Labour Weekend trip to Marlborough Sounds (23rd - 26th October 2009)

Friday, 23rd October 2009: Worked till 5pm and rushed off home to finish the last of my packing before Chris came to pick me up for our long weekend trip to his family bach in Marlborough Sounds. So glad it’s the long weekend – I need a break from doing computer work and 3 days of no mobile phone and internet coverage sounds perfect to me. Better still, Chris’ parents are coming down to take us scalloping on the big boat. How AWESOME is that!

Rush, rush, rush as usual…Now where is that darn cat?? I’ve been tasked by Priscilla to make sure Flick stays in the house because no one is around this weekend. Pricilla’s god-father will come by and make sure the cat has food and water but I am not allowed to let the cat out this evening so no Flick, don’t meow at me so pitifully – I ain’t letting you out!

Chris came to see me right on the dot at 6pm and we headed off to New World to do some food shopping for our meals for the next few days. The bach is situated in a somewhat remote bay so it would be quite a drive to get food (there’s no dairy around the corner). A quick stop at McDonald’s to pick up dinner and drove on to the ferry terminal to get in line into the ferry.

Surprisingly there weren’t many people on the Kaitoke sailing at 8pm tonight. Most of the access areas were closed (down to just 2 deck levels) so we pretty much just chilled out where the reclining chairs were – me reading my book and Chris having the occasional snooze. The ferry crossing was a steady smooth ride and we arrived in Picton at 11pm. It’ll take another 2 hours’ drive before we get to the bach. Unfortunately I won’t be much help to Chris driving since he’s driving a manual car :/ Nevermind, Chris was happy to do the driving but he’ll need to make a stop at the local petrol station to pick up a V drink.

That’s so weird…you can’t go inside the petrol station shop because the doors are locked and you have to tell the attendant what you wanted then he/she will walk around the shop, get the stuff then come back to you for money at the payment booth…is Picton such a high risk town for night robbery??

Carried on our journey towards Tennyson Inlet, the southern arm of Pelorus Sound in the Marlborough Sounds, an area which is about ten kilometers long and includes Penzance Bay as one of its 3 main settlements (Penzance Bay was were the bach is located). It was an easy drive with us wide awake at this time of the night, crooning away to the Ladyhawke album – did I mention we are going to the Ladyhawke concert next weekend? Yeah!

Quick toilet stop at Rai Valley around 12am. Ops, no mobile phone coverage from here on…time to switch off the phone for the weekend…

Hmm, why is it so foggy? The roads to the bach though was well tarred, it was rather windy, going up and down the hills through farmlands and arriving at Penzance Bay around 1am. This is SO cool! Chris’ house is just like a holiday home, all nicely decorated and fully stocked with essentials like bedding, can foods etc. with a view overlooking Penzance Bay. There doesn’t seem like much activity around here other than baches – will find out more when the sun is out tomorrow.

We unpacked all our stuff into the empty home and in the midst of us unloading our things, a bird flew into the house and was ‘trapped’ in the lounge. The next hour was spent trying to get the bird out of the lounge and oh my god, it just wouldn’t fly out through the opened doors or windows but kept flying up towards the ceiling. Shoo bird, shoo – out you go! Chris tried to catch the bird (I don’t think you’ll be able to catch the bird with your bare hands, Chris) and at some point, the stupid bird decided to hide behind the pantry and Chris had to remove all the items to find the bird in case it got trapped in the small space. Argh! We could see the bird was getting tired flapping everywhere (it kept opening its beak as if needing to breathe in more air) and started to fly much lower. I suggested that Chris get a large cloth or blanket to catch the bird and it worked – Chris took a large table cloth, crept up slowly to the bird and threw it over, covering the bird, and brought bird and cloth outside to set it free. YES - finally we can get some rest! What a crazy start to our holiday! Photos taken this evening:

Went to bed around 2am. Brr, it feels quite cold here. Going to use the extra blankets to warm up tonight…

