Split Second Timing

Last
weekend we paid our fourth visit to the South Island – literally a flying visit.
We flew out of Wellington with Sounds Air, who operate little single-engined Cessna
planes which carry 12 passengers and hop across the Cook Strait. We left at 8.00
and landed about 8.20, staying below the clouds all the time. Then there was just
time for us to get the shuttle into Picton and check in at the Cougar Line office
to catch our 9.00 boat up Queen Charlotte Sound. We changed into hiking boots and
hopped aboard, setting off about one hour after leaving Wellington.

The
boat took us up the Sound for about an hour, finally dropping us and a posse of
mountain bikers off at Ship Cove. The weather was cloudy but fine, a bit cool
but no rain and some patches of sun. We started the 5-hour hike along the Queen
Charlotte Track to Furneaux Lodge by climbing quite steeply until we reached a
good viewpoint and caught up with the bikers again. Then the track went down
again, and after that it went up and down a fair bit, but not so steeply as at
the start. We got some more good views over the Sound and the hills, and about
halfway along we stopped at the side of the path and had lunch. We were
pestered by a weka bird, big and brown with a pointed beak and inquisitive
nature, and we saw some others along the way. As we approached Furneaux Lodge
we suddenly realised we were running out of time to get there for the 3.00
pick-up, so had to speed up. We finally made it with minutes to spare, and were
picked up by the same boat and taken back to Picton, with a few other stops on
the way. Saturday was definitely a case of split second timing, fitting in planes,
boats and walking – but we made it, just.

On
Saturday night we ate at a pleasant little restaurant in Picton called the Barn.
Sandie liked it because they were playing old Cliff Richard hits. We were amused
because the sign outside  said ‘Open 5.00
till late’, and when we asked what ‘late’ was, they said “Oh, about 8.30 or 9”.
As it was, we stayed till about 9.30 and from there went to the big local
hotel, which still had people in the bar, and had a glass of bubbly before
going back to our room. Almost everywhere in town was shut down by 10, which
seemed odd on a Saturday night but is fairly typical of small-town New Zealand.

On
Sunday we did some more walking, including out to the ‘Snout’ which is the end of
the ridge of land which goes from Picton and sticks out into the Sound. On the way
we visited Queen Charlotte’s View – that woman gets everywhere. On getting back
to Picton we had a late lunch, including green-lipped mussels for Ian (very much
a local delicacy), before the shuttle picked us up at 4 and took us to catch the
little plane home. We landed just before 5.00, although there was some turbulence
when we were coming close to land which made us a bit anxious.

We
were able to drive home from the airport because Ian’s boss (Lynne) has lent us
her ‘spare’ car for the duration. It’s a bit beat up, and smells of dog, but it
goes and means we have a car we can use on the odd occasions when we need one. It’s
great to have a thoughtful and generous boss!

Brief
explanations of the photos.

The weka
was the bird we met on the track two or three times. Here is the official description:

 53 cm., males 1000 g., females 700 g.,
brown, streaked with black; North Island Weka, greyi,
is greyer below and has brown legs; Buff Weka, hectori,
is palest; Western Weka, australis, is
more chestnut in colour except in Fiordland where a dark form is common;
Stewart Island Weka, scotti, is the smallest
and also has a dark form.

The
koru is the opening bud of the New Zealand
tree fern, and also an important Maori image symbolising renewal, rebirth, striving
towards the light.

The
mussels (not green-lipped) we found on
a beach just above the water. We’d never seen them clustered together on the shore
like this.

 

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