As planned, we celebrated Christmas in Nelson with Bill and Zoe from S/Y Into the Blue. Very sadly Ian and Manuela from S/Y Mr X had engine problems (a never ending situation with boats) and did not make it down to Nelson. There is no doubt that Christmas in a warm or hot climate is not really a proper Christmas. I know a wet drizzly UK Christmas Day does not seem so good either but we really did miss the family gathering, turkey and Christmas pudding for lunch, a proper log fire and dreadful telly. Like everyone we are so looking forward to a better 2021.
Christmas in New Zealand is, as ever here, very practical. Very notably, not so many decorations – so much easier to take down what you don’t put up. We joined the Kiwis for some excellent Christmas Eve Carols with a brass band, and had a very good BBQ (with sprouts), probably too much alcohol and some excellent Christmas pudding on Into the Blue. An excellent day but some sadness thinking about life back home.
Christmas over, our next task was to prepare for the Heaphy Great Walk. This is a five days/four nights walking and camping trip. We headed over to the Abel Tasman coast to get some strenuous exercise. This is quite different to The Sounds with more cliffs and sandy beaches, but a place where we could do some good preparatory walking. The Kiwis were now on holiday and the anchorage was very busy, and the sport fishing boats out in force.
From here we headed back to the Pelorus Sound and Havelock marina through the notorious tidal gate, French Pass. Havelock is the World’s centre for the production of the New Zealand green lip mussels, and they are rightly very proud of them. It seems there is nothing that cannot be done to a green lip mussel, but believe me deep frying and rolling them in breadcrumbs does nothing for the mussel! A good white wine sauce is the answer.
We had a wonderful few days sailing in The Sounds with Debbie and Andy Kerry. Debbie is an old school friend now living near Christchurch. They certainly brought the sunshine, and being braver than us went swimming.
It was now time to pack those rucksacks. Despite our determination to reduce our packs’ contents, and take only that which was strictly necessary they still did seem very heavy and full. In case you were wondering, two litres (2kgs!) of wine was deemed essential. Bill very kindly took us to the bus station, and on observing our fellow trampers, Bill could not help but remark that we were the eldest by about 20 years. He had a point but we held our own, despite a little trepidation. Yes, a little tired, and a few blisters on our return but all in all we managed just fine.
The Heaphy Track Great Walk is 78 km long, climbs 800m and we started on the rugged West Coast. The Walk is famed for the variety of landscapes and vegetation with bush, nikau palms, beech forest, and alpine tussock grasses. Sadly we still failed to see a kiwi but did hear them most nights, and of course the dreaded sandfly was all too present.
We have had a quiet few days cleaning the boat, watching the amazing America’s Cup and other such tasks, but are looking forward to walking the Abel Tasman Track next week with Ian and Manuela from Mr X. Let us hope our good fortune with the weather holds out, but more than anything wishing for a much better 2021.