More than ever I've found out recently that mountain biking, and life in general, can get pretty hectic. Over the summer we've had more visitors than we have had hot dinners and more bike rides than days at work, it's been awesome fun but it's definitely time now to stop for a while and take the days at a slower pace. When I was offered a day trip out on the Pelorus Mail Boat I couldn't think of a better way or more chilled out way to spend a Saturday.
The Pelorus Mail Boat has been delivering mail and supplies for almost a century to homesteads in the secluded bays of the Marlborough Sounds. Properties that are best accessed by boat, or unaccessible by road receive weekly deliveries from the Mail Boat and its crew, be it groceries, packages and parcels or just the post. On weekdays the Mail Boat can be found crossing the smooth waters of the sounds from Havelock to Beatrix Bay in the Pelorus Sounds, out to Port Ligar in the outer most limbs of the Waitata Reach or chugging around to Wilson Bay in the Tawhitinui Reach delivering it's precious cargo to the residents of these far flung areas. All the while skipper and tour guide, Ben, is accompanied by those wishing to see and experience parts of the Sounds otherwise out of reach to them.
At the weekend the Mail Boat makes its way into the Kenepuru Sound to deliver groceries and take on a more tourist focused role, with cruises including a lunch stop and a tour of the a mussel farm. Tourists are welcome on board any day of the week the boat sails, some using it as a great way to see the Sounds and some utilising the boat as transport across to a remote B&B for a few days get away. Our mission was to take the Mail Boat out to Te Mahia before jumping on our bikes and riding back to Havelock via the Queen Charlotte Track.
Checking out our route and checking in with Ben we get settled and I find a prime position at the front of the boat to watch the waves and the landscapes pass by. With half an ear on Ben's friendly tour guide chatter, it's a sheltered little cubby hole out of the wind to watch the majestic and moody mountains meet the sky.
The mail boat makes it's first stop at a farm stay not far from Havelock where some of the fifteen or so passengers on board take off into the hills to enjoy a bush walk and some lunch before getting picked up on the boats return journey. Adam can't resist the chance for a wheelie on the picturesque jetty so we untie his bike and get the #wheeliewednesday for him! It's a slow pace, probably akin to the way of life round these parts, with no rigorous timescale, visitors on the boat can request to pause and take in a view or investigate the coastline as they please.
Further on and a few stops and drop offs later, our passenger number is down to four as many have become hungry and chosen to stop at the Raetihi Lodge for a mainly seafood orientated lunch. The four of us cruised onto the mussel farm where we were given a whistle stop tour of the mussel, including facts about it as an organism, it's habitat and most importantly the do's and don't of cooking a gourmet meal! Crazy mussel fact - did you know that a 9cm mussel filters up to 360L of water a day?
Docking for a short time at Te Mahia Lodge it was time for us to unload both bikes and hit the road. We wound our way up the Kenepuru Road and quickly found ourselves at the Queen Charlotte Track. As with all well established tracks we were provided with plenty of signage and were in no doubt as to where we were supposed to go. We wanted a day of hassle free, straightforward biking and we were certainly getting it!
Turning right we set off uphill on a well graded trail in the direction of Mistletoe Bay. Keeping in the theme of setting a slower pace we were armed with a stove and teabags ready for a brew at the most scenic of opportunities. We weren't made to wait long......
Charging down the trail towards Anakiwa we made our own fun, the wide track and gentle gradient meaning we were on the lookout for chances to get out wheels in the air. Hailing from Nelson at the moment, our 'normal' bike rides usually entail steep, steep and more steep, each trail like an assault to the senses, it was awesome fun to get off the brakes and look for the next possible lip or wall ride.
Touching down in Anakiwa at the end of the Queen Charlotte Track we were greeted with a quiet buzz of activity, if there is such a thing, with hikers, bikers and dog walkers all drinking in the peace and tranquility of this little coastal village. Having taken probably a little too much time on the beautiful 12km of trail just ridden we put pedal to the metal, found the Link Track and began our journey back to the car at Havelock. Chopping on and off the road at the moment, the Link Track should be fully formed by mid-2019 and offer the perfect route, entirely off road, back to Havelock for a 35km ride from the point of the mail boat drop off.
A perfect antidote to the stresses of daily life and the pressures of cramming activities into the summer time, our cruise both on the water and the bikes was just what the doctor ordered. We'll be back for sure, the lure of dolphin watching is just too much and now bikes can be involved the days activities are complete!