And what a birthday it turned out to be!
We ate our banana on toast brekkie on the edge of the pebbley shore, overlooking Rabbit Island, while the sun extended her warm rays across our faces. Brendan and I revealed Martin's present from the Hulse clan: a brand new rounders set. He'd asked whether Bren would be able to bring one over with him as some of the Brits at work had longed for a game and the Kiwi's wanted to find out what it was! No mention was made of it again until Brendan told me about his experience with customs and the funny look he'd be given when he told them the wood in his suitcase was a rounders set. 'Like cricket', he'd said. They frowned.
After paying for our stay, the Scottish owner of the campsite tipped Martin off about a good day out in the Golden Bay region at a salmon farm. Free entry and use of the equipment sounded good to us!
But first I wanted to visit a place called Jester House that my friend Josie had told me about. The Tasman region's first country garden café, set in beautiful green grounds with hidden craft and sculptures, it was a perfect place to stop for a coffee and a birthday cupcake.
This isn't the only reason I wanted to pay a visit though. The house lays alongside the Aporo stream, the natural habitat of the NZ long finned eel, who come to visit the house between September and May to be hand-fed by the patrons of the café. We paid $2 for a pot of mince and a lolly-pop stick and headed to the river bank to find the eels. There wasn't much searching required! The eels were already gathered around the rocks in the stream, hungrily popping their heads out of the water and opening their mouths.
We headed out to the town of Motueka next, where we booked a water taxi for the next day to take us out for a walk in the Abel Tasman region. And then off over the hills to golden bay in search of salmon, passing Lord of the Rings locations and the site of Dwarven caves.
