The Amsterdam was easing into its dock when we opened the window on the morning of Thursday, February 4. Picton is a nice little town in a beautiful setting, Queen Charlotte Sound. It is at the north end of the south island of New Zealand & is the terminal for the ferry across the Cook Strait that connects the two islands. This province is called Marlborough & is New Zealand’s top wine country. The first European settlement here was a whaling station set up in 1827, but the town was established in 1848.
This bay was one of Captain Cook’s favorite anchorages & he spent almost half a year here spread out over his three voyages. During his second voyage he was separated from his second ship in fog near Antarctica & this bay was the designated meeting place. So he brought his ship here & waited a number of days before giving up and sailing on. The other ship arrived just a few days later & sent ashore a provisioning party. When it did not return they sent another party to find them. The second party found them, but only some recognizable parts of their bodies & they concluded the first party had been killed & eaten by the local Maori. So they returned to the ship, which hightailed it back to England.
We were anchored almost in the center of town, so after breakfast we walked in. Like a lot of days on this voyage, it was very cloudy & looked like rain but later turned brightly sunny.
Our first stop was to see the Edwin Fox, what remains of an old ship built in India in 1853. Its first service was to transport troops for the Crimean War. Its primary significance is as the only remaining ship to transport prisoners to Australia & settlers to New Zealand. If you have seen the movie “The Great Train Robbery,” the characters played by Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland were later transported to Freemantle, Australia on the Edwin Fox’s one voyage in 1858 as a prisoner transport. The ship served as a commercial vessel for a number of years, carrying tea from India to England, then after its sailing days were over it was made into a giant refrigerator for storing preserved meat before transport to England. After arriving in Picton in 1897, It languished for a number of years, subject to plundering, before being purchased and towed to its permanent display location in Picton in1999. It’s not in very good condition & they lack the money for any refurbishment (at least so far), but its historical significance is substantial.
We walked over to the Picton Foreshore, the beach area at the center of town. The weather was still threatening, but the bay was beautiful. There were also colorful flowers in extensive flower beds.
Passing through the Anzac memorial serving as a gate between the Foreshore & the town, we walked up the main street. Not much beyond a few uninteresting stores & restaurants, but in a lovely setting surrounded by mountains. Then we found the library, always a primary objective for us. We discovered recently that Steve & Wendy, two of our Cruise Specialists hosts, also collect library pictures for their son, who is a librarian in Louisville, Kentucky. We thought we were the only ones, but apparently not.
We decided to take a walk on one of the trails along the harbor, so we headed over to what the locals call the Coathanger Bridge, passing a lot of sailboats at anchor. From the bridge we followed the road straight ahead, which turned out to be a mistake. After hiking about a mile we (finally) happened upon a sign that told us we were on the wrong path. The one we wanted required turning left after the bridge (but there was no sign at the bridge to tell you that). So our best recourse was to take the “Scout’s Track” over the mountain ridge to the path overlooking the harbor. It was very steep, but we made it. We decided that the name referred to boy or girl scouts, who would be much younger than we are!
At the top we were rewarded with great views of the Sound (and the prospect that the rest of the trip would be downhill!).
As we came down the trail on the harbor side of the ridge of mountains there were more nice views & some interesting flowers.
After this hike we were ready to walk back to the ship. We passed a playground with a Donald Duck statue (does Disney, Inc. know about this?) & some acrobats busking in the Foreshore area. They announced that they thought their act was worth at least 10 or 20 dollars, but since we only saw the ending as we passed by we just continued on. You can see from this view of the harbor that the weather had greatly improved (yay).
So that’s it from Picton & from New Zealand. The sailaway was quite beautiful, as you might imagine, & the Sound was much longer than we had anticipated. We were looking forward to some relaxing sea days as we crossed the Tasman Sea to Australia.