Saturday 4 October 2014

Two Cables –Two Bays

Yay! We have internet access for a few days, here's the first of the Marlborough Sounds blogs.

On our way to Okiwi Bay we took a side road just out of Nelson at Hira, initially so I could check out the “Skywire” an impressive looking flying-fox capable of carrying 4 people at a time flying high up through a valley on a 3.5km return journey reaching speeds of 100kph. I fancied having a go although the mention of a backward fall at high speeds had me reconsidering for a time and as it turned out when we arrived at the place there was no sign of the highwire and nobody about, just quad bikes, paintball, horses and other farming paraphernalia.

We didn’t stop but from what I saw I think you must be transported across the farm to the site of the flying-fox. The road was narrow and with no place to easily turn around we decided to carry on to Cable Bay and have lunch before returning.

Towards the end of the road the view opened up over a large estuary with an low lying isthmus (Maori Pa Beach) in the distance, there must be a break in the sandbar that lets in the water. The road winds it’s way around the sea cliffs with numerous holiday homes built into the slope. It also looks like a serious storm has damaged the road as there are many washouts along the way. Road cones galore line the edge & wire cages full of rocks, looking like a giant’s staircase, step down the hillside to the water far below.

It’s not long before we reach the workmen, diggers & trucks and an area where the road is seriously narrow. I may have to get out and shift a few cones but the guys spot us and are very helpful if a little incredulous when they see what we have on the back. The digger moves into a drive and the trucks are far enough to the edge that we’ll be able to squeeze past. We thank them and let them know that we’ll be back past in an hour or so. “No worries, mate!” Even if we feel like we’ve inconvenienced them, they are quite happy. All part of the job.

At the end of the road there’s another isthmus, with the estuary on one side and the ocean on the other and a tiny beautiful turquoise coloured bay. The road crosses the bar but finishes at the base of Stuart Hill, an “island” which it actually isn’t as it’s tethered to the mainland by the gravel bank. Which is what I think DOC are referring to as the “nationally significant natural feature”.

The Cable Bay Walkway, an 8km walk along the coast & over private farmland, leaves from Glenduan (just north of Nelson’s Boulder Bank) & finishes here in the bay. Unfortunately (or fortunately as the case may be) the walk is closed for lambing at the moment. But I climb over the locked gate so I can walk up to the shelter and information board that is located higher up the hill.

It’s here in Cable Bay that the first cable that linked Australia to New Zealand opened in 1876. Two ships set off from Botany Bay in Australia laying a cable across the Tasman Sea, averaging 6.5 knots the ships arrived in Schroders Mistake (renamed Cable Bay) just 11 days later. When the new cable system came into operation it meant that people could communicate with the friends & relatives in the “Motherland” (UK) by telegram taking 4 days instead of the usual 6 months it took by letter.

The view is spectacular- you’ll see that the top two photos form the bay. It was a surprise to see a small duck weed covered pond located just a little higher then the shoreline. It was lovely and sunny sitting outside having our lunch overlooking the bay. A few families were also about enjoying the sunshine.

Looking back down to the vehicles I see that David is engrossed in conversation and it isn’t a surprise to find him still talking when I get back down to the van. I think he should write a book on the interesting characters he meets on our travels, you wouldn't believe the stories he could tell.

It was soon time to hit the road again, we still had 60kms of winding road to travel before reaching our destination. We smiled and waved as we edged our way back past the road works and looked in again on the flying-fox operation but with no one in sight and the place deserted we decided to give that a miss for now. We wind our way up and over the Rai Saddle and down into the Rai Valley where we turn left heading for Okiwi Bay.

Just after turning we’re confronted with a plethora of signs with distances and some information on each area. This ‘arm’ of the Marlborough Sounds reaches up to French Pass with D’Urville Island across the Pass, a finger towards the end reaches into the Sounds proper and it’s where Bulwer is located 80kms away.

I’ve never heard of Bulwer before so I’m looking forward to taking a trip out that far to check it out. Our first stop will be at Okiwi Bay, we’ll then move onto Elanie Bay and maybe make it as far as French Pass with ‘Out There’ on the back.

The yellow AA signs on the right point down another road just past the main information board, down to Duncan Bay & Tennyson Inlet deep inside the Sounds.

The first section of the road down the valley is fine, just another country road with dairy farms along both sides. Then we start to wind our way up and through native bush, the road narrow but not too bad, just enough to keep us on the alert and attempting to look ahead around corners. We’ve heard that you can meet logging trucks but we’re lucky we only see a couple of cars. There’s also the mussel trucks, but we’re yet to know about those.

We catch glimpses of beautiful turquoise blue water through the trees as we get closer to the coast but for most of the time the bush is too high to get a clear view until finally a clearing gives us a wonderful view out over a bay below. This is Whangarae Bay, part of the larger Croisilles Harbour which Okiwi Bay is part of too.

Not too much further on we pass over the top of the ridge and start to wind our way down into Okiwi Bay, our base for the next few days. Okiwi Bay is a small bay tucked into the back of Croisilles Harbour with a narrow entrance which gives the impression it will be quite sheltered. Famous last words. While it hasn’t been too bad, the surrounding peaks are all over a thousand meters tall and act like a funnel with the wind either roaring down and across the harbour or up the harbour and over the top.

Down at sea level we head along the waterfront looking for the NZMCA CAP site (costs apply parking- $7 per van(2pp) per night), finding it about halfway along across from the water and just 50 meters from the boat ramp. What a perfect spot!

There’s a house truck already on site; a family of five with their dog, car & boat. They’ve not long rented out their house and are now also living full time on the road and loving the lifestyle. I can’t help but think what a handful- & how stressful it might be- they have 3 children including 22 month old twin boys who were on the go from dawn to dusk and beyond.

We set up camp on the front edge of the site and marvel at such a great spot to have a camp. And even though it’s the school holidays there’s hardly a soul about (if we look north; out the back, it’s a different story!)


  1. Cable Bay is a sweet little spot!
    Suggestion to David that he writes a "characters Met" section of your blog.. Ciao J

    1. I have passed on your suggestion Jimu, who knows one day...... :)


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