After 3 months, I am still very much in the honeymoon phase in my relationship with Marlborough. I am delighted with every new discovery I make, beguiled by the charm of life outside the big city and prepared to overlook any disappointments that my new amour presents.
I have to say that Marlborough has been doing her best to woo me with her bright autumn colours and clear winter days. Even her near-freezing temperatures are charming when they produce a draw dropping backdrop of jagged snow-capped mountains in the morning.
I am determined to make the honeymoon last as long as possible and to build this relationship on a foundation of adventure and surprise. For my part, I am committed to exploring places on and off the beaten track with an open mind and a camera. Marlborough just has to be her own gorgeous self.
This weekend I took a walk along the coastal tracks from Rarangi Beach to Whites Bay with a brief detour to Monkey Bay because how could anyone resist a bay with a name like that? A family with three under-5s were just setting off and I wished for their sake that there could be monkeys as a reward for their efforts but sadly there would only be a couple of abseilers practising on the sheer slopes that surround the bay in a big rocky hug.
On the hillside looking over an endless blue ocean is a memorial seat for Olivia Hope, one of 2 young people who disappeared in the Marlborough Sounds on New Year’s Day in 1998. She was 17 and has never been found. I imagine that for her family the pain of her loss is unfathomable but on a bench on the way to Monkey Bay, perhaps there is a chance of peace. There are fresh flowers and an inscription “In a single moment”.
The walking track to Whites Bay from the northern end of Rarangi beach is steep and shared with mountain bikers who helpfully shout “more coming” as they hurtle past. The track goes either uphill or downhill with glimpses of aquamarine sea through pine trees that have dropped a thick carpet of slippery needles and a few chunky pine cones.
Whites Bay is named after Black Jack White, an African-American who lived here after deserting his whaling ship in 1828. There’s a track named after him that climbs away from the bay and loops northwards past a lookout with sweeping views and then returns to Whites Bay more gently through forest that has regenerated after fires destroyed it in the early years of European settlement. Whites Bay must have been a quiet existence for those settlers and Black Jack White until 1886 when it became the site of the first telegraph link between New Zealand’s two main islands. That must have been something to see.
Whites Bay is the only safe swimming bay along this part of the coast and its sandy beach attracts day-trippers and those who want to stay a bit longer. There are 20 grassy campsite sites, no power and running water supplied by the Pukatea Stream. Whites Bay is one of the nicest surprises that Marlborough has shown me and one that I will return to, probably with my tent and backpack and a bit more time to see what else Marlborough has hidden away along her eastern coast.