It has taken me so long to write this blog, mainly because I was hoping to get back to D’Urville Island this year to explore more. Sadly, with work and other adventures, I have conceded that it will be 2018 before I am back on the island, so consider this blog a teaser, a small taste of what this incredible island has to offer.
I have been really lucky this year to be invited to some incredible places that I've wanted to visit and areas I've wanted to explore. At the top of the South Island, separating Marlborough from Tasman, and the 8th biggest island in New Zealand, D'Urville Island should be relatively accessible however significant planning is required. When Will and Rose Parsons from Driftwood Eco Tours told me they were running a week-long nature and heritage tour and asked if I wanted to come along to photograph, I jumped at the chance (after pleading with my sister/business partner for yet more time away from the shop).
In late April, a van full of eager travellers and I started the windy drive out to French Pass while listening to Will's wonderful stories and extensive local knowledge along the way. I don't have fond memories of driving out here as a kid, the snippets I recall involve incredible motion sickness and falling painfully off the top bunk so I was desperately hoping at least the road had improved (thankfully there were no bunk beds in sight when we arrived at our accommodation)
After a quick stop for coffee and some of Will's famous baking at Okiwi Bay, we meandered along the ridgeline road admiring the views of Tasman Bay to the left and Tennyson Inlet to the right. We arrived at French Pass in time to watch Craig and Squid (the Border Collie) expertly bring the barge on to the beach so that our van could drive straight on. A boat or barge is the only way to take your own vehicle across to the island.
We left the barge and van safely at Owaka, and jumped on to Dennis's boat to cruise towards the churning tides of French Pass. The danger of the infamous 8 knot tidal flow is well known in both myth and fact. Here Dumont D'Urville’s sailing ship Astrolabe struck rocks twice when becoming unresponsive to steering, after which he stated the pass should not be attempted unless it was an emergency. Thankfully with the right tides and modern engines the pass is slightly less daunting now however I still had one hand on the rail and one hand to photograph as we cruised through this natural washing machine. The reason for our voyage through the pass was not an emergency - it was for dinner - we hauled in enough blue cod to ensure we could all had fresh fish and chips, it was a fantastic start to our week away.
The following four days were filled with adventure, we explored the island by boat and by vehicle. We ambled lazily around the narrow dusty island roads, where we only came across one other vehicle the whole week. We drove to the far north of the island visiting local farmers, taking in the amazing views and searching for wildlife. I was thrilled to be able to tell Andy (my friend who is an avid plant nerd) I not only recognised, but knew the name of, the bright yellow brachyglottis that lived on the mineral belt. We collected nautilus shells on the beach, and talked to light house keepers at the meeting house. I learnt so much about Ngati Koata (the local iwi) and Captain Cook’s early exploration in this area. Will and Rose thoroughly planned this fascinating and exciting wide-ranging voyage but I don’t want to give away all their wonderful gems. If the idea of this trip is appealing you can book a tour with them here https://driftwoodecotours.co.nz/durville-island/
I can’t wait to get back out to D’Urville again, I could spend months on this beautiful island. There will be a Part 2 to this blog… I promise you that!