After our lovely tramp in the rain and delightful soak at Maruia Springs, we hopped into our car and drove up the island to Golden Bay. One of the teachers Stephen teaches with has a house up there and had invited us to drop by and visit. We drove past flooding rivers and green, green pastures, up mountain roads and through little towns with names like Paenga and Pokororo. We drove and we drove and finally we had one more pass to go. This one was in fact a surprise. We certainly hadn't expected such a steep and winding and seemingly endless (the thick fog didn't help) mountain pass just before our final destination, but we persevered and eventually popped out on top of the hill, blue skies above us, thick soupy fog behind us and a clear view to our final destination.
We arrived a wee bit late for dinner, but our lovely hostess had waited and after a short walk on the beach, we tucked into a true British curry at 9pm. Then it was quickly off to bed and dreaming of sunshine and sand.
And that is exactly what we got the next day. Pancakes for breakfast, then off down to the beach to collect mussels for our dinner. Wainui Beach is one of the boring beaches (or so we were told), but just off-shore was a mussel farm and on one side of the beach there was a collection of boulders that provided home to the more wild mussels. So we wandered on down, picking up seashells and sand dollars along the way.
Eventually we found ourselves in amongst the rocks. The mussels however were about the size of a quarter/Kiwi dollar/British pound - they were very small. Certainly too small to eat. But we kept looking and eventually found some edible looking ones tucked deep into the crevasses of the boulders. So we picked a few of them and wandered on back to the car.
On the way back to Pohara, where our hostesses house was, we were dropped off at another beach (Tata Beach) so that we could enjoy the lovely day by walking home along the coast.
Tata Beach is another beautiful example of the large and plentiful beach found in Golden Bay. We threw the disc around - until I tossed it out into the ocean and Stephen had to go up to his waist to get it back. Eventually, we made it to the end of the sand and the start of the headland that would bring us around to the next beach. This is where our awesome rock-climbing/scrambling skills came into play.
Up - over - around - under - ooooo, cool bug - up again - hmmmm, over or under . . . under - and finally, the last wade through the sea to the beach - oh, that not the beach, there's still a lagoon in the way. . . with very sucky mud.
But finally, we made it (another one of Stephens teacher friends pointed a safe way across the mucky-bottomed lagoon where he and his daughter were fixing their boat). We wandered down Ligar Beach and up towards the road (the next head land looked somewhat more daunting than the last).
We walked back along the road, with a quick stop in at a little coffee and ice cream boat to fuel up and finally made it home. It was suggested we all head out to the nearby fish farm and catch ourselves some salmon to go with our mussels for dinner. It is more than somewhat difficult to say no to a good idea, so we hopped in the car and drove down to Anatoki Salmon.
Anatoki Salmon Farm grows Chinook Salmon for distribution to restaurants all over New Zealand. It also invites people to come by, borrow a fishing rod and net and catch their own fish. Once caught, you can take your fish to their fishmonger, who will clean them for you and if you like, hot smoke them with the flavouring of your choice. We opted for a cilantro-garlic rub for one hot smoked salmon and the other to be simply cleaned for BBQing later. Then it was back in the car and home to rustle up some dinner.
Dinner was delicious - if a little surprising. After a good clean and de-bearding, we steamed our lovely mussels in some white wine with chillis and ginger, then topped them with some beach picked fennel. Stephen, sliced and boiled some potatoes to grill up on the BBQ. And all this was served along side our yummy hot smoke salmon caught just 30 minutes prior and the only two lemons on our hostesses lemon tree. It's always a joy to be able to make up a dinner from the land around you and we thoroughly enjoyed this one - despite the unanticipated extras found in some of the mussels.
Who knew that tiny shore crabs and mussels had a symbiotic relationship, wherein the mussel provides shelter and the crab eats any unwanted rubbish that comes inside.