Thursday, 21 February 2013

And finally (for the South Island), to Picton!

Sunset at Karamea

Its been a bit of a journey from the lovely Karamea back to Picton, ready to catch the ferry to the North Island tomorrow (Friday), so we broke the journey with a night in Murchison. Just as well as Pauline had had a poor last night in Karamea, being kept awake by severe itching from the sandflies (as we all had), so long journeys were not welcome! Even so, it felt like a long way down the 100km cul-de-sac that is the road from Karamea to Westport, but we got into Murchison around 3:30pm’ish in time for afternoon tea and cake!

Murchison, a typical NZ town
Murchison is famous for, well, nothing really! Their claim to fame is an earthquake in 1929 that caused severe damage and there’s a nice exhibition in the nearby town that Jackie and I had visited some time ago, but other than that it’s just a nice quiet place to relax. 
The wallaby and the rabbit
The owners did have a bit of an ‘animal farm’ adjoining the camp and we could visit the wallaby she’d rescued when his mum was shot by poachers in the nearby hills, sometime ago, several Emu, a deer (just the one we think), a number of chickens, some sheep and a whole flock (?) of black ducks with very loud quacks first thing in the morning! We’d heard about the relationship between the wallaby and a wild rabbit and the next morning we witnessed the nose-to-nose greeting of them across the fence – how cute!

Lake Rotoiti
Back in the van we went on to St Arnaud and stopped again at Lake Rotoiti, a beautiful location Jackie and I have previously been to, but we wanted to show Pauline the sweet tasting secretion from the small insect that lives in the black coloured growth on a certain type of tree (see our previous entry for a full description). Yes she tasted it and, yes it was very sweet, but unless you knew it was OK there is no way you would try it!

Further along the road (much further) we came into Marlborough wine country and drove for miles and miles past row upon row of vines and many different world famous vineyards
The chocolate factory
(or wineries as they call them here), but didn’t stop as drinking alcohol in the middle of the day is never a good idea - and in any case I was driving! Instead we stopped for tasting at a chocolate factory, called Makana, which is a very small affair making truly exotic chocolates! We sampled a few and Pauline purchased a box of Cherry Armagnac Truffles, which we’ve had for dessert this evening after dinner – yum!

Lobster krill in their millions in Queen Charlotte Sound
Finally we arrived in Picton (again) where Jackie and I have been before, ready for our ferry journey tomorrow, but we had a day here today to enjoy again the Queen Charlotte Sound (named by Captain Cook after the wife of the then king, George III). We were early enough yesterday to wander down to Picton harbour to discuss with the various boat companies what we should do. We did part of the Queen Charlotte Track last time, visiting Motuara bird sanctuary island, which we were tempted to do again with Pauline, but decided instead to go out to a place called Lochmara, which is a resort next to the QCT and is an eclectic mix of tiny pathways, sculptures , art (plus art for sale), Punga people (which are faces or animals carved out of the trunk of a living tree fern), various activities such as kayaks out onto the Sound (which all of us did), a zip wire, rope swing into the sea (neither of which we did), hammocks and then chickens and pigs, eels, kakariki parakeets (critically endangered, but we were allowed into their cage to feed them out of our hands), gecko’s, bees, a rehabilitation centre (which had an injured baby black backed gull) and Banjo the parrot! (Brian wants a parrot!)

One of the great views from the summit
It all sounds a bit odd, but it was a great day and an amazing place. There is access onto the Queen Charlotte Track, up a very steep hill, giving access to a very good lookout that can be done in 3 hours, so I left Jackie and Pauline to chill out and set off on my own and at a relatively fast pace, getting back down in a few minutes over two hours, having spent 10 minutes or so on the summit taking in the view and wondering who Peter Miller was, who died in 1995 aged 61 and had a very nice picnic table dedicated to him right on the summit.

No sooner had I got back Jackie took me off to meet Banjo the parrot, who was in fine playful mood. Putting my hand next to him he gingerly put one foot on my finger, then the other and then shuffled up my arm, onto my shoulder, round onto my back and started chewing my hat! Round he went onto my other shoulder and then started looking at his reflection in my sunglasses. It was an absolute joy, my most favourite of animals! He then did the same to Jackie and, between us we got lots of photos, here’s just a few of them.

Brian and Pauline kayaking on the Sound
A great day, we were back in Picton just after three, in time for tea, a chill out and then dinner. The end of a really good day, but suddenly the wind has really picked up, whistling round the van. That’ll be fun on the ferry tomorrow then!

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