Saturday, 24th October 2009: Was up at 7am and kept on snoozing till 8am but just couldn’t sleep in anymore after that. Opened up the curtains and it was all lush green outside, mountains covered by morning fog. Wow, I REALLY am in the middle of nowhere…loving it!! :) Got out of my pajamas and went around the house taking photos. This is such a beautiful place! A place away from the hustle and bustle of the city, just the sound of birds chirping and boat engines revving up in the background with a view of calm waters and surrounded by native bush. I feel relaxed already…ahh…

Chris woke up shortly and we sat at the deck having morning coffee and chatted. His parents were heading up from Nelson this morning so we chilled out at the bach until they arrived. Around 8.45am, we took a lovely short walk from the bach to Penzance Bay boat ramp. The water was so calm and clear – it was tempting me to go in for a dip but no, the water temperature was very cold! Several boats were already out this morning even though the sky looked cloudy and somewhat gray. Can’t wait for our turn to go out on the boat!

Headed back to the bach around 9.15am to make breakfast. Chris kept talking about this food called ‘bacon butty’ and said he would make them for breakfast today. Bacon butty turned out to be bread with relish, fried bacon, mesculin salad (and a fried egg but we had none). Ha, Kiwis – they sure have strange ways of calling things. Tasted pretty good though! Photos taken this morning:

Chilled out over more coffee, got my laptop out to listen to my iTunes, and did some reading as we waited for Chris’ folks to arrive. No internet access here nor mobile phone reception (there is a landline in the house) which is great. Feels just like my trips in the Polynesian islands, away from constantly seeking information on the internet. Hopefully the weather will clear up too by the time Chris’ parents gets here.

Around 11am, Chris’s parents Grant and Carol arrived and brought with them plenty of food for us for the weekend. Both very lovely and jovial Kiwis, I’m very honoured to be a guest at their home – they were so welcoming and hospitable :) Even though it’s a holiday home, down here at the bach, everyone is expected to help with the chores and guests are no exception. I’m only too glad help!

Hmm, the weather still looks a tad overcast and it has started to drizzle but oh well, we’ll head out anyway! Grant tells me we will be going scallop dredging – yay! I’ve never seen or done it myself before. This is my first experience scalloping – how exciting!! We split into 2 teams: Chris and Grant got the boat ready for launch while Carol and I packed up food to take with us for lunch. I had to borrow some of Carol’s old clothes and booties as she said it can get quite muddy scalloping. Ok...Hehe, I looked quite funny in my mismatched clothes – oversized sweaters, life-jacket and funny-looking reef boots…

Finally headed out to the bay at noon and there were already several boats out fishing or scalloping around the Marlborough Sounds bays. Grant and Carol own a good-sized fishing boat and we cruised out through calm waters – I’m having SO much fun! Enjoying the sound of waves clapping and feeling the sea breeze at my face, and of course, being in good company :)

We made a short stop to check out the local mussel farm before heading to Ketu Bay where we did the scalloping. Grant and Carol were both proficient at driving the boat, with Carol taking the wheel as Grant got the dredge ready for our first dredge. The dredge was in the shape of a scoop made of chain mesh, and was dropped into the seabed then slowly towed by the boat. Once the chain mesh (which acts as a net) is filled, the dredge is then hauled up and a sorting process is carried out.

WOW, we had a whole mesh full of scallops!!! Each of us had a home-made ruler with a gap that measures 10cm wide (the minimum legal size for scallops) and we would slide the scallops through one-by-one, keeping only those that didn’t slide through (those that did went back into the water) and counted them until we got to 200 (each person on the boat is allowed up to 50 scallops). It was a muddy task but well-worth it! And we only had to do 1 dredge!! Grant pried open a few scallops for us to eat them raw – naturally salty from sea water but yum! Quite similar to having raw oysters actually…

Now that we’ve done the scalloping, it’s time for lunch! Stopped for our picnic lunch at Ketu Bay beach. We packed along bread, cold meats, spreads, fruits, tea and juice and a makeshift table to put all the food on. Chatted and chilled out in the sun (yay, the sky’s cleared and the weather’s warming up!), listening to the soft clapping of waves and breathing in the natural beauty of Marlborough Sounds. This is just one of many amazingly beautiful landscapes in New Zealand, our little slice of paradise!

