Wednesday 3 October 2018

Mainland tour, Day 7 - Four legs amazing

With thanks to Destination Marlborough
I set off early this morning, hotel packed lunch in my bag, down to the nearby wharf to go on the Motuara Bird Sanctuary Cruise. To begin with, the weather wasn't brilliant, sadly - rather grey and dull - so the ride along Queen Charlotte Sound wasn't as spectacularly blue and green as it can be; though the tourists for whom it was all new seemed very happy. After an hour we got to the island, Motuara, which has been a pest-free sanctuary since the early 1990s, so the birdlife has flourished. 
It took me about 20 minutes to reach the summit, passing a monument to Captain Cook on the way with a clunky old-style inscription. He spent a lot of time in this area, on his various expeditions, and was apparently very fond of it. He's famous for having complained about the noisy dawn choruses at various locations around the coast that disturbed his crew's sleep and made him have the ship moored further out, so he maybe wouldn't be impressed at all the effort and expense that's spent on protecting the birds these days.
There were certainly plenty in the bush - the usual bold, cheeky robin inspecting people's boots, plus tui, kakariki, melodious bellbirds, twittering fantails, invisible grey warblers, and little blue penguins. These were tucked up in wooden nesting boxes placed along the path, all the way to the top (penguins, as I saw in Antarctica, being suckers for a view, no matter how hard it is for them to waddle up that high). I looked in at them, they looked back impassively, and then we both got on with our day.
We were delivered next to nearby Ship Cove, which was Cook's favourite anchorage, and where there's another memorial that incorporates a cannon off the Endeavour, salvaged from the Great Barrier Reef where it was thrown overboard in 1770 in an attempt to lighten the ship after it ran aground there. It's a nicely landscaped little bay, but I didn't hang around - I was one of about a dozen setting off along the Queen Charlotte Track, which is a fairly easy 4-5 day tramp back to Picton.
It started off pretty steep and rocky, but fairly soon levelled out and followed roughly the same contour for the rest of the day. It was a very pleasant walk, as the sun had come out to light up the colours, and the views along the Sound were artistically framed by tree ferns and lovely leafy tawa trees. There were islands, boats, the Interislander, and then, when I rounded a corner, TWO DEER! Regular readers 😃 will know that New Zealand is all about birds, so to come across an actual mammal that's not another human is very rare. In fact, this was only the second time in my entire life that I had seen deer in the wild here, and it was quite a thrill. Shame it was so fleeting, then - we stared at each other in shock for a split second, and then they were gone, leaping up the bank and disappearing into the bush.
I ate my nice lunch, kept walking and enjoying the scenery, and eventually started to see signs of civilisation - jetties, driveways and even letterboxes. Finally, after about four hours and 15km, I arrived at Furneaux Lodge, a classic sprawling wooden farmhouse with veranda and manicured garden, in which motel units were scattered about. Ours was near a stony river, quiet and comfortable. 
Furneaux Lodge is of course notorious in NZ recent history as the location for the mysterious, and unsolved, disappearance of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope on New Year's Eve 1998 - so it was kind of amusing to see that, in the pile of board games by the nicely crackling fire, there was a Cluedo set. Irony, or accident?
The lounge was cosy, the staff were friendly, the mulled wine was exactly what was needed after my busy day, and my only complaint was that the carrot and coriander soup, and then the mushroom pâté, were served in such deliciously large portions that I had no room afterwards for the sticky date pudding that I really thought I had earned. We walked back to the room in the dark with the sea lapping on the shore, the stream burbling, the birds finally silent, and the stars bright in the sky.

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