Cape Farewell, my lovely

Trevor Fishlock fol­lows Cap­tain Cook’s tracks in the glo­ri­ous South Is­land of New Zealand

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HIP Cove had gleamed in my imagination for years: a bay of ad­ven­ture, a magic wa­ter­colour meet­ing of the moun­tains and the sea. So it seemed nat­u­ral, as I planned a trip to New Zealand, that I should make it the point where I would step ashore.

In­tro­duc­ing imagination to re­al­ity dis­ap­point­ment. But I had no choice.

I am an ad­mirer of Cap­tain Cook and the idylls of Ship Cove are spliced into his epic.

I have read him, writ­ten about him and pil­grim­aged to his York­shire roots. I have seen his birth­place in Mar­ton, Mid­dles­brough, his school­room in Great Ay­ton, his mon­u­ment on Easby Moor. At Whitby in North York­shire, I saw his statue and the house where he lodged as an ap­pren­tice.

I boarded the replica of Cook’s first ex­pe­di­tion ship En­deav­our as ship­wrights com­pleted it in Fre­man­tle. I vis­ited Cook’s boy­hood home, too, a cot­tage shipped to Mel­bourne in 1934 as a salute to the man who put Aus­tralia and New Zealand on the map.

Cook broad­ened the world’s mind. His cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion and chart­ing of New Zealand was a mas­ter­piece. Ship Cove, on the north­ern fjord coast of the South Is­land of New Zealand, was a key point in his ocean strat­egy.

Be­tween Jan­uary 1770 and Fe­bru­ary 1777 he based him­self here five times; 100 days in all.

It’s tempt­ing to bite off too much of New Zealand’s en­thralling land­scape. My wife and I lim­ited our travel and stayed within sniff of the sea. Arriving from Aus­tralia, we landed in Christchurch, drove up the coast to Kaik­oura and sat on our ho­tel room bal­cony gaz­ing at the long scim­i­tar of surf be­neath the peaks of the South­ern Alps. In the morn­ing daz­zle we rode Pa­cific swells and watched a play-school of dol­phins and the ex­ha­la­tions of sperm whales.

Two hours north, at pretty Pic­ton, we en­tered the sub­lime wa­ter world of the Marl­bor­ough Sounds. There are four of them: Queen Char­lotte, Kenepuru, Pelorus and Ma­hau. Pic­ton is the ferry port for Welling­ton, the cap­i­tal, across Cook Strait.

It is also a launch­ing point for ex­plo­ration of Queen Char­lotte Sound and a base for nu­mer­ous boat com­pa­nies serv­ing lodges, camp­sites and set­tle­ments in the bays and in­lets. Wa­ter taxis are part of the plea­sure of trav­el­ling the sound and of gain­ing ac­cess to the 67km Queen Char­lotte track.

Sure enough, a boat buzzed us across the sound and a minibus de­liv­ered us to the door of the lodge we had booked at Portage. The driver paused to show us an en­tranc­ing view of Kenepuru Sound, blue wa­ter and pre­cip­i­tous forested moun­tain slopes. ‘‘ Here’s yer piece of par­adise,’’ he said.

Next day the an­gry tail of a cy­clone raged and howled. The storm’s tem­per gave way to a clear­ing evening sky, then a bright dawn. In 45 min­utes a wa­ter taxi with a plum­ing wake de­liv­ered us to the lit­tle jetty at Ship Cove.

Cook grew to love this ‘‘ very snug cove’’. It’s a beau­ti­ful spot and re­mains much as he saw it, small waves gen­tle on the shore, shad­ing palms, sun­light fil­ter­ing through tall green ferns, a sparkling rill run­ning down from a for­est wa­ter­fall to the sea.

Cook’s piece of par­adise was a seaman’s choice, a safe an­chor­age in the shel­ter of Mo­tu­ara Is­land. I was quite moved, walk­ing the beach and imag­in­ing the ar­rival of Cook and his 90 men 238 years ago.

They ca­reened En­deav­our here and hauled her on to her side to scrape weeds and bar­na­cles from her hull. Smiths made a forge to re­pair iron­work. Coop­ers cut tim­ber for wa­ter casks. Sailors net­ted hauls of fish.

Of­fi­cers tracked the stars and spare hands har­vested wild cel­ery and other anti-scurvy greens. I imag­ined the lo­cal Maori, ten­ta­tive but friendly enough, won­der­ing what to make of th­ese men they first took for gob­lins.