Around 2.30pm, we packed up everything and hopped back on the boat for a tiki tour around the bays, whizzing by a salmon farm and several seals basking in the sun by the river bank. Lush green hills and bright aqua blue waters – the view was absolutely gorgeous. Thank Chris for inviting me down to the family bach for the weekend and spend time with your family. I’m having such a great time :) Chris drove the boat all the way back to shore and everyone pitched in to get the boat onto the trailer and helped unload the boat when we got home.

After a short rest for tea and biscuits, Grant, Chris and I began removing scallops from the shells in the garden shed. We each had a butter knife and Grant taught me how to carry out the ‘murderous’ task: first, insert the knife at the front of the scallop, trying to scrape it along the top of the shell, turning the shell as you move the knife, keeping the blade against the top of the shell. Next, remove the top shell carefully so that you won’t damage the meat. Carefully scrape the scallop from the shell, cutting off the membrane "skirt" from the meat and place the actual scallop into the bowl of cold water. Looked simple enough and Grant was so quick at it, removing the scallops one after another at great speed! “Now, your turn,” he said to me. Ok…so, let’s start by sticking the knife into the scallop…After a few attempts, Grant gave me his nod of approval and said I’m doing very well and have now earned my ‘license to kill’, scallops, that is. Haha! At times, the scallops would ‘attack’ me by suddenly clamming up as if trying to bite my fingers when I picked them up! And it was actually hard work slicing open the shell – need muscles to fight the scallop’s muscles!! Some scallops still ‘palpitated’ after we removed them from the shell. Yep, it was moving like a heart, tu-dum, tu-dum on my palm…creepy…

Many hands make light work and we finished removing shells of all 200 scallops in 45 minutes. Great team work! I do feel a bit like a mass murderer, cutting out so many scallops…hmm…Brought the two bowls filled with scallops soaked in cold water into the kitchen where Carol cleaned off any grit and cut off a small muscle that is on one side of the scallop that needs to be removed (not sure why but told so). More chit-chat, had a shower and rested a bit before dinner.

Around 7.30pm, Chris and I helped Carol set the table for dinner. Carol made us noodles, bread and salad, and lots of freshly cooked sweet Thai chilli scallops. YUM! We ate about 50 scallops and there were lots more to be cooked but we were too full! It was SO delicious and I think there was something about eating my own catch that gave me a sense of satisfaction and adds more flavour to the meal. Ah, bliss! Tummy very happy and full :)

I helped out by doing all the dishes after dinner. Carol and Grant have been such great hosts; it’s the least I could do. Man, there were still so many scallops left and Carol had them packed up into small bags and stored in the freezer so we could all take some home with us. Yay!

Chris suggested we go for a walk in the bush and hunt for wekas (or woodhens – brown flightless birds). Right, it’s pitch black outside, you know…“I’ve got a headlamp!” said Chris enthusiastically, eager to head out for a walk in the bush nearby. Ok, ok…come on, let’s go….

Some 45 minutes later of walking in the dark with our path only lighted with a narrow ray of light from Chris’ headlamp and throwing bits of bread along the path, we saw NO weka. See, I told you wekas don’t come out at night…Home by 10pm, played some cards with Chris while the folks did some reading. Everyone retreated to our rooms by 10.30pm. Yawn, it’s been a long day – I’m exhausted! It’s going to be a restful night for me as I can still feel the sway of the boat even though I’m on land now…Photos taken the rest of today:

Sunday, 25th October 2009: Up at 9.15am and chilled out at the bach having breakfast with Carol and Grant. Much like Chris, his parents are ardent travellers and I was all ears listening to their interesting travel stories over toast and coffee. Gave me the travel itch and made me feel like travelling again!

Around 11am, Chris and I started making our pack lunches and after seeing Carol and Grant off (they headed back to Nelson this morning), we went for a walk along Archers Track towards Deep Bay, the same path we took last night weka hunting. Quite a different sight during the day, the track was surrounded by native New Zealand bush, with small creeks and some rocky parts covered in blackish moss. Careful – they are slippery!

We arrived at Deep Bay around 1pm and had our picnic lunch outside a hunting cabin – it was vacant and locked but we could see that it was a temporary place of stay (has a kettle, stove, bed etc.) and there was a large hand basin and table which I think was normally used to clean and cut up their catch (deer or rabbit maybe?). It was really quiet out here in the bush with only sounds of nature – water streaming down the creek, bird chirping and the rustle of leaves from the breeze. Very few people walked past us today. Guess most are out at sea since it was such a lovely day.

Headed back to the bach around 1.45pm. The walk was 1.5 hours each way – a good workout! Was home by 3.15 and we raided the pantry, chowing down on chips, cookies and drinking coffee out at the deck. Chris went to have a snooze while I did some reading, listening to my iTunes. Frankly speaking, I’m feeling rather sleepy myself…

I’ve not seen a potbelly stove in action and Chris promised me he would turn it on tonight –yay! A potbelly stove is a cast iron wood-burning stove, round with a bulge in the middle. It pretty much works as an in-house heater but you can actually cook on the stove if you wish. I had fun taking photos of the whole process of Chris getting the fire started on the stove. Come on, Chris – more muscle chopping that firewood with the machete! :P

Hmm…the bach is now nice and warm…Quite impressed how quickly Chris got the potbelly stove working and the whole living room was now nicely heated. Popped open a bottle of wine and started to help Chris make dinner. Tonight’s menu was Asian stir-fry and Chris made us teriyaki chicken and sautéed vegetables served with brown rice. Yum! Thanks Chris – you’re a great cook!!

The rest of the evening was spent listening to more music, drinking wine, chit-chatting and checking out photos I took this weekend. Photos taken today:

Yawn, it’s already 11.30pm…so sleepy…time for bed…

Monday, 26th October 2009: Was up at 8am but snoozed in a bit till 8.30am. Today was the last day of the long weekend trip – heading back to Wellington this afternoon :/ It has been a wonderful and relaxing weekend away, AND a fun scallop dredging experience. Thanks again Chris for having me spend the holidays at the bach! I had a FABULOUS time :)

Had breakfast, packed up our bags, and then cleaned up the house. Yep, anyone who comes down to the bach must clean up the place before they go so that the next lot of people heading over would be greeted with a nice and clean holiday home. The place now looks exactly the same as when we first arrived! Loaded our stuff into Chris’ car and left Penzance Bay at 10am. We had to take the rubbish with us as well as there was no rubbish collection in the area – we had to drive to a coin-operated skip bin located about 15 minutes drive away by the main highway to dispose the rubbish. How interesting…I’ve not seen a coin-operated skip bin!

Bye bye bach – until next time!

We took the long scenic route via Queen Charlotte Drive towards Picton, stopping at Havelock around 11am for coffee. Havelock is as coastal township in the Marlborough region, also known as the greenshell mussel capital of the world. There were hardly anybody out and about today and most shops were closed (well, it was a public holiday) – our 15-minute stop for coffee ended up being over half an hour. Eeks, I hope we get to the ferry terminal in time for the ferry crossing!!

Arrived 12.15pm at Picton and joined in the long queue of cars getting on the ferry. Wow, the ferry was packed this afternoon compared to the ferry we took on Friday where there were hardly anyone! It was a smooth crossing today with fine weather and we arrived back in Wellington at 4.10pm. Photos taken today:

I always feel a bit sad when it’s the end of a trip. I mean, I do look forward to head home to my own bed and room, and get back to normal routines in life (and civilisation!) but it’s something about doing something fun and different coming to a halt that makes me feel sad. Hmm…I guess that means I just have to plan out the next holiday…hehe…


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