Friday 28 September 2018

Mainland tour, Day 2 - Fish in a barrel

With thanks to NelsonTasman 
Well, not quite a barrel, and no guns involved - but at Anatoki Salmon Farm, catching a chinook is so easy that pre-schoolers can do it. Just ask Ethan. He was the littlest of the three kids we watched each hook and (with some assistance) land good-sized salmon from a lake swirling with fish. Those were the lucky ones, since alongside were three large pens with about 8,000 fish in each, bred and raised to supply restaurants and supermarkets around the country. I'm not sure Ethan's parents thought they were that lucky themselves, since they then had to pay for the fish, have them cleaned and packed, and then presumably eat nothing else for the next three days of their holiday.
I just watched, enjoyed the green and blue of the surroundings, and then wandered past the café and little petting zoo to the river where some gloriously slimy eels came to check me out with their creepy cloudy blue eyes, hoping for a feed.

Next we visited Te Waikoropupu Springs, which used to be just Pupu Springs. People used to swim and dive in the fabulously clear blue waters too, but now you're not allowed even to touch the water. It's all explained in the fancy entrance, where there's a gorgeously smooth piece of marble to run your hand over - Maori protocol rules today, after long years of being ignored. They're still well worth visiting: the surrounding bush is regenerating nicely after the gold-mining and farming, and the figures are remarkable. The springs pump out 14,000 litres per second - that's 2,400 bathfuls a minute!

Afterwards, we went into little Takaka. It's a cheerfully hippy town still, with shops selling voluminous pants, and bright waistcoats, and lots of art galleries and murals. There are also numerous coffee shops - the one in the old cinema is very colourful. Then we headed back to even littler Collingwood for our next activity: the Farewell Spit Eco Tour.
This is tide-dependent, so we left today at 1pm, driving with Murray along the coast past the sites of many sad whale deaths - not from whaling, but strandings, which happen regularly because of the shallowness of the bay inside the spit. Ironically, it's usually pods of pilot whales that get caught out, bringing masses of people to the mudflats to try to help re-float them every time. Then we headed across to the South Island's northernmost point, Cape Farewell, which is suitably spectacular, the headland furrowed and arched, and the Tasman looking unusually blue and tropical on this lovely day.
The tour's main focus was in the opposite direction, where all that sea-eroded rock ends up - Farewell Spit itself, which is a 27km-long curve around the top of Golden Bay. You can only go 4km onto it by yourself, so this was a first for me, to trundle in the bus along the sand all the way to the lighthouse near the end. En route we got lots of history, natural and man-made, and felt lucky to be there in such perfect conditions. It would have been quite a different story, often, for the lighthouse keepers and their families. We had tea and muffins in one of their houses, were allowed (blind eye turned) to climb up the current lighthouse, and then had a small expedition up onto the wind-sculpted dunes.
Then we bombed back along the beach into the low sun, past hulking big seals, sculpted driftwood, flocks of gannets and oystercatchers, with all the time the blonde sand whirling along below the windows and making us feel that we were flying. We finally got back to Collingwood in the dark. It was a great trip.

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