14 February 2014
From Picton Harbour
with the Mailboat through the
Marlborough Sounds and back
We sleep late and wake up with a sun that is shining at full power. The camp is almost deserted because many New Zealand travelers have a tight schedule and have a lot to do at a day so leave early. Normally we have that too but our activity today begins at 13:00 pm; So we can take it easy. We should basically have to leave the Holiday Park before 10.00 am. It is common throughout New Zealand to leave before 10 am, as the personnel of the park has time to clean up and make the park ready again before the crowd arrives. Most of the traveler's check in between 15:00 and 17:00 at the Holiday park. Karin still ticking just a piece for the Weblog and I am a bit working on the photos. Karin is Skyping with her oldest daughter Cathy ... but without the video the signal is much better. It's nice that we have this extra time this morning. Because we'll stay another night here and therefore returning after our mailboat adventure at this Holiday Park. Around 12.15 we leave the Holiday Park and walk to the harbour.
The original plan was to do two cruises today; A boat tour in the morning hours through the quiet western part of the Marlborough Sounds along the Queen Charlotte Drive, and an afternoon tour with the Mail Boat. But the organization told us that, in contrary to what was on the internet, the tour in the morning would not be back in time. So therefore our "free morning".
We have booked with BeachComber Mail Boat Cruises that delivers post and cargo on behalf of the Royal New Zealand Post.
At the pier where the boat is located we wait with a considerable group until we are allowed on board. Upon boarding everyone flies to the upper deck but we go straight to the back and find a place on the back deck. A good sit, still outside and mostly out of the wind. During the afternoon cruise it shows how good our choice has been. We were very comfortable and it was quiet there and we could freely take pictures and enjoy the views both backwards as well as forwards.
We leave very slowly the marina (as we would call it), and only after that BeachComber gives full gas and it turns out that he really built for speed. With beautiful elegant waves created by the screws we sail quickly through the Marlborough Sounds.
The Mail Boat sails with great speed along the route of the ferry; First via the Queen Charlotte Sound and then turn right into the fjord which ends in the Tory Channel, the access to the South Island by the ferries. So the same route that we have sailed yesterday, but now we see it more intense because you're sitting right on the water and you can become regularly wet through the splashing water. Each bay where we pass is appointed by the captain with information about who live there and what they do. They are mostly farmers or fishermen who live out there with their families and that most of the time they go themselves only once every 2 weeks or sometimes only 1 time a month to the shore for shopping groceries and clothing. The mail boat brings them 2 times a week, their mail and packages.
We pass many unspeakable bays. Here are a few to name; Just try to pronounce some.
They have all Maori names: Whatamango Bay, Kahikatea Bay, Maraetai Bay, Hitaua Bay, Onapua Bay, etc ....
Every time we think we pronounce it properly, it appears that we are saying it completely wrong; It is certainly not pronounced as you read it. We sail along the bays and see that there are people living in in almost every bay. Mostly farms and / or fishermen, and in most cases with their entire family. So we pass "ordinary houses and farms" where normal hard-working New Zealanders live, but also whoppers of homes were built and bought with a lot of money. We are in a bay with a very large ship in it and think that people do not have such a big house, but it turns out to be their boat house and a real very large house is a little further up the hill. It is a beautiful old ship (see photo) and we have post for them, but there appears to be no one at home, so the post is not delivered.
Video Mailboat Cruise
We arrive at a pier, near the end of the Tory Chanel where two elderly women with their dogs on their golf carts arrive to collect the mail. First one of the bigger fishing boats lying at the pier is leaving the pier so we can moor. The ladies each get their mailbag and for the dogs, there is a bone / kluif. We also deliver mail to a lady with her teenage son that arrives at her own pier with a four-wheel drive Jeep. It appears that the lady has ordered so much that it took some time to unload. Familiar to us, for example, was the ironing board, which gave much hilarity. Again a little further we reach a crab fisherman but no one is home, until the personnel of the mail boat spot their boat further into the Sound. He's diving and the whole family is with him on the boat, wife and two young children. The mail is delivered and they also have the post with him that is to be sent. The kids get some sweets and the personnel of the mail boat get a few fresh Crabs which the fisherman has just surfaced. Everything goes in a very friendly and relaxed atmosphere and the mutual relationships are good, we noticed that by all the people we saw this day.
On the trip back from the ocean inlet (the Tory Channel) we meet one of the two ferries from Bluebridge. Because the waves of the water displacement of such a large boat we keep as far away as we can to escape those waves. It works well and fairly soon after this we enter the 2nd real arm of that afternoon, the Queen Charlotte Sound. Here we go visit a special place called the Endeavour Inlet.
"Captain James Cook, the first European to set foot on New Zealand soil, gave the names as they are now still be called. Queen Charlotte Sound has several bays (Inlets) such as Resolution Bay, Endeavour Inlet and Ship Cove, where in January 1770, he and his crew on the Endeavour, took care of their ship and were busy taking in food and water for weeks. Cook as captain of the Resolution uses the bay again in the next two tours of 1773 and 1777. He stayed here for almost 6 months in total. A memorial to him now stands on the shore of the bay ". And now our BeachComber moor there and we can walk at the same place as James Cook walked almost 250 years ago.
Truly a historical place and Karin is also completely speechless and enjoys it to the fullest. We are allowed half an hour to spend on this historic site. Then we embark again and go back to Picton Harbour. The sun sinks slowly and the clear waters of the Marlborough Sounds reflects everything beautifully. Paradise and again we're speechless. We pick up a number of holidaymakers on the way back who spend a few days or longer in hotels and cottages in the sound. Just after 18:00 pm we moor in Picton and disembark. Once we get off the boat we see the girl where we bought the tickets walk with a huge bunch of flowers with a big heart in it. Cute I say, probably she has said goodbye to her holiday job. No dear, says Karin, today is Valentine's Day. I suggest to finish our day with a nice dinner out on the terrace overlooking the harbour and the ferries arriving and unloading. When we're sitting on the terrace Karin feels that her back and her face have had a little too much sun that day, her skin is not feeling quite natural she says. Well that do you have when you with your office job suddenly see to much daylight and sunlight. We had a nice walk back to the Holiday Park. I was going to work on some photos and Karin was just reading in bed. And yes, Karin was asleep within 5 minutes. So we are early jumped into our bed since our alarm clock goes at 7am, because we go to Kaikoura to the whales!