Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pelorus Bridge, NZ: Encounters of the Natural Kind

Picton is is the port town at the end of the ferry line. Everyone goes through Picton on their way between islands. I can't say I liked the place -- the campground was overpriced and located next to the railroad tracks and a house full of Friday night revelers that left us with droopy eyes in the morning.  So it was good to leave, as much for the picturesque views of the harbor as to leave a bad night's sleep behind.

Cars and trucks lining up on the dock for the morning ferry in Picton.

Our route was along the Queen Charlotte Drive, winding along the Marlborough Sounds coastline.  It was a Saturday morning, so traffic was light.  Undoubtedly sleeping it off like the wild partyers from last night.

Calm morning waters.

We stopped for a brief walk to top of scenic overlook.  Out of the bushes near where we parked the bikes we were greeted by a couple of curious birds.  Pardon our naive initial excitement at thinking we saw kiwis, which are extremenly rare and nearly extinct.  No, these were weka, an endemic but not uncommon species.

The endemic Weka, a flightless bird.
We have since learned that they are quite curious and can be a bit pesky in areas where people give them handouts.  Like this car park.  They lost some of their novelty once they started pecking at our panniers.

Hey! Stop that!

Overcast morning skies made the coastline views a bit gray, but still impressive.
We ended up at a Department of Conservation campground at Pelorus Bridge.  We were there early, since it was at the halfway point to our next destination.  Which gave us plenty of time to provide nourishment to the local sand fly population.  This was our first encounter with this insect of South Island legend, and the bites on our ankles itched for days as a reminder of this place.

Green and peaceful.
But that evening, we had the most magical encounter. A hand-lettered sign at the campground entrance said "Glowworms" with an arrow pointing to a nearby walking trail through the bush. So, as it began to get dark, we wandered on the trail, looking into the damp, mossy recesses along the path. And as the evening light dimmed, we began to see the small points of light. More and more appeared, and it was like we were being stared at by dozens of eyes.

We retreated to our tents, and I read a bit from The Hobbit, the part where Bilbo and the dwarves are wandering through the dark forest of Mirkwood.  And that night, as rain pelted for hours on our tent, I dreamt of all the magical things in this Middle Earth of New Zealand.

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