French Pass Part Two

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Heading back down the hill after the morning walk (prefer previous blog) back towards the camp we managed to sneak this view of the motorhome sitting there in it’s prime beachfront spot. I must say that some of the camps we have stayed at have had fairly boring outlooks so to have a view like this is a huge bonus.

Running into “no hurry Murray” on our return to the camp he asked us if we enjoyed our walk and then proceeded to let us know about an unofficial pathway through the farm at the other end of the bay.

So with our legs still full of energy after the earlier walk (refer previous blog) we headed off back down the bay in search of this second unofficial track. It’s actually quite hard to find the start of the track with Murray saying lookout for the water trough, easier said than done when it’s hidden behind grass that’s grown all over it.

As is usual with our walks the path starts off with a nice clear formed track through the pine trees as it rose along the cliff edge heading out towards the point. With the pine needles underfoot it was like walking on a cushion it was so soft underfoot although it did have me worried a couple of times that they might give way and I could see myself slipping down the cliff.

Of course as we have discovered what starts out as a well formed track quickly deteriorates to something more suited to the goats and sheep that are living wild in this area as we pushed through these gorse bushes we began to wonder if somehow we had strayed from the path.

Strangely enough it’s all become part of the fun starting out on these well formed tracks only to have them turn into these narrow tracks that have you holding onto trees or plants to stop yourself slipping down the banks in some of the steeper areas.

Then after being hemmed in by the trees we emerged into this clearing which had a really nice view back towards the bay. Although as you can see the path continued to be somewhat elusive and we weren’t 100% certain that we where on the right path.

Crossing the gully it was back into the pine trees were the path again emerged the occasional glimpse of the sea spurring us on towards the end point of the track, whilst we didn’t really know where it would emerge we knew that we had rounded the corner of the headland away from the camp, maybe this might be a spot where we could head fishing later.

What we hadn’t realised either from the motorhome or as we walked along the track was just how strong the wind was that day as the headland and hills behind the camp had sheltered us from it. As we emerged from the track directly into the path of the wind it was blowing at what appeared to be almost gale force as you can see if you watch the video above.

We had the choice of either continuing on the left hand side of the fence down to the point or crossing a handy stile to get to the windward side and walk down to the point inside the fence. Choosing this option as it felt much safer than being blown over the cliff we walked out to the point for some great views of the sounds and millions of white caps on the water.

When you feel wind that strong and you are walking either inside or outside of the fence that close to a 30 metre cliff edge I don’t think there is much choice about the side of the fence to be walking.

Not really sure if it was private land or not we decided to follow the farm track out along the farm to have a closer look at the mussel farms dotted along the coastline. In the areas where it was sheltered it was a really nice walk but once exposed to the wind it became quite unpleasant and after maybe 1 km of walking into the wind and feeling the full effects of the wind chill we decided to return to the motorhome and defrost.

Almost the moment we got back into the pine trees the effect of the wind disappeared and once we had rounded the headland slightly it had gone completely turning back into a really nice day. Strange how that works.

French Pass - DOC

Proximity to Attractions

If you are into the beach, fishing, boating and walking then this camp is the place for you. Right on the water.

Nearest Supplies/Town

With the local store now closed it's 50kms to the nearest supplies and 100 to the nearest supermarket. Make sure you are well stocked.

Ground Surface

It was a little muddy when we were there but flat sites if a little small for a 9 metre motorhome.

Proximity to Water/Dump Station

Water on site but must be boiled prior to drinking and the nearest dump station is 70kms away

Outlook from Camp

Just absolutely wonderful

Noise during Day and Night

None except the lapping of the waves what more could you ask.

Cellphone Signal

Good strong 4g signal

Walking/Cycling Tracks

No cycling tracks unless you wanted to ride the road (not recommended) but a couple of decent walks through bush and around the lighthouse.

Fishing

Caught a couple of Blue Cod from the rocks but also lost quite a few hooks/sinkers getting snagged.

Access Road

22kms of very narrow mostly gravel road along the top of a cliff. Not recommended for travel on a windy day or those not confident with their vehicle on gravel.

Overall Rating:

A really nice small camp with only 16 spaces so bookings are essential during summer. Much to offer if you like the simple things in life.

One of the advantages of being almost the only people in the campground is the chance to get to know the camp hosts. After a couple of encounters with Murray and his wife Raewyn they offered to take us fishing.

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Pointing out the obvious that with the strong wind we would be rather exposed on the point and that with the wind causing the waves to crash over the rocks Murray suggested that we visit his secret spot on the other side of the point.

It’s not hard to work out why it’s a secret when you have to somehow get down a cliff face to get to this secret spot. With Murray leading the way we worked our way down what he claimed was the track, it looked more like a couple of gaps in some gorse bushes to me. The good news about gorse is you can hang onto the trunk area without having to worry about prickles , we used this method to avoid falling down the cliff.

The final 5 metres is by hanging onto the rope in one hand fishing gear in the other as you try and abseil the last bit. It was only once I was on the bottom that I felt confident enough to take a photo. The rest of the time I was hanging on for grim death.

With Murray explaining how to catch Blue Cod it was time to put our rods together and see how good this secret spot actually was. As you can see from the photos it’s very rocky here and an important part of fishing here is not to let your sinker settle on the bottom or you are 100% guaranteed to snag.

It wasn’t long before Murray’s fishing tips paid off and although it wasn’t big enough to keep Sarah was the first person to land a Cod. It turned out that Raewyn does not fish but provided lots or moral support for Murray during the time we spent here.

When at one point it looked like we weren’t going to catch any keepers with the minimum size of 33cm being well beyond our initial catches Sarah decided to forage for some of the local green lipped mussels which cover the rocks in abundance here, obviously seeded from the mussel farms that cover the shallow waters of the Marlborough Sounds.

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Finally after loosing countless amounts of gear to the rocks Sarah had had enough and I decided to swap to the rod she was using as it’s my favourite. The next two casts resulted in the two Cod you see above, one just legal at bang on 33 cm the second a healthier 37 cm. So it was to be Cod for dinner.

Sadly our guide (Murray) did not catch anything worth keeping but with another 4 weeks to go on his stint as camp host he assured me there was plenty of time left to catch some cod and the previous day he caught his bag lot. Murray then proceeded to fillet and skin our cod for us doing a much better job than I ever could have.

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Of course what goes down must come back up and to leave the fishing spot we had to climb back up the cliff to get to the pathway. Like on the way down I was too busy worrying about not falling to consider taking photos until I was recovering my breath at the top of the cliff. I think the spot will remain secret for a while yet!

That night we had some of the freshest, tastiest Fish that we have ever eaten pan fried in a little butter with potatoes and a nice salad. A huge thank you to Murray and Raewyn for their assistance in helping us catch dinner. We could not have done it without you.

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When we arrived at the camp I expressed surprise to Murray that there was still a camp host here on the middle of May. He told me that without him there DOC was missing out on hundreds of dollars in income from the campers who chose not to pay. Turns out I didn’t take a photo of them so I included the one of our van at the camp.

This was clearly shown when we returned from the fishing trip to find 3 lots of campers in what might be termed “slider” vans all of whom had used the facilities and all of whom chose to leave when asked to pay for the night. It’s a bit sad and makes me wonder why DOC are still asking $13 per night at this time of the year maybe it was $5 then a better percentage of the people would stay and pay.

Later that afternoon we watched this strange craft approaching the boat ramp. As you can see it’s a small vehicle ferry boat that was being piloted by one very busy person who between steering the boat was busy running forwards and backwards from the wheelhouse to the ramps at the front to lower them so that when he hit the boat ramp the vehicle just drove straight onto the boat.

Once the vehicle was on the vehicle ferry it backed out, turned around and sailed off towards D’Urville island the whole exersise would have taken no more than five minutes it was obvious that both the boat master and the person driving the vehicle had done this before. Very Interesting to watch.

The following morning with the wind having died away and before the forecast rain it was time to leave French Pass to explore other parts….. Next blog to follow the continued adventure. But just before I sign off one final reminder of the “wonderful” road into and out of the place, Not really for someone that doesn’t like metal roads and certainly not for the faint hearted!!!!


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3 thoughts on “French Pass Part Two

  1. You certainly suffered with the wind .. but well done, catching two blue cod. Glad you got something for dinner. What happened to the mussels?

  2. You certainly have had plenty of experience with hairy tracks, but the wind at French Pass made those walks unforgettable ….

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