On to the South Island of New Zealand, where we will spend the next month. We flew from Kerikeri airport where we went through NO SECURITY whatsoever, including our stopover in Auckland! What a throwback. As a matter of fact, we have found New Zealand a delightful mix of throwbacks and enlightened attitudes: old-style motels, campervans, no security, prevalent hitchhiking…..and progressive measures benefitting the Maori people, legalized gay marriage, and environmental consciousness.

The North Island is 25% smaller than the South Island but has 3 times the population.

The South Island is renowned for its mountains, lakes and glaciers. The Southern Alps run along the entire length of the island. In the northeast are the Marlborough Sounds, known for vineyards and sailing, and in the northwest is Abel Tasman National Park, known for its trails and ocean kayaking.

We had the good fortune to spend a few days hiking and sailing in the Marlborough Sounds. The Marlborough Sounds are a collection of ancient sunken river valleys filled with the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Forested hills rise steeply from the sea around an intricate coastline of sheltered inlets and sandy bays. The area has three main bodies of water – Queen Charlotte, Kenepuru and Pelorus Sounds, with a number of smaller sounds connected to the main bodies of water.

Picton is a picturesque port town which offers the perfect base for experiencing the Marlborough Sounds.  We arrived in Picton to light rain, cool temperatures and an overcast sky.

Same view the following morning. What a difference!

A look back on Picton as we drive to Portage Bay, where we will catch the famous Queen Charlotte (hiking) Track.

…and in the distance, the ferry departing for Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, on the North Island.

Starting out on the Queen Charlotte Track. The views were absolutely stunning.

Shauna is back in her element…….one happy hiker.

With gorgeous coastal views of the Marlborough Sounds and lush native bush, we found the Queen Charlotte Track to be utterly unique from anything we have ever hiked.

The finger-like components of the Marlborough Sounds are oriented, for the most part, from southwest to northeast.

An overview of the Marlborough Sounds.

The wildflowers were in bloom.

The ferns and foliage were lush like a tropical rain forest, but without heat and humidity.

Sometimes the trail had overarching trees….

…..breaking out into a stunning view just around the corner.

A few houses dot the shorelines of the Sounds. Relatively sparsely populated, though.

Some of the peaks were in the 3,000-foot range providing a bird’s-eye view to the shores below.

One last look from at the Sounds from the Queen Charlotte Track as we finish our hike.

A view from our room at a small boutique hotel called the Portage Resort.

The Marlborough Sounds are famous for their Green Lipped Mussels.

We hopped aboard Relax, a 32 foot Beneteau, for a sail and an overnight aboard on Shauna’s birthday.

SoundsBySail Captain Phil put Mark on the helm while he tended to some rigging. Wow…that is a bit more heeling than we are used to on a catamaran.

The “birthday girl” puts Mark to shame with her ease of handling.

We were sailing on Kenepuru Sound, in the bottom right quadrant of this map.

A look at one of the many mussel farms that dot the Sounds. The mussels grow on lines below the surface attached to backbone ropes that are kept afloat by large oval buoys. They feed on plankton and other microscopic sea creatures filtered out of the water as they flow past the dangling lines.

Our hosts, Phil and Deb, built their house on stilts above Kenepuru Sound about 10 years ago.

Mark is happy to be on the water…..

…..and Shauna seems content too…

But Shauna on a boat in the ocean on her birthday can only lead to one thing….

…..ready, set……

….GO.

OMG, she forgot that the water was 68 degrees…….REFRESHING.

Shauna and Mark enjoy one last bit of the sail before disembarking.