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Driving up the east coast, north from Kaikoura’s rocky peninsula (after our whale-watching extraordinaire experience), we realised how extensive the damage was from the late 2016 earthquake in that area. Witnessing the teams of workers rebuilding fallen or buried roads that wind alongside the ocean is quite tear jerking. It’s clearly been a mammoth task. Additionally, they’ve had to cope with the aftermath of cyclone Gita, which hit in February this year, that caused more landslips and carnage. Those heroic rebuild teams show such resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity.

Once past the roadworks, the landscape opens up around Blenheim to show off the explosion of horticulture – in particular, wine-growing – that’s grown up due to the soils and climate here. With children on board, we chose to ignore the calls for wine tasting!!

Sidestepping Picton (we’ll come back here later to catch our ferry across the Cook Strait to North Island), we made a brief overnight stop in Ngakuta Bay, to say farewell to Tash’s mum and stepfather, who were making their way up to Auckland for their flight back to the UK.

The beautifully quiet bay lies in Queen Charlotte Sound – one of the many deep and narrow fiord-like channels that thread their labyrinthine way through this region (a sound is a large sea or ocean inlet larger than a bay, deeper than a bight, and wider than a glacier-carved fiord).

It’s worth letting you know at this point, because we love learning about Cook, that the explorer first arrived in these sounds in 1769 and hung around for a considerable time repairing his boat and such like. In those days, the area was covered in native bush and Joseph Banks, the naturalist and scientist on board Cook’s ship, remarked on the extraordinary diversity and sound of the native bird life. There is still abundant wildlife and clear waters to be found here despite being diminished by the growing human habitation.

We loved the jetty jutting calmly out into Ngakuta Bay. From the end of it, we saw sting rays gracefully gliding around, happy to swim with us.

We have met so many lovely friendly people in this country, and here in the Bay was no exception. We were loaned use of a paddleboard and kayak, so so kind!

The Bay sits along The Queen Charlotte Track, a unique partnership between the Department of Conservation (DOC), Marlborough District Council and private landowners, which is renowned for its stunning views as it meanders through lush coastal forest, historic bays, and along skyline ridges. It certainly made for heart pounding running ground!!

So, goodbye to Mum and Chris, see you back in England!

Onward we venture, to Abel Tasman…read onto next post…coming soon (hopefully!).