The Deafening Cicadas of Queen Charlotte Sound and number five camp, at Momorangi and ten minutes of elevated joy.

Wed 8 Feb 2017 05:57

The Deafening Cicadas of Queen Charlotte Sound and number five camp, at Momorangi and ten minutes of elevated joy.

Our crossing was calm and sunny and one yacht passed us in the opposite direction being blown by a nice south westerly breeze.

As we drove off the ferry and headed through Picton in a westerly direction the din of the cicadas drowned any other noise. Tree smothered hills rose dramatically all around from the bay lined shores of the sound. The road was very bendy and steep but the car hummed on up and around until we descended to our camp, nestling in a tiny bay, the site extending up the valley where we pitched and along the shore front where everyman and his family played, swam, jet skied and kayaked in the warm sunshine.

I wondered how people who came here 50 or so years ago to live feel about the rate of change in Europe compared to here, and how the Maori lady, picnicking with her family on the foreshore, deals with the fact that not so long ago her ancestors lived here as tribes, wandering through the lush valleys, before European officialdom robbed them of such freedom. Maybe some don’t care because what they have is peace, freedom to enjoy the area, their family around them and reasonable health care, which is what most of us wish for anyway.

I trimmed Rob’s hair, al fresco after our tent was pinned down yet again. Then we explored the shoreline, shoals of whitebait glistened as they turned their silver bodies to the sun and small pipefish busied themselves. We relaxed under our sunbrolly beside our new table and just hoped the weather would hold for tomorrow, when we planned to inflate the kayak.

The best laid plans of Rob and Barb do not always come to fruition and the next morning blew them right away with a fresh wind, so we went for a charming walk in the native bush behind the camp. Trees were labelled and there were frequent boards showing pictures of local birds and bugs. Rob spun the handle on a silver cylinder and then turned a dial to a particular number to hear the birdcall of that species.

The next morning was wet as we expected. We sat in the camp kitchen after packing up and shared our neighbours’ porridge as the lad had cooked too much. I do that sometimes, under-estimating how much the oats swell while cooking. We like porridge as it is so digestible and sustaining, cheap too.

Victoria (Rob’s name for the Volvo) took us serenely along the Rai Valley and through the Mount Richmond Pine plantations and native bush. The gorge alongside was deep and every now and again were narrative road signs warnings us to keep a lookout for motor cyclists. The first one showed a white haired man wearing a t-shirt with grandad written across his chest, standing next to his bike. In the next one the motor cyclist had Dad written across his chest and in the final one the lad had Son written on his t-shirt. Yes, a thought provoking message that whole families can be effected when the worst happens. Rob passion for biking means he is always vigilant.

We had two main reasons for visiting Nelson. First we had a feeling that our sailing friends, Paul and Jane were nearby in Nora J. They were two of our line handlers as we came through the Panama, if you remember, and we have kept in touch since. Secondly, why did someone name the new town established here in the 1840’s, Nelson?

Our little tent was in place in the tiny tent area of The Top 10 Nelson City site, our 6th camp, as we parked outside the I Site to start our enquiries.  In answer to the second question, “I have no idea,” said the young lady, “I would have to go and look it up in the library.”

 Next stop, The Museum. The gentleman behind the desk was no more helpful, “You are English, yeah, you’ve heard of Nelson?” I persevered, “but why name a whole town after him when he never came anywhere near here?”

“Your guess is as good as mine.” Determined now that we would not give up we continued on up Trafalgar Street, a pleasant shared area where there were no pavements and cars were trusted to behave themselves when it came to the likes of us. We noted a few interesting looking bars in substantial, well- built buildings and thought we’d come back that way, but first onward and upward to the Cathedral.

Nelson is a very cultural place. The architecture is a pleasing mix of traditional classical, art deco and modern and suggests there has been considerable wealth in the way of ideas and money since the inception of this town, the birthplace of NZ Rugby.

The Cathedral doors were closed as a recital was in its last 30 minutes of performance, all part of the current festival of classical music, held both here and in the Theatre Royal. Reading one of the information boards outside while we waited I learned that young Commander Arthur Wakefield RN and his brother Edward both had a vision for the Utopian colonisation of New Zealand.

Born in 1799 he was 6 years old when the news of the death of Nelson along with his victory at Trafalgar was brought back to the UK in 1805 and no doubt the esteem he held for Nelson was an influence both in his joining the navy and naming this beautiful place. He was the leader of The New Zealand Company’s planned settlement of Nelson. Inside the Cathedral is a stone plaque in his memory which states he ‘planted the settlement of Nelson.’

Enquiry number two was complete. So off we went to the marina to see if Nora J was around. The marina manager brought us good news “They are still here, planning to leave tomorrow.” Nora J’s cruising chute was hanging from the masthead, drying in its bag, but sadly her crew were not on board. We left a note with our phone number and went to Mac’s bar in Trafalgar Street for some beer and fish and chips, just for a change you understand.

The building had once been a legal firm and was full with beautifully carved doorways and panelled walls.  Near to where we were sitting was a full door sized safe door, behind which the town’s legal documents, deeds, wills et al would once have been stored. The weather rained on outside as we tucked into supper and a pint of Mac’s Bossy Red Bitter.

We had just turned back into the camp when Jane called. They had spent the day dropping their car off at Havelock and catching the bus back to Nora J. We must have passed each-other on the road! Our paths were not destined to meet quite yet. They would sail to Havelock, leaving Nora J there before driving to Christchurch and then home to Hokitika, on the west coast and where we will visit them early on in March. Can’t wait to catch up on their news.

There are lots of places of interest to tempt the visitor but we have to be selective and we exclude places like heritage towns and breweries, as we have visited them before elsewhere. However, we have never experienced a Skywire Ride, where four people alongside eachother are strapped into ‘child-like car seats’ and flung across a glaciated gorge covered in native trees at, in our case 88.8km/hour.

It is the world’s longest Flying Fox at 3.2kms and is a lovely way to spin across the tree canopy and see distant views of Nelson, Cable Bay and Delaware Bay with the Tasman Sea beyond. It was still early in the day and a fresh, cold southerly was blowing from Antarctica. Our guide let us choose our beanies, to keep our ears warm on the flight. Just as interesting as the flight was the journey from the arrival park up and down the winding, narrow track in a 4x4 driven by our well-informed guide from Australia.

He stopped twice, to let us see the Tiki that would keep us safe and to wonder at two Matai trees, giants of the forest. The male is 1800 years old and the straight trunked female is 700 years. They are growing in a sheltered grove and are the oldest in NZ. Down the hill was the spikey remains of one specimen that was over 2000 years old and 40metres tall before the canopy and top part of the trunk were twisted off in a storm.

Each tree supports other trees and ferns that grow on it and feed off the moisture from the rotting interior. The outer trunk is kept clean as it sheds harmful fungi and mould on small platelets of bark, just like the Kaori tree.

The beautiful Cable Bay tempted us in its direction after our elevated adventure. We parked Victoria on the Granite pebble causeway across the bay and saw the mast of a single yacht striking seaward from Nelson into a stiff breeze. Could it have been the Nora J? It was a real possibility and we will find out later.

Back in town, we booked our next campsite near the Abel Tasman National Park through the I Site and while looking around the gift shop next door discovered a picture of our National Park mystery bird, on a cushion cover of NZ birds. Remember I said they were about the size of our UK wrens, well they are NZ wrens, and like the NZ Sacred Kingfisher, are just a little bigger than our version.