The day I returned home from the Hollyford Track
The day I returned home from the Hollyford Track there was gentle summer rain, and as I watched from the window the wind combing out the lime-green, Japanese maple leaves, a fantail landed lightly in its canopy mop. I was reminded of the beautiful, ancient beech forest where swathes of little limecoloured kidney ferns brightened up the ﬂoor, and of the rare black fantail that had darted past. These elements staved off some of my sadness, helping hold the memory of where I had just been. A small heel blister, my only souvenir.
I was now miles from Kotuku (Martins Bay) where I had wandered that morning, following along an ancient, stone edged path, so carefully constructed by Chief Tutoko’s tribe more than 800 years ago. Alongside, the ochre-coloured porcupine grass (Pingao – Ficinia spiralis) doing its thing. Binding and building the weather-prone, shifting sand dunes, its lacy charcoal roots creating vast ﬁligree installations.
As a rich resource for food, trees for waka and pounamu (so prized for tools, ornaments, and as ballast in canoes) this bay had attracted Ngai Tahu down from Bruce Bay. Sea-side of the spit were ancient Maori middens and burnished stones from ovens. Out of respect we stayed away from the kaia (village) site hidden alongside the most beautiful lagoon.
Martins Bay, thought to be named after an early sealing captain is still home to a large fur seal colony and Fiordland-crested penguins. Punctuating the dangerous, sandbar spit, rimu, rata and kamahi-clad May and Sara hills, named in honour of Chief Te Tutoko’s daughters by geologist Dr James McKerrow in 1863.
Further down the beach a stand of gums mark the landing where doomed Jamestown residents waited-out for more than two years their rescue by boat. Meandering on Lake Street, we had paid homage to this desolate 1870 settlement. Against the backdrop of juvenile forest, a little brass plaque, on Survey Block 2, Lot 31, originally taken up by Samuel Nicholson, records the site. All that’s left, three apple trees, trunks rotting, almost reclaimed. The Otago Witness records, January 4th,1873, that ‘the settlers express being well pleased with the place and would be quite contented were communication opened with Queenstown or arrangements made for a steamer calling regularly’. However, most residents, driven out by ‘the starvation’ when supplies were ongoingly unable to be landed, began to leave.
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