Another item ticked off the Bucket List – the Pelorus Mail Boat Cruise. And what a day we had. With an early morning wake-up call courtesy of the alarm clock, we drove back around the coast from Canvastown to Havelock, arriving bright and early at Pier 2, found a car park, paid our $6 for the privilege, and checked in at the office.
Waiting to board
With different trips every day of the week, our trip on Friday was to travel the “Outer Route”, seeing the sights and dropping off mail bags as we went.
The Marlborough Sounds is a system of drowned river valleys, which were formed after the last ice age around 10,000 years ago. Pelorus Sound has a main channel which winds south from Cook Strait for about 55 km, between steeply sloped wooded hills, until it reached its head close to Havelock town, as well as several major arms. Our trip took us in and out of these tranquil waterways, surrounded by endless tree covered hills.
Delivering the mail meant chugging slowly into the bays, nudging up to the jetty, leaning precariously out, and swapping mail bags with the customer. Bindy did all this with aplomb, as well as chatting happily to the customers as she leant over the boat rail.
Sometimes the customers brought their pets along to meet the mail boat, so we got to meet them too. This is Paul the pig, who was practically climbing into the skipper’s window, drooling and grunting, while Bindy fed him biscuits. Then at another stop, we admired two rather cute Kune Kune pigs who came to meet everyone on the boat.
Most of us went on a farm tour at Wilson’s Bay, with the 5th generation still farming today. The boat dropped us off, then delivered the other passengers who had booked into a restaurant for lunch at a nearby bay.
We wondered what was hanging on the fence. It was a collection of jaws from feral pigs shot on the property, these wild pigs do a lot of damage killing and eating young lambs. The young farmer then gave a shearing demonstration. Lots of cameras were clicking wildly as this was happening. It looks so easy when you know how, but it really is back breaking work.
Back on the boat again, the skipper eased up to a flock of Fluttering Shearwater birds, as they were feeding in the sounds. Fluttering shearwaters eat small fish, which are caught by pursuit diving, using partially-folded wings for propulsion.
Another interesting bird spotted was the King Shags with their pink feet, living on a tiny island almost at the open sea, and they are only found in the Marlborough Sounds. King shags are deep divers, feeding on bottom-dwelling fish species, and have been recorded foraging in water depths down to 50 m.
And take a look at this nasty looking thing. It was a Lion’s Mane Jellyfish, quite pink, with a whole lot of stinging tentacles floating underneath.
Lion’s Mane Jellyfish
The skipper took us to see how the Mussel Boats go about harvesting the mussels, as they pull up the long ropes which have growing musses attached. Mussel farming is very big business in the Marlborough Sounds.
Then it was time to head back to port – it had been a great trip and a very interesting day indeed.
We finished our day out with a quick look around Havelock, named after Sir Henry Havelock, before driving back to our van parked up at Canvastown. Havelock is known as the Greenshell Mussel Capital of New Zealand. Green lipped mussels are grown and harvested here, and the small town certainly celebrates them. Havelock's origins lie with the Wakamarina Gold Rush of 1864 when Havelock grew from a staging post between Blenheim and Nelson to a town with a main street boasting 23 hotels.
For those wanting to try this delicacy, the Mussel Pot seems to be the place to dine. You can’t miss this restaurant, it has a big pot of mussels on the roof, plus loads of others dancing on the edge of the roof on their little skinny legs. Not for us, though, we don’t really care for mussels – give us oysters or scallops any day.
Havelock icon – Mussel Pot Restaurant