Friday, October 5, 2018

Mainland tour, Day 9 - Pelorus pigs

With thanks to Destination Marlborough
I'd been really looking forward to today, and it felt like a gift that we opened the curtains to classic sunny Marlborough weather. The Vintner's Hotel supplied us with a very promising-looking (and large) picnic lunch hamper to take with us, and we drove very happily back towards Havelock for our day out on a Pelorus Mail Boat Cruise.
The route varies according to the day of the week and today, Friday, we were headed along Pelorus Sound on the outer route, which would take us via many stops right to the mouth of the sound. No day is the same, depending on who has mail, or groceries, or goods, or people - even, sometimes, livestock - to be either delivered or collected. I was expecting it to be scenic - it's the Marlborough Sounds! - but I was very pleasantly surprised to find it was much more than that.
Captain James and his two crew mates were relaxed and friendly, happy to share information about their bit of the world via a droll commentary and answers to questions. We got history (the mailboat run began in 1922), mussel farms, forestry, farming - but also characters and an unexpected animal element. It seemed that everyone on the route, whose homes were hours and hours by dodgy road from town, and sometimes not accessible by road at all, looked forward to their weekly contact and were keen to show off to their visitors. 
So while mailbags, gas bottles, boxes of groceries, lengths of timber and so on were being handed over, we passengers were introduced to tame sheep, dogs, and even pigs. Their owners were chatty, let some kids feed a big fat lamb, told us about the animals - Boris, Ruby, Paul, Buddy... - and were clearly pleased to see us all. 
The pigs were amazing - HUGE, some of them spotted, and one incredibly slobbery. Of course part of that was because the boat crew had trained them to expect biscuits or pellets. At one jetty we didn't see any people at all, just two pigs and a Labrador; but mostly our visit was a highlight of the day - especially to chirpy old Bill, 93 years old and living on his own in a neat little house with his latest boat project hauled up on the beach in front of it. 
At Forsyth Lodge, they proudly pulled a basket up from below the jetty filled with big crayfish for their guests' dinner that night. Further on, Brian, obviously happy to be a bit of a hermit, waved a handful of notes at the crew when he handed over a parcel to be posted; "$15? $50? Take it, it's no use to me here".
And then there were the dusky dolphins riding the bow wave and jumping as we sped away; seals sunning themselves on buoys; passengers happily steering the boat; and our delicious picnic hamper to work through as we sailed through consistently gorgeous scenery. We got back to Havelock after 185km and seven very happy hours; and drove back to the hotel to have dinner in a noisy pub nearby, the Cork and Keg, which served ok food but a very nice rhubarb cider.

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