Posted late due to lack of internet
Starting Point: Havelock, New Zealand
Ending Point: Richmond, New Zealand
Kilometers Traveled: 118km
Today we woke up to sun, which was a nice change of pace after many days of rain and wind. We knew we wanted to end up in the Nelson/Richmond area to set ourselves up for doing some tramping in Abel Tasman National Park in the next couple of days. But we had a lot of time to kill between Havelock and Nelson.
We decided to spend it exploring a bit of the Marlborough Sounds. So we headed out to French Pass, all the way at the one of the northern tips of the sounds. The Marlborough Sounds encompass one-fifth of New Zealand’s total coastline. They are described by geologists as “downed valleys” formed by mountains sinking and allowing the ocean to flood on in. To say they are spectacular is to understate their splendour. We traveled down a very windy road to Okiwi Bay, partway along the peninsula, and then on to Elaine Bay. Along the way we passed farms, sounds, beaches, and lots of clearcutting and logging, which is fairly common in NZ, where logging is a huge industry.
After a bit, the paved road ended and we kept going on a very windy narrow gravel road out to French Pass. We spent most of our time driving through large sheep and cattle stations high up on the hillsides with the ocean and the sounds down below. The views were AMAZING! Finally, we reached the tiny village of French Pass and had a picnic lunch alongside the harbour. Then it was on to do a bit of hiking out to some scenic points.
At the French Pass overlook, we ran into a very friendly Weka, a flightless bird that is a member of the Rail family. They are endangered nationally. This one was obviously very used to people and followed us down the trail. She would have gotten into our car if we had let her. She was ready to travel with us and carry our backpacks. 🙂
From there we headed out to hike to the French Pass lighthouse and to take in French Pass. French Pass is a narrow bit of water separating D’Urville Island from the mainland. It has the fastest tidal flows in New Zealand (8 knots) and is notorious for being very treacherous waters. The pass has claimed many boats as the stretch also contains strong water flows, rip tides, eddies, and an uneven seafloor that makes it impossible to navigate except in one specific section. And even then you have to make sure you are going with the tide. When the tide changes it is so loud that it sounds like a rushing river. We were unknowingly lucky and hit the point just as the tide was turning. It was LOUD and very cool to watch all the craziness in the waters. We watched a boat just sitting still in one spot doing a bit of fishing, while another boat navigated the pass in another section. Very cool!
We sat and watched the waters in the pass for a very long time and then headed back to the car and back down the peninsula to Richmond. We did some grocery shopping, had a bit of dinner, and now we’re just hanging out and enjoying the warm weather.
Tomorrow we head up to Kaiteriteri, just south of Abel Tasman National Park.