Wednesday 30 September 2015

Moody Momorangi - Marlborough Sounds

Back to catching up....

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.

Tuesday 29 September 2015

And the Darwin Award....

....of the day goes to... "drum roll please".....

The guy in the black tee-shirt....

Followed  a close second by the guy in the blue tee-shirt!

And in third place four guys with no tee-shirts!

It's brilliant day in the Bay (the other Bay). A great day to climb to the top of Mt Maunganui along with a thousand other people and a few idiots.

Saturday 26 September 2015

Baby Dolls & Wine

We left the beautiful Maniototo heading north to the top of the South Island. Here are the blogs I posted along the way, in case you missed them or want to refresh your memory, just click on the links.

First stop was Kakanui village where we parked on the edge of a cliff overlooking All Day Bay.

Next was the intriguing sounding Waihao Box.

Then onwards and upwards along the rugged Pacific Coast with a stop at Kaikoura and a catch up with those endearing inhabitants, the NZ fur seal, followed by a stop at one of our favourites camp sites, Ward Beach. And then it was just a short haul to another favourite; the DOC Camp at Marfells Beach.

Where the weather was sublime and we awoke to this gorgeous golden orb rising in the east each morning. 

Well, I awoke, his Highness slept on. David is not a morning person. Mornings are the best for me, I could take all my photos for the day in the first hour and be done and happy. It’s not known as the golden hour for nothing. Soft warm light and limited shadows enhance even the most mundane subjects. I’ve been a little slack over winter, staying up late to type my blogs (you guys are to blame) and not getting up in time to catch the golden hour which actually, down south during winter, doesn’t happen until what seems like mid morning anyway! Although I think I have an even more reasonable excuse; the minus 5 to minus 12c degree temperatures we were waking up to. I can tell you it positively felt like summer in Marlborough!

While at Marfells Beach we visited a nearby winery & vineyard. This isn’t just any winery and believe me there are dozens of fabulous wineries in the world-famous Marlborough region. Yealands’ Seaview Vineyard is located in the Awatere Valley just a short distance from the small settlement of Seddon, it stretches from the foothills of the Kaikoura Ranges to the cliff tops overlooking Clifford Bay & Cook Strait.

Peter Yealands is a man on a mission and a man with great vision, he’s also a pioneering entrepreneur. The Awatere Valley was originally thought unsuitable for grape growing. Peter Yealands thought differently; working the land, often by himself, he re-contoured it, filled ravines, smoothed gullies, terraced hills and planted a wide range of grapes.

At 1500ha (3,705 acres), Peter Yealands turned the rugged pastoral land into the single largest privately owned vineyard in New Zealand and the first winery in the world to be certified as carboNZero. His vision is to have Seaview Vineyard become the world’s most sustainable wine producer.

Much earlier and well before grapes, Peter saw the potential to farm Greenshell mussels and in 1971 was issued with New Zealand’s first marine farm license. Thanks to his innovative design technologies and helping establish aquaculture in the region, marine farming now contributes $160 million to NZ’s export earnings. In the 1980s Peter also established one of NZ’s most successful deer farms, a 2,000 hectare property in Kaiuma Bay in the Marlborough Sounds.

Peter now concentrates on the vineyard and with each year, Yealands grows closer to its goal of becoming self-sufficient and carbon negative.

Our first sign that this vineyard is different to others are the large vine pruning bales that are dotted throughout the rows of bare vines near the entrance to the vineyard. Ten percent of the vineyard is baled up and left to dry for 6 months. Purpose built burners (designed by Peter of course) turns vine prunings into a heat source for the winery’s water & glycol. One bale weights around 200kgs and when burned, provides the equivalent heat of approximately 60kg of LPG.  At full capacity the burners can produce 500kW of energy, enough to keep the average Kiwi household going for three weeks!  This process eliminates over 180 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions (CO2) per year.

After a video presentation, wine tasting and some carefully selected purchases we headed out on the White Road Tour, a 3km self-drive tour around the vineyard and one of the main reasons I was keen to visit this winery. It’s not often you get to see behind the scenes and also see some of the sustainability projects in situ.

Our information brochure & tour map told us to make allowances for wild birds, peacocks, chickens & ducks- they have right of way at all times and to be careful not to run them over as they settle beneath parked cars. There was just the one over friendly rooster who came running from his chook-house, he’d lost his harem somewhere or a rival had whisked them off to one of the other houses (probably ones with a better views). The chickens free range and help keep grass grubs and weta at bay, their coops are moved around the vineyard depending on where they are needed.

In all directions and as far as the eye can see- Yealands Estate Vineyard.

Along with the chickens there’s a natural grass mowing community too; Kune-Kune pigs (hiding during our visit) &  Babydoll Sheep, a minature breed with a cute teddy-bear face, both are too short to reach the grapes, although the sheep didn’t look too short to me. Babydoll? A cute name but I can’t quite marry the two together- baby doll & sheep just don’t seem right together.

And it was nice to see sheep that weren’t interested in what we were doing, no chasing us along the track or racing across a paddock to see if we had any food for them; just well fed contented Babydoll Sheep sleeping amongst the vines.

Mt Tapuae-O-Uenuku is the highest peak in the northeast of the South Island and is New Zealand’s highest mountain outside the main ranges of the Southern Alps. At 2,885 metres (9,465ft) it is over 80 metres taller than the higest peak in the North Island.

Along the way we pass the Marc Pad, an area where all the grape skins (marc) are collected during harvest. This area is where the organic compost is produced; over 10,000 tons annually.

We stop at Lookout Point, where you are free to rest awhile, take in the views or have a picnic lunch….if you have brought it with you. I’m not sure why, but we didn’t have our usual thermos, soup and sandwich with us this day. I think I was hoping for some sort of lunch platter from the Cellar Door but it has no restaurant/cafe unlike many wineries.

We walk out to the edge overlooking Clifford Bay and the views are spectacular. Far across the bay we can see the Cape Campbell lighthouse  and back towards the curve in the first clump of trees on the shoreline we see Marfells Beach where we’re camped. Lake Grassmere (the salt lakes) is further right, hidden in the gap between the cliff faces (remember to click on the photos to enlarge).

And in that clump of trees, and through the camera lens, I can see ‘Out There” parked up along with a couple of motorhomes and a caravan- we’re the first in the trees on the right.

In the other direction Clifford Bay runs into Cloudy Bay (a very famous name in wines) and on towards Port Underwood and Cook Strait with the North Island on the far right horizon.

A spidery web of wires weaves its way across the soft contours to the heart of the vineyard, Yealands Winery & Cellar Door.

There was no music playing while we were there, I think the vines are in hibernation mode. Perhaps with spring the hills will come alive to the sound of music. The suggested website is very interesting; if you want to while away a few hours click on the link and see!

We followed the White Road away from Lookout Point, these vines have recently been pruned, the prunings yet to be collected.

More Babydolls and more wires. Most of the sheep seemed to be resting towards the ends of rows but I did watch a few sheep barge their way through the wires to reach their mates in the middle of the next row, I guess it’s a long walk to the end. They wouldn’t want to be doing that when the vines are in bud or with grapes on board. Perhaps it’s more of a barrier when they’re coated in green.

Twin Lakes, the largest wetland on the vineyard, holds 150,000 cubic metres of water and is another area where the public are welcome to stop for a picnic or rest. There are over 25 strategically placed wetland areas around the vineyard which capture water run-off, slowly releasing it back into the soil over the long hot dry months.

Around the lakes are solar lights which attract nuisance insects that eat the leaves of the vines. the bugs are attracted by the lights and some end up in the water much to the enjoyment of the trout.

Further on up the road we’re accosted by those over-friendly chickens we were warned about, and this time they chase along after us for quite a distance- chickens in sheep’s clothing perhaps?

As we approach the rear of the winery we can see dozens of plastic tanks, 70 plus mist green 25,000 litre tanks to be exact. Just like the ones we used to sell many moons ago.

These aren’t Devan Tanks though, they belong to an opposition manufacturer. My eyes light up, what an order that would have been. Mind you, I bet they had to well and truly sharpen their pencil to secure the deal. The silver wrap is obviously some sort of insulation to keep the contents cool.

How’s this for a bank of solar panels? The northern side of the winery roof has one of NZ’s largest solar panel installations. The panels produce 133,000 kW per year – enough to power 17 average New Zealand households for a year, and Shellie’s laptop for a decade plus!

The coastal wind is put to good use too. Two traditional wind turbines and a horizontal axis wind turbine generate extra power for use in the winery. These turbines produce approximately 75,000 kWh of energy. Eventually Yealands hopes to supply surplus power back to the national grid.

The stunning & impressive Yealands Estate Winery building was designed to blend into the landscape with no disruptive contours- although I’m not sure that blend is the right word, it’s a pretty big building. I doubt anything that size could ‘blend’. Rainfall is either recycled or piped to the wetlands and inside the building, motion sensors control lighting and air conditioning (ensuring neither is left on needlessly) and extensive insulation and heat recovery technologies reduce heat loss and recycle energy for re-use.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Yealands and learning much about the company’s self-sufficiency and sustainability. I think the ‘behind-the-scene’ White Road Tour experience is a touch of genius, include and inspire your audience (and they might just continue to buy your product long after their visit).