After an enjoyable couple of days at Golden Bay it’s time to pack our bags and head off to Cape Foulwind. Sounds ghastly doesn’t it, but we need somewhere to break an otherwise tiringly long drive south, and Cape Foulwind is a reasonable stopping off point.
Also, Cape Foulwind’s got a large seal colony that should be worth a visit. This, reputedly, is how the place got its name … seals hauled out on the rocks en masse can be real stinkers, on account of their fishy diet.
But first we have to fight our way back through the endless roadworks on Takaka Hill. Fortunately, this time there are no impatient 4×4 drivers trying their best to kill us, and before long we’re on the scenic but largely deserted Motueka Valley Highway.
It’s an attractive landscape without ever graduating to the status of exceptional, with livestock, vineyards and hop gardens occupying the valley floor, and a distant view of snow-capped mountains beyond.
Some of the hillsides are covered with broom, which sports masses of bright yellow blossoms. Spring is clearly in the air, and after all the rain we had to put up with during our early days in New Zealand it’s great to enjoy some balmy conditions for a while.
So the landscape is pleasant enough, but traffic is notable by its absence. This is indeed a road less travelled, and almost – but not quite – the land that time forgot. For all these reasons it is a welcome contrast to the madness of Takaka Hill.
In due course we find our way to State Highway 6, which sounds a lot grander than it is, and head towards Buller Gorge. The scenery here is spectacular.
However, the place also attracts more than its fair share of thrill seekers, whose idea of a good time is engaging in activities that are referred to in polite circles as “adventure sports”.
In impolite circles – in other words, mine – such activities are referred to as arsing about, shrieking a lot and risking a heart attack for no good reason whatsoever! However, I’m not at all narrow-minded, and am therefore prepared to check it out.
At Buller Gorge we quickly discover there is a swing bridge across the river. It’s rather long and swings quite a bit, but Mrs P and I have no choice but to cross it because we want to get to the other side, where there’s a nature trail that we’d rather like to explore.
Running parallel with the bridge is a zip wire, but sadly nobody is zipping across at present, so I’m denied the opportunity to be gratuitously offensive.
But it doesn’t really matter, because at that moment a jet boat powers down the river and under the bridge. The boat’s engine is roaring like a hurricane and its occupants yelling and howling like banshees. I curse them enthusiastically, but of course they can’t hear me on account of all the roaring and yelling and howling.
We cross the swing bridge and hope to have our spirits restored on the nature walk. And indeed, the native vegetation is beautifully soothing, a myriad species of fern in a thousand shades of green.
But within minutes of setting off along the nature walk we witness a shocking wildlife crime. Close to the jetty from which the wretched jet boat sets off on its noisy excursions, a Weka – a flightless native bird with bags of attitude – has his head in a plastic bag belonging to one of the crew. A couple of seconds later he’s legging it off into the forest with a slice of bread in his beak.
It seems the Weka has stolen one half of jet boat man’s sandwich. He looks very pleased with himself – the Weka, that is, the jet boat man’s not at all impressed. Although I don’t normally endorse wildlife crime, when the crime been committed by a bird and the victim’s been disturbing the peace and quiet of a natural beauty spot, I can only applaud.
With our spirits restored by the excellent nature walk and the criminally-inclined Weka, we return to the car and continue with our journey to Cape Foulwind. By the time we arrive it’s too late to pay a visit to New Zealand’s stinkiest seal colony, so that very special pleasure will have to be postponed until tomorrow. I can hardly wait!