Cook — Cap­inny Cook, the Maori called him — climbed to the top of Mo­tu­ara Is­land to name the sound af­ter Char­lotte, Ge­orge III’s queen.

Af­ter an ab­sorb­ing hour wan­der­ing the cove, we

al­ways

risks

Blasts from the past: Sand pat­terned by strong winds on the beach at Farewell Spit at the north­ern tip of the South Is­land started on the wind­ing Queen Char­lotte track, head­ing for Furneaux Lodge 14km off. We savoured the rich, warm, earthy smell. The glades were loud with the rhyth­mic rasp of ci­cadas. Chicken-sized wekas, flight­less birds, roo­tled in the un­der­growth close to our feet. Cook’s men also walked this thick for­est of ferns and beech trees and were en­tranced, as were we, by melo­di­ous bird­song, the flut­ing and tin­kling of tui and bellbirds.

From time to time the path curved to the edge of ridges and opened up ex­hil­a­rat­ing views of moun­tains, islets and drowned val­leys. We walked high above Res­o­lu­tion Bay, turned along En­deav­our In­let and, 31/

2 hours from Ship Cove, reached Furneaux Lodge. There we boarded a wa­ter taxi which, to our plea­sure, went by way of the Bay of Many Coves, mak­ing many stops.

Across the sound in Pic­ton next day we picked up a car (driv­ing in New Zealand is a plea­sure) and went by the coast road to Have­lock. We stayed in the ge­nial town of Nel­son and swam from its sandy beach. Later we walked half an hour to a restau­rant, ate blue cod on the ter­race and watched the sun go down.

An hour’s drive next day brought us to Motueka, an ami­able town with a street of shops, a large Vic­to­rian pub and a hin­ter­land of hop­fields, vine­yards and ap­ple or­chards.

It’s a gate­way to the na­tional park named af­ter the Dutch nav­i­ga­tor Abel Tas­man, who stopped some miles north of here in 1642.

Tas­man and com­pany were the first Euro­peans to see New Zealand. But in the con­fu­sion of the first meet­ing of whites and Maori, four of Tas­man’s men and one Maori were killed. Tas­man left without land­ing.

Like most vis­i­tors to the park, we were there to walk some of the 48km Abel Tas­man coast track, one of New Zealand’s great walks. A bus col­lected us from our mo­tel af­ter break­fast, drove us to the park edge and de­canted us into a boat.

On the beach at One­tahuti, our ad­ven­ture be­gan. Af­ter be­ing kit­ted and in­structed, and with a guide lead­ing the way, three cou­ples, in­clud­ing our­selves, pad­dled about 1km to Tonga Is­land. Drift­ing in si­lence, we watched the fur seal colony. By the time we had pad­dled 3km south we were rav­en­ous for lunch on the beach at Bark Bay.

Here we left the oth­ers, hav­ing cho­sen to walk the Tas­man track south through the for­est. It was an­other lovely trek and we ar­rived in Tor­rent Bay in plenty of time for a swim be­fore our beach ren­dezvous with a wa­ter taxi.

Next day we drove the twist­ing moun­tain road, said to have 365 bends, out to Takaka. Af­ter lunch­ing on mus­sels, on we went to Farewell Spit, the 19km curv­ing beak of yel­low sand at the north­ern tip of the South Is­land. It’s wild and haunt­ingly beau­ti­ful, a re­serve for 100 or more species of birds, and we were treated to the spec­ta­cle of a mass rally of hun­dreds of black swans.

We walked then, over hills and dunes, to Cape Farewell. It was ap­pro­pri­ate. We were leav­ing soon. Early in Fe­bru­ary of 1770, Cook left Ship Cove, cir­cum­nav­i­gated the South Is­land and headed into the Tas­man Sea, steer­ing for Aus­tralia. Dur­ing his voy­ages he be­stowed names on nu­mer­ous land­marks and fea­tures of the Pa­cific. As New Zealand slipped from view, he looked back at the cape he called Farewell. The Daily Tele­graph, Lon­don

Check­list

Rec­om­mended ac­com­mo­da­tion: Lemon Tree Lodge in Kaik­oura, www.le­mon­tree.co.nz; Portage Re­sort Ho­tel in Portage, www.portage.co.nz; Cam­bria Housen in Nel­son, www.cam­bria.co.nz; Eques­trian Lodge in Motueka, www.eques­tri­an­lodge.co.nz.

www.newzealand.com

Pic­ture: Lonely Planet

Pic­ture: AFP

Safe an­chor­age: En­tranc­ing views from a jetty at Ship Cove

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