Situated at the northern tip of the South Island, the Marlborough Sounds were formed when a rising sea flooded an enormous territory of river valleys. Rocky coves abound, and the treed hills pull right out of the water. Sheltered bays and deep water make it a boater's dream. This is also where Captain Cook found refuge in the 1770s.
Picton, a town of 4000, is the base for this cruise, its harbor also serving the giant Interislander Ferries that cross Cook Straight bringing people from north to south island and back again.
Once we're on the water, the terrain is dreamy.
Our first stop is Blackwood Bay, where someone who lives in this house perched high in the hills comes down to greet the mail boat.
Mail comes in, mail goes out.
Tantalizing glimpses of homes in the sounds lead to much fantasizing about what it would be like to live here.
At our next stop, Skipper Bruce tells us, a small black lab carries on a long tradition of dogs bringing down the mail sack. Often the dog hears the boat before humans do and is first to greet the mail boat. I swear this dog dropped the mail sack a nanosecond before I took this shot. Her dad is trying to get her to pick it up again, but you can see from the dog's posture she may as well be saying "I brought it down, didn't I?"
The biscuit our skipper hands over does much, I suspect, to reinforce mail sack behavior.
Now this is interesting. Here's Curious Cove, where the US built barracks during WW2 to use as a naval base if needed. Now it's a summer camp for kids (and just when I was thinking of signing up).
A quick chat and we were off again.
We saw a fleet of dusky dolphins zipping past so quickly I didn't get a shot.
The dusky dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) is a dolphin found in coastal waters in the Southern Hemisphere...The dusky dolphin is known for its remarkable acrobatics, having a number of aerial behaviors.
"DuskyDolphin" by AllenMcC. - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:DuskyDolphin.jpg#/media/File:DuskyDolphin.jpg
Nobody came to greet us here, so Bruce tied the mail to a post.
The Bay of Many Coves Resort is enticing (and upon further research, veddy high-end). I shot a quick vid (trouble viewing click here)...
Skipper Bruce gives a nice commentary.
That rock at left signals we're north of Wellington. How can that be?
Here's how: Wellington (on the North Island) is on the appendage at lower right. And the rock above lies out toward the edge of the sounds at left.
We make a 20-minute stop at Ship Cove, where in 1770 Capt Cook and the Endeavour dropped anchor. Cook spent more time here than anywhere else in NZ, 168 days over seven years on three voyages. Ship Cove is where the first significant contact between Maori and Europeans took place. The water here is startlingly clear.
This is also a stop on the Queen Charlotte Track, one of NZ's Great Walks.
It's essential to note that archaeology shows the ancestors of Maori and other Polynesian people sailed into the Pacific from the west about 3000 years ago. NZ was one of the last places they discovered, roughly 500 years before the Europeans.
Art found this plant piece in the grass. To us it looks like Maori art. Exquisite.
Exceptional picnic table, surely inspired by the shape of Maori waka (canoes).
The beach at Ship Cove
We returned at full throttle, setting sun dappling the sky over Picton. A decidedly different postie run than we had with Robin on the Banks Peninsula, though just as illuminating in its own way.