The turn off to Kenepuru Sound is at Linkwater and has the now familiar sign board with all the relevant information needed before heading deep into the Sounds. It seemed rather odd that there isn’t a more inviting entrance to Kenepuru (and in fact the same for Pelorus). Personally I think the District Council could have made an extra effort here as a lot of tourists visit these areas. Still, there’s nothing quite like a smelly dairy farm to tell you you’re in NZ, & in the countryside, and life still does go on around these beautiful areas. The dairy shed was across the road from the sign board and a mucky race ran alongside both sides of the road.
I can’t post any photos of Kenepuru Sound as we travelled along the eastern side to the Head. That’s because there was absolutely no views of the water except a few peeks and glimpses here and there. The bush grew high on both sides of the road and other than letterboxes marking hidden driveways, houses with their magnificent water views, were hidden too.
Aside from the bush hiding the views, the road, all 45kms of it, was very, very winding and extremely narrow in places and took all David’s concentration. He couldn’t have stopped even if I had wanted him too. Back & forward we wound, out of one corner & into the next without a break. I told David I need a counter so I can keep a tally. I’m sure there must have been at least 100 bends for every 1km. I won’t tell you what he said but suffice to say he didn’t want two lots of clicking distracting him!
Our first chance to pull over was at Portage, 30 kms from the turnoff where we took the opportunity of having lunch sitting on the water’s edge overlooking a small bay and a big marina (although we did stop with our hazard lights on at Cowshed Bay to check out the DOC camp there- it was quite small & surrounded by bush).
Portage was little more than the Portage Resort and a few houses, nothing like I was expecting. I assume it’s a busy place in the summer when there are many people holidaying in the area & walking the Queen Charlotte Track which runs right along the ridge line which separates Kenepuru & Queen Charlotte Sounds. It’s also a low point in the range at Portage and you can drive over the top to Torea Bay which is on Queen Charlotte Sound. Water Taxis transporting walkers & visitors come and go from Torea Bay too.
Another 15kms further on and we finally reached Kenepuru Head and the DOC campground which has recently been upgraded. It now has flushing loos & cold showers. The grounds have been landscaped a little and separation ‘fingers’ planted so it’s a little more organised. It’s a large site and there’s another open space through the bush if the main side ever got overloaded. Although I can’t see that ever happening, it’s not like this is a good fishing spot or there’s lot’s to do locally. It’s just a lovely peaceful area to park up for awhile and enjoy the wildlife.
There were two other motorhomes here the first night we arrived, they left the next day and we’ve had the place to ourselves for the last four nights. Today two more motorhomes have arrived. How dare they! And I’m sure there will be more over the weekend.
The reason why it’s not good fishing is because we’re right at the head of the Sound and when the tide is out there’s a huge expanse of mud which runs from one side to the other and down the bay for a few hundred metres or so. No good for the dinghy even when the tide is in, David would manage to wheel it down to the water, climb in and before he knew it the water would be gone. The tide moves very fast around here. I think he needs a spear, I’m sure there would be flounder out there, but then I guess he’d get bogged down in the mud. This is the view (at high tide) out our kitchen window from the back of the van.
The birdlife around us is incredible, with the mudflats on one side & bush surrounding us there’s plenty to watch & listen to, especially the Bellbirds (Korimako). There are dozens of them. At high tide this Kingfisher (Kotare) & her fledgling chick sit in the tree outside our back window diving down into the water below. They are very wary and fly as soon as we open the door. I managed to take these through the tinted back window.
I picked up it’s tracks in the mud and thought I’d come back with my camera later to take a photo of the size of the print. It was HUGE and also the speed of the run as the back hoof print was right up there behind the front one. Unfortunately the tide had come in by the time I returned and the prints not as clean but you can still see the size, my fingertips are touching the mud.
I then followed the hoof prints along the edge and found out that where I thought it had run off into the bush it hadn’t, it had continued on along the edge for quite a distance. It was funny to see nice clean prints where it had walked in and the hurried and scuffed marks as it made it’s escape. It had exited the bay near a stream right up the top where there were also quite a number of other hoof marks, so I wonder if there was more than just the large deer I saw.
I wish I had of gone back inside and seen it from the back window, it would have carried on up the bay and I could have taken a photo. For the last few mornings I have been leaving the blind up at the back at night and checking at 6am. Just in case. But it hasn’t returned & is not likely to either. Oh well at least I saw it flash by. Another exciting sighting.
A resident flock of about 14 Royal Spoonbills (Kotuku ngutupapa) feeds on the mudflats at low tide, I can’t manage to get too close to them without getting bogged down in the mud, they do roost in a large macrocapa tree near the road but I have yet to get them there in the right light.
I tracked a wood pigeon (Kereru) through the bush along the water edge the other day and found this cute little bach tucked up in a clearing. A mown track wide enough for a small boat trailer led down to the water but I think they also wouldn’t be able to go fishing too much. I like the wide opening doors onto the tiny deck.
And of course camping in the Sounds wouldn't be complete without the comical & scavenging weka. We are parked in another weka family’s patch, this time just one adult and one large fledgling chick.
There are quite a number of weka in the camp ground but they each have their own patch and woe betold any that encroach into another’s territory. We’ve witnessed a few big scraps, they are very fast runners but it doesn’t help when it’s another weka chasing you! I just love the feather pattern, I can see why Maori used the gorgeous copper coloured feathers in their cloaks.
Sunset over Kenepuru Sound, Marlborough Sounds.