After Marfells Beach we headed over to Nelson for a couple of days to have a bit of maintenance done on the van before crossing back over the range and down into the Marlborough Sounds where we were to have a bit of time at Momorangi, a DOC campground on Queen Charlotte Drive, the connecting road between Picton and Havelock and gateway to the Sounds.
The road is narrow and twists and turns as it winds it’s way up and down ridges and past beautiful little bays and coves. Last time we passed through here I spotted a sign near the beginning of the road that I couldn’t quite read, this time I managed to read it “No heavy vehicles over 12mtrs allowed”- “phew, we said” thank God we’re not a heavy vehicle!
And the last time we stopped at Momorangi, most of the waterfront was a shambles, torn up and under construction with pipes and trenches running in all directions. The camp was in the process of being revamped and upgraded; the main reason we decided to return another time. So here we are- the camp to ourselves and the sun warm and inviting.
Momorangi is a unique DOC campground, it’s more like a commercial holiday park that DOC lease out. It’s run like the usual holiday parks, there’s a camp store(closed over winter), ablution blocks, power, laundry, kitchens, boat ramp, cabins, rubbish collection, water, etc and site fees that are the normal rates. It’s very popular over the summer holiday period and fully booked months in advance. Queen Charlotte Drive runs through the middle, dividing the camp into two. There are over 90 sites with most of them on the other side of the road, away from the water, they reach back up a gully and are surrounded by native bush.
There are just a few prime sites along the waterfront and we have taken over two of them! One of the reasons we enjoy these sites in the off season, we’re able (and allowed) to spread ourselves out a bit and still only pay for one site. You can see one of the new ablution blocks in the photo below. Unfortunately the showers weren’t available in this block and we had to walk along the water’s edge, through the public reserve past the children’s playground across the foot bridge to the block at the other end of the bay. I drove a couple of times when it was raining.
Here’s something we’ve not seen in any DOC camps before and has been added at Momorangi as part of the upgrade. Beside each power box & water tap, is a grey water dump pipe, a great idea in any camp and especially in a DOC camp and a great idea to have them beside each site. The grey water is pumped through the camp and up to the hills behind where it passes through various filters before finding it’s way into the ground and surrounding bush as clean water. The smaller pipe is to stop idiots from using it as a black water dump although it has been pointed out that some caravan cassette toilets have a similar sized outlet pipe. I wonder how long before somebody stuffs it up.
Our view on the waterfront changed with each tide…
…the retaining wall provided a good vantage point & handy launching pad for half a dozen Kingfishers/Kotare who lined up along it, diving to snatch crabs & small fish as the tide retreated.
After a couple days where it felt like summer was waiting in the wings for us, the weather took a turn for the worse. Even the ducks weren’t happy.
The rain and cold settled in for a few days and other than one or two days of solid rain down south, this was our first long stretch for a number of months. It was great to top up the drinking water containers and the steady drizzle also gave the vehicles a good wash down. We did begin to worry about ruining the new grass and making a mess of the site when we pulled off as the ground became very soft underfoot.
It was lovely surprise to look out one afternoon and see this pair of Royal Spoonbills/Kotuku Ngutupapa wading past. We saw the remainder of the flock later in the week, about 20 birds, feeding in the shallows in Okiwa Bay at top of the Sound.
For the rest of our time at Momorangi, the cloud hung low on the hills behind and across from our bay, the days were cold, wet and pretty dreary with the sun occasionally breaking through for the odd hour or two late in the afternoon. David decided it was too cold to go fishing so the Takacat stayed folded up in the ute, we’ve decided he’s a fair weather fisherman!
I found this wood-ear fungus (Auricularia cornea) on a tree near our site, I love the rubbery texture and unusual shapes. Wood-ear fungus is edible and was once harvested by settlers as they cleared the native forests for farming. It was exported to China by the tonnes until the 1950s but is now mostly imported(dried) from China after Taiwanese growers started cultivating it in the 1960s.
Wood Ear has long been much prized for its culinary and medicinal benefits. Hailed as an anti-inflammatory, it is eaten to relieve tonsillitis and swelling, but is also regarded as a powerful anti-carcinogen, used to prevent and treat tumours. I have on file, a recipe for a tasty soup but forgot all about it, so didn’t give it a go. A pity because it was the right weather for a hearty wood ear soup!
The photo on the left is of the Wood Ears before the rain when they were rubbery with a slight furry feeling on the topsides, the one on the right is after a night of rain when they would have lapped up the moisture, they were like rubbery jelly, very soft and flexible.
I spied this seal resting on the point just past the jetty at the end of our bay so later in the day, after the tide had gone out and I could walk around the point (you can see in some of the photos how low the tide drops) I went to see if he was still there. He wasn’t but I spotted a boat shed around the corner so thought I’d take some photos of that.
As I moved around the point I got the biggest fright (actually I’m not sure who got the biggest fright, him or me) because he was still there, he’d just moved a little further along. He barked loudly a couple of times and literally flew off the shelf he was resting on, flying past me at head height and landed with a big thump and splat on the sand beside me before walking on water until he was deep enough to dive and swim away. He surfaced out in the channel and gave me a beady stare before floating on his side and giving himself a good scratch.
I moved on towards the boat shed where I suddenly caught sight of some movement; another seal, a much bigger boy who tried to pretend he was part of the furniture when he saw me approaching.
He then peeped around the pole at me, gave a big yawn (or perhaps that’s a growl) and moved along the boat shed jetty towards the end before plopping down to rest for a minute or two, still keeping a weary eye on me.
He then clambered down the steps, looked over the back edge and decided that it was too far to jump and he’d be just fine lounging on the deck for awhile so he stretched out, rubbed his chin on the rough wood and closed his eyes…just a little. I left him to it.
You can see how high the tide reaches by the slimy green marks on the jetty posts above and the thick clusters of mussels under the jetty and on the fallen trees. These are Little Blue-Black Mussels not their bigger cousins the Green-Lipped Mussels which only grow in water over a metre deep. Which is the reason that these little mussels aren’t a threat to the green-lip mussel farms; they only grow within the tidal range so only at the top of the green-lip mussel ropes.
Momorangi is tucked up in Grove Arm near the top of Queen Charlotte Sound. The well known and popular Queen Charlotte Walk finishes just across the water from the bay, it begins 70km away at historic Ship Cove in the Outer Sounds.
This is also where the Anakiwa Outward Bound School is located (bottom photo). Established in 1962, over 50,000 men & women have passed through the school including a new group that were being welcomed under the flagpole as we arrived. One of the schools cutters was parked outside the boat shed.
The shelter(middle left) is full of information for walking the track and beside it is the track pass kiosk, some of the QCWalk passes through private land and a pass must be purchased to walk those sections of the track. At $12 for a four day pass, the usual time it takes to walk the track (or $25 for an annual pass), it hardly breaks the bank.
That letterbox holder looks like a manatee to me but I guess it somebody’s pride and joy even if it does look a bit out of place in the tiny settlement near Anakiwa. I bet visitors never get lost…’yes, turn left when you see a manatee wearing a apricot pokka-dot dress and pearls’….
The rain and mist lifted the day we left Momorangi, the bay was calm and peaceful as we pulled away(without leaving any tracks) heading to the other side of the Sounds and another DOC camp, Whites Bay. We’ll be back to Momorangi another time, when the sun is shining and the blue cod biting.