Te Mahia to Anakoha Bay and return - Kenepuru Sound,Marlborough


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Published: April 21st 2021
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Te Mahia to Anakoha Bay and return


For the first time in living memory we slept through the night with the curtains open as there was absolutely no light coming in through our picture window. And oddly enough we both had a long and restful sleep better than we had had in a long time, waking only as light came up in the sky around 7am.

The clear blue sky of yesterday had moved on and now overhead was grey, ominous looking clouds. The forecast was for rain from a system coming down from the north later in the day so we decided to have another day or part thereof in the car and do some local sightseeing out beyond the end of Kenepuru Sound before any rain arrived.

We weren’t exactly on the ball getting up and by the time we had showered, dressed and had breakfast it was 10.30am.

From Te Mahia heading north the road remained sealed and every so often was wide enough for white lines down the middle.

As we drove north we didn’t encounter a lot of oncoming traffic and nor was there virtually anything behind us which we guess just demonstrated how isolated the Marlborough Sounds are.

There were certainly plenty of houses in secluded spots and even though it is currently school holiday time there didn’t appear to be many parked cars where access down or up to the house was restrictive due to the terrain. This led us to think that perhaps many were holiday homes and that the owners or people who might rent them just hadn’t arrived yet on the second day of the holidays

At Portage there is a sizeable accommodation facility and there were more people around in the grounds as we passed by thinking it might be a good stop on the way back for a coffee and muffin.

As we headed out of the bay at Portage we were confronted by a large illuminated road information sign informing us that due to roadworks ahead we could be delayed up to an hour. After a quick thought we decided that we had all the time in the world to be delayed, or at least until the sun set, so what did it matter if we had to stop in one place for up to an hour.

Pressing on we soon passed by a mobile green light at the start of what turned out to be several kilometres of freshly resealed road. Every so often we passed by a Fulton Hogan vehicle either holding tar seal for spreading or the stone chips to be laid and then eventually reached the other end of their significant project just short of Kenepuru Head.

Here Kenepuru Sound came to an end and the road headed on through a large area of farmland.

The road was now unsealed but in very good condition to be able to maintain 60kph + on the straight stretches.

Leaving the farmland behind the road wound up the hill until we reached a road that had us turn right and follow down towards Punga Lodge located on the next door Queen Charlotte Sound. From the top of the hill looking down on the bay it looked very inviting to visit and there was a sign saying that coffee and we assumed something to eat would be available.

However,threequarters of the way down we came across a car park area and a bold sign that indicated 4 WD vehicles only beyond. Gretchen took a look at the ‘road for 4 WD vehicles’ around the first corner and thought I would have difficulty with my ‘gammy’ hip on the steep and uneven surface.

So we abandoned that idea and returned to the main road running along the spine of the hill until we got to having to make another decision on which way to go when the crossroads to Anakoha Bay and Titirangi Bay came upon us.

Taking the Titirangi Bay road sounded interesting as it went past the site of the sunken Russian cruise liner the ‘Mikhail Lermontov’ which foundered after the local Picton pilot tried to take the ship through a passage too marrow for a ship of that size to navigate through. All this happened in 1986.

We calculated that the road didn’t get close to the beach and any access would be on foot through the bush following the Queen Charlotte Walking Track. And in any case there would probably be nothing to see although we cannot recall if the ship was later cut up or rests on the bottom of the bay.

So with the prospect of getting down to Anakoha Bay we went left and carried on the road through the thick bush on the side of the 1203metres high Mt Stokes.

As we got seemingly neared the bay Gretchen laid a bet that we wouldn’t get down to the water as there would be a locked farm gate barring our passage.

As usual she was right and to add to the gate there was virtually no room to turn around either.

However, close observation revealed that there was just a chain on the gate and I was able to open it so she could drive through and make use of the good size turning area on the other side of the gate.

This done and having been foiled by not making it to the seaside at the end of the road we headed back south with Portage in our sights for a stop for coffee and a muffin.

An amusing situation(well to us newbies to Bluetooth cellphone coverage) happened as we drove along.A message popped up on the screen in the rental car indicating a message from a friend in Tauranga.After working out what button to push a sensuous voice read out the text message.The voice did not need to sound seductive as the message was very straightforward about us missing her when we called to her home last week to catch up.Then we realised of course that the voice wasn't that of our friend but the 'robot' that Toyota had installed to read out messages received!

We were still laughing when we were stopped by a mobile traffic light that was red and a STMS contractor who told us the wait could be 15 or 20 minutes.He probably wondered what we had been up to.

He clearly hadn’t had many people to talk to during the day so far and for the next 15 minutes proceeded to tell us about how he had reformed himself from drug addiction and at age 48(he did look more like age 60 confirming his hard life of the past) he was now holding down a permanent job that he was proud of.

The coffee and muffin at the Portage Hotel was welcomed and to demonstrate just how small a country we live in really is we were served by a young woman who had recently returned from living in England for the past 5 years but who grew up just down the road from where we live in Tauranga. As usual in our friendly travellers style we passed a good 10 minutes talking to her and her experiences of being a return Kiwi during COVID and what her plans for the future were.

The Portage got its name from being on one side of a low break in the hills that separate Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru Sounds and is a convenient starting or stopping place on the Queen Charlotte Walkway and just a short launch trip from Picton.

A surprising find at the low summit up from Torea Bay was a war memorial to locals who had given their lives during WW 1 and 2.Our surprise was that the memorial was located neither at the Portage or down at the bay but on the summit of the road between the two where there were no houses or habitation. The memorial was in very good repair, as you would expect, and we are sure that it will have its day in the sun shortly on ANZAC Day 25th April.

We completed the last 19km back to the Te Mahia resort satisfied that we had seen a sizeable part of the Kenepuru Sound and beyond while the weather had remained dry for us.

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