Friday, 17 October 2014

Exploring Tennyson Inlet

David was going fishing and I wanted to do one of the walks in the area so I hitched a ride with him out of our home base in Elaine Bay. I was going to get him to drop me off at Deep Bay which looked to be about half way along the Archer Track, a 9km walking track from Penzance to Elaine Bay. I could have walked the 3.5hr walk one way from Elaine but then I’d have to retrace my steps and double the time as it wasn’t a circular route.

Tennyson Inlet is part of Pelorus Sound and there are quite a number of narrow fingers and bays in this part of the Sound, It would be easy to take a wrong turn & get lost in amongst the bays and deep coves. Here we are heading towards the top of the Inlet, there’s another DOC camp in Duncan Bay right at the end but the road to that part is very narrow & winding and towing is not recommended so we’ll not be visiting it with the vehicles.

From the water I can see some of the Archer Track following the contour of the hills around the bays and when we get to the opening to Deep Bay it doesn’t seem to be that far from Elaine so I make a rash decision and tell David to continue on and I’ll walk the full track from Penzance.  We pass another couple of points and turn in towards Penzance where we can see a few houses in amongst the bush off in the distance.

Close in and we can see that Penzance is a little bigger than it appeared but still a small settlement with mostly holiday homes.

We pull up at the wharf and I clamber out with my day pack. David’s a little worried that it’s mid afternoon and I have a fair way to walk. I assure him I’ll be fine, we’ll touch base on the walkie-talkie once I get underway- as long as they work. He roars off back up the bay and I ask a couple in a boat berthed at the wharf the direction to the start of the track. I smile at some wag’s sense of humour; they’ve fed the penguin a plastic fish lure! Some donation!

I find the beginning of the track and realise that I have got a walk and a half ahead of me. It’s about 2:30pm which means I’m not going to get home until early evening. Hmmm…….maybe I was being a bit ambitious, I could easily walk it but I’d have preferred to have done it in the morning and/or with somebody else. Oh well, no choice but to hit the trail running. Or at least fast walking, I’ve got a lot of ground to cover.

I stop for a quick photo at the ‘view point’ looking back over to Penzance and then push on. I suddenly think maybe if I can get hold of David before he passes Deep Bay he can pick me up from there. I call him up and get no response. For the next 10 minutes or so I fail to reach him. I think he hasn’t turned the radio on. As I reach the first point I catch sight of him way down below and let out a shout. Just as I see him pull the starter cord on the outboard. He roars away. Blast! I guess I’ll just have to keep walking.

Most of the time the track is under bush and tree cover but occasionally I get views out over the water. That’s Mt Shewell off in the distance, the one we passed on our way to French Pass.

"Taxi, taxi".......

Luckily he stops to fish just below me and then he calls up on the radio, although I’m sure I could have shouted to get his attention. Great! I don’t have to walk so fast now.

He’s happy to pick me up as he was a little worried about how long it was going to take me. He roars off around the corner and into Deep Bay, calling me up at regular intervals to let me know there’s still another point to round.

Finally, after about 4kms and just over an hour I make it down to the water’s edge at Deep Bay where David is just pulling in too. I made good time probably because I wasn’t stopping so often to take photos and I didn’t have my walking buddy with me.

In the bay is this hut/bach with the handy back porch and deck! And a bigger house up the back hidden in the bush. There are 3 or 4 overturned dinghies at the water’s edge but no sign of anybody about.

Even though it’s called Deep Bay, it’s pretty shallow close in and I have to wade out to catch my ride. I’m pretty relieved as after the fast walk my feet are starting to ache.

We head towards Elaine Bay and stop for a short time off an island where David catches a kahawai which we’ll smoke for dinner later.

He then wants to show me the jelly fish and mussel farm where he went fishing yesterday. The water is silky smooth in amongst the buoys of the farm. Each row of buoys, know as a ‘backbone’ contain 10 metre drops of ropes off each buoy and on each rope are attached thousands of mussels.

And moving about between the backbones are hundreds of large white jellyfish, dozens & dozens of them moving silently through the water pumping their bodies back and forward with dozens of tiny hairs around the edge, they glide along. They are everywhere, there are plenty out in the channel too, as we move through the water you can hear the propeller of the outboard hitting them. I wonder if they sting.

The orange buoys at the end of the backbones are for navigation, the buoys in the background have no drops attached to them hence their height out of the water. From seeding to harvesting it takes about 3 years. The seed, collected from 90 Mile Beach in the Far North,  are introduced to hairy ropes (looking like frayed nylon) which is then enclosed within a woven sock. The sock holds the tiny mussels in place while they attach themselves to the hairy rope (yes that is their official name). After a few months the seed are stripped off the rope and go through the same process again but this time with less numbers so they have room to grow. The sock eventually rots away leaving the mussels in place until harvesting.

The smaller non-commercial blue-black mussel attaches itself to the buoys. It will only survive in the first metre of water so to stop it attaching itself to the commercial ropes a different rope (that it can’t attach to) is used for the first metre or so.

There are approximately 900 million commercial mussels growing in the Sounds- minus the few dozen that we’ve eaten in the last few days! Mussels are filter feeders and are each capable of filtering 300 litres of water a day which means a massive 270 billion litres of water is moved each day within the Sounds.

That’s Maud Island centre left, with the clay cliffs and line of dead wildling pines. Maud Island is a DOC scientific reserve & predator-free island sanctuary where many endangered birds are sent to recover and breed. It’s also has populations of tuataras, rare skinks & geckos. And is home to one of NZ’s most famous birds; Sirocco the kakapo parrot (when he is not touring NZ).

After our cruise through the mussel farm we headed for home, the water like a mill pond for most of the way.

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