Perfect glimpse into the natural past

MICHAEL BERRY
Last updated 10:31 25/01/2011

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Summer Sizzlers

Kayak trip a great experience Natural, just as it should be Swimming with seals an exhilarating gig Glimpse of a luxury world Cook's spot great for a picnic A great way to explore the Sounds Perfect glimpse into the natural past French Pass full of delights A spot of sun, sea and peace It's a hell of a view from 900 metres up

The pod of bottle-nosed dolphins flipped and splashed and surfed the wake of the Cougar Line as it cruised towards Picton, topping off a fantastic day in the Marlborough Sounds.

I had taken the 8am Cougar Line from Picton to the edge of Queen Charlotte Sound and Motuara Island.

The island is a predator-free sanctuary for birds and weta, and a successful one at that. The island is a whisper of Marlborough Sounds before the arrival of Maori, European settlers and the mammals they brought, and it is marvellous. The birdsong and the constant fluttering in the forest show the health of the sanctuary.

Stepping onto the wharf, New Zealand wood pigeons (kereru) can be seen circling and swooping above the canopy; starting up the track tiny yet fearless South Island robins (toutouwai) fall in tow, looking for bugs in the disturbed earth of the track and cocking their heads at wing-less strangers. The once-endangered South Island saddleback (tieke) sings in the background and flits about in the shadows of the trees, just enough to show itself, but not sticking around long enough to get snapped on film.

Meandering up the track to the lookout at the highest point of the island takes about 40 minutes, and gives visitors a panoramic view of the Sound and the entrance to Cook Strait.

The view is glorious, and having it to yourself is fantastic.

Leaving Motuara behind on another Cougar Line, I'm dropped off at Resolution Bay. As the boat approaches, people on the jetty throw bread into the sea.

The water by the wharf is soon churning with hundreds of large cod.

A few ducks try their best to pick up scraps of bread, but they are heavily outnumbered.

One duck takes a slice of bread away from the mass, but is undermined by a cod which darts in for a few nibbles underneath.

Resolution Bay is inside the blue cod fishing ban zone, which will be lifted in April and replaced with new management rules.

The walk from Resolution Bay to Furneaux Lodge on the Queen Charlotte Track was a simple and enjoyable walk which I made in two hours.

There were many curious sights along the way, including a car wreck on derelict farmland at the back of Furneaux Lodge: how did it get there? A sneaky weka who stole my apple. And a log which had been blown across the track at head-height. Always remember to look further ahead than a few metres, lest a log slip into your blind spot. Luckily, there was no blood – or I would have been quite embarrassed arriving at Furneaux Lodge. As it was, I had almost two hours to enjoy a Spy Valley sauvignon blanc and a caesar salad outside.

Then it was homeward on the Cougar Line, and time for the dolphin show. All together, a perfect Marlborough day out and a bump on the head to remind me it wasn't a dream.

A trip on the Cougar Line from Picton to Motuara Island and across to a point on the Queen Charlotte Track and a return trip to Picton costs $82 a person.

Cougar Line gave the reporter a complimentary trip.

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- The Marlborough Express

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