The radio broadcasts warnings: leave home early, traffic will be heavy. Perhaps even think of leaving on Thursday. But on Good Friday, in a small bay deep in the Marlborough Sounds only bellbirds and tui and fantails in the beech trees, fill the airwaves.
We anchor our old boat a stone’s throw from the shore and row ashore. Others have come by car on the long gravel road that winds its way through the bush, in out and around the Sound, until a spot where Shanks’s pony kicks in.
Two children are already drawing long lines in the sand and throwing sticks in the sea. “Doggie doggie!” the little girl cries. The young pup thinks it’s heaven. By late morning two young women are heating up their snow-white skins in the sun and a Maori mum, dad and the kids are hooking spotties from the rocks.
Then, soon after lunch a man and a young boy in long-sleeved white shirts turn up, with a small girl in a long pink dress. The man finds three branches and with a large fern frond and twine, creates a wigwam on the beach.
“Where is she, where is she?” we hear him repeat. He punches numbers on his phone. Stomps around the beach – until after an eternity, a slinky bright blue dress appears.
And beside the wigwam and with the boy, and the girl who’s now clutching a blue paper posy, and with the sun on the sea in front of them and a jumble of forested hills behind, the man and woman renew their wedding vows. I do. Then with a deep kiss and without further ado, they all scamper back up the track into the bush.
There are only four baches in the bay. Kiwi baches. Made of wood or fibrolite. Lean-to roofs. Perhaps with a toilet outside. Nothing fancy. You know the thing. Each one sits on a great big patch of rough grass, is sheltered by hills with native bush and has an upturned dinghy at the beach edge to mark its patch. Perfect.
Earlier in the day we passed a spot, in the neighbouring bay, with a new $5million holiday abode and close by high on a headland a house, sticking out – built for a Russian. He’ll be able to keep an eye on three arms of Pelorus Sound. When he turns up.
And in the far distance mature blocks of pine trees are signalling that clear-felling is nigh and that the land will turn to dust. The end of the golden weather? On this last day of summer by 5 o’clock the sea breeze had not arrived. It was still 20 degrees. But nobody that day had swum in the sea.