44. Picton – Mistletoe Bay (Queen Charlotte 1/5)

Sunday, March 26: A little rain to begin with and towards lunch time, stopping in the afternoon and clearing somewhat towards evening.

Sea kayaking: 19.4 km

Mistletoe Bay Campsite (Doc, $16)

There was one busybody up at around 6:30, and the alarm went off on time, so I went for a shower, finished the fruit juice, had a coffee, and then started packing. Was ready to go by 8:00 and was at Christelle’s hostel at ten past; then we were quickly at MSA, greeted by Alicia who was taking us through the hoops. First there was a safety video, which was mostly fairly common sense, some poor shooting, and one detailed commentary on wind ferrying which was technically right over the top.

Then the discussion about trip planning with Alicia started. I was fairly sure about stopping @ Davies Bay to begin with; an alternative was offered @ Mistletoe (apparently $10 more expensive, but with a camp kitchen). Ratimera and Blumine could follow, and Cannibal Cove, even, would be possible for the last night, and we could get to Ship Cove by 2:30 for the water taxi back. I got a few tips about alternative water taxi stops that we might be picked up from. Anyway with the combination of my spot and Christelle’s cell phone we should be able to arrange something if things go wrong.

Time was ripe for payment, and then we were introduced to the boat and the equipment. These double sea kayaks in fibreglass are very large and have ample holds; the number of dry bags and plastic sacks was sufficient from the get go; and these was no problem in getting the shopping bags into the holds, and nothing but maps, spare paddle, flare, pump and my dry bag with my camera had to be stored above deck; but even my dry bag could have been stored in the hold.

Everything packed away and a toilet visit later we were transporting the boat down to the foreshore. Unfortunately, adjusting the footrests/steering pedals couldn’t be achieved without the use of force, and Alicia eventually had to give up and fetch another boat. Which she did; we repacked quickly and were ready for the first paddle lesson; and after that we were set to go, just after 10:30.

The sea was very calm throughout the day; I identified a couple of cormorants; there was plenty to see on the sea floor, and there was even a smaller stingray gliding by. But the big surprise were the jellies; there were masses of them, all bunched up in an almighty swarm, and in the course of the day they could be detected up front by the effect they were having on the water surface. Reaching Mabel Island we waited for a ferry to pass then shot across; on the other side there were two smaller groups of paddlers. I wanted to reach a campsite for lunch and that took a bit of time in coming. We passed Momorangi Bay campsite with its café and elected to try for Aussie Bay, but were unable to do so within the 10-15 minutes allotted, so we returned to Momorangi arriving at 12:45, accompanied briefly by three penguins, and had lunch under the eaves of the toilets as it rained. A Scottish couple pulled in in their kayaks just as we arrived & they were travelling around with their own kayaks and camping at various sites.

Hello, Sailor! GPS quality: 30/30, coverage: 100%, download: Picton - Mistletoe Bay GPX (1055 downloads)

We had a couple of apples, a couple of slices of Lee’s camp bread, a plain cracker that I have not seen anywhere else, with a slice of cheese; the water bottles were filled up again, and we left at around 2:00 and went over to Davies Bay, but it was still very early, so we moved on to Mistletoe Bay. Christelle had to make an urgent stop just before the campsite, and we were soon at our goal at just on 3:30. It was low tide when we got there so the boat had to be emptied and carried up the beach.

Lots of tents set up all in very straight rows for Wellington Girls’ School, but no school girls here at the moment. We picked a tent site and set up our tents in pretty much the same time. Stuff had to be dried, but it was not nearly as wet as that first day on the Whanganui. Food was brought up to the kitchen. Christelle had a cup of tea while I moved a couple of smaller things around. One Kiwi/Viet couple arrived and wanted to drive their car onto the camping ground, but agreed to cart their stuff up to a tent site. Another small group of kayakers arrived and had their boats transported out, giving us the tip of going to Lochmara and Blumine.

A water taxi skipper searched around for two of his passengers, who did turn up, but only after he had left.

Time for some time lapse – the view across the bay towards Picton – and then for dinner – two carrots, the leek, one full cup of rice (265 mL), with the tomato sauce as the universal condiment. Hot water and electricity are plentiful here as well as dishwashing liquid, washing up implements, recycling bins, and my tea towel made a debut on a kayaking tour.

We were given a bunch of grapes by the Vietnamese woman, then things had to be prepared for the night: The spray skirts and lifejackets were stowed under hatch, as well as the dry tops. Everything is a bit damp, but that should be solvable in a day or two.

I had seen a sign for glowworms, so when it was dark, I took two fellow campers Swantje and Carlos down the track to see them. Good thing I knew where to look; about 200 m into the forest the track enters a minor valley, and when we turned off our headlamps we could see the magic. Back at camp Carlos thought he saw a kiwi, but it had moved off rather quickly. Christelle had already gone to bed and I followed pretty soon after returning from the glowworms.

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