook them off but alas there had been a really bad algae bloom in recent weeks and the mussels had all gone bad.
We had our own little cabin overlooking the water and spent our nights at the Hot Spa, jostling for position in the communal kitchens and playing boardgames. And enjoying the amazing home cooked baking by our hosts.
By day we explored the nearby rainforest by foot – getting up close and personal with some fantastic looking plants and some crazy mushrooms. We also were introduced to a weka (or Maori Hen). The weather was very atmospheric but wet and turned a lot of the tracks to mud slides.
And then ventured further afield by mountain bike. At a beach a couple of kilometers away was a shipwreck. The NZS Amokura (formerly HMS Sparrow) was Goldfinch Class gunboat that was originally built in Greenock, Scotland in 1899. It spent most of the next few years in service on the East Africa coast including Kenya where the crew were part of the first ever known cricket match in that country in 1896.
She served in the Australian Navy from 1900 to 1905 before being purchased for the New Zealand navy and named the Amokura and given her first kiwi skipper – Frank Worsley (he would go on to command the Endurance during Ernst Shakleton’s polar Expedition (1913-1916). Years spent as a training ship and then a coal hulk led her to be jettisoned in this part of the world to rest.
Our reward for a tough 12km + cycle was a cup of coffee and a break at the nearby Raethi Lodge – the only other accomodation in this part of the world.
We had such a good time in this part of the world. The scenery – a mixture of sea, mountains and forest make this a very magical place. The Hopewell Lodge was a great shout for accomodation – very friendly and helpful hosts, tons of activities and equipment to use and just a great place to unwind.