This post like probably many to come on the subject is a bit later than planned as I’ve been offline when on the road. Our crossing on the ferry was a joy as the wild weather of previous days had calmed down. We had decided to take it easy the first few days to find out feet, realise we were away and pretty much relax. With that in mind, we stopped off in Picton and instantly any budgeting idea was thrown out the window – a South Island road map was bought (as it was newer than the ancient one we had), and some inspect repellent was thrown in at the last minute. 15 minutes, $50. Not good.
It was our intention to head into the Sounds initially but the we couldn’t see the tops on the crossing so decided not to head over quite yet so it was a short 10km drive to the DOC site at Whatamango Bay. In all, we had driven a mere 20km that day, including stopping off for diesel on the way to the ferry from the house, yet we were now on the South Island. That’s the type of travel I like – no airports, no customs, no baggage checks, and no x-ray machines.
We were instantly chilled, although had a slightly surreal vibe around us as we kicked back with some wine, sun and with a cracking view over the bay.
The following day we decided to head down towards Blenheim so get some mountain biking in, but after exploring the bays along the coast road and getting into the gravel road driving again we only made about 20km down the road, past Robin Hood Bay (with a free DOC site) and stayed at White’s Bay Recreation Reserve – another cheap DOC site.
White’s Bay is a cracking place to spend a couple of days if you have the time. There’s no shops around you, but it’s a beautiful beach with rocks and some fishing, nice sunsets, and if you meet the friendly ranger you’ll get a look into the first Cable Station that existed and sent messages to Wellington years ago. Apart from that there’s some walking up to the surrounding summits (anything up to 6 hours) and some advanced mountain biking.
We got so close to Blenheim it would have been crazy not to visit a winery, but before we did that it was off to the Wither Hills mountain bike park to get some practice in. This is a nice place to kill a couple of hours, with a variety of trails from 5-20km. Once we did this, it was more than justified to visit a vineyard so we picked Lawson’s Dry Hills on the recommendation of the local i-Site, and a great one it was too. This vineyard was a family owned business and there was no pressure to buy, they had many tastings, and there were cheeky little descriptions of each of them. Remember if you love your red wine, this is primarly white wine country, so expect the vineyards to have far more of them than the reds!
We were keen to get closer to what was meant to be our first target – the Marlborough Sounds – so we headed back to Picton and onwards to the DOC Momorangi Bay Motorcamp so we never drove all the way in. Not so long after we got there the heavens opened, and the rain started to absolutely piss down. We never realised that this was to be the way things went over the first couple of weeks. Despite this I headed out and fished off the pier, and caught my first 4 fish. 2 of them fell back in as I lifted them out, and 2 of them were too small so all of my first catches went back into the water – not quite fulfilling my dreams of having bbq’d fish! There doesn’t appear to be much to see around Momorangi Bay at first glance, but there is a glowworm walk up the back, and we saw dolphins playing in the Sound, and a stingray swimming around the pier.
In the morning the heavens were still flooding us so we decided to skip the Sounds for now and head towards Nelson. As you can see from this picture taken from a ‘viewpoint’, you can barely see the boat going through the Sounds. The whole way was chucking rain down on us, even heavier than any shower I had seen in Wellington. We knew we had a leak in the front of the van, but the dripping onto my foot sadly confirmed it wasn’t the door seal that we suspected. It was a bit of low start to the trip after the first few days of relaxing. Our first week in the Marlborough Sounds were off, any ideas of cycling part of the Queen Charlotte Track were off for just now, and the fishing opportunities there would have to wait. We headed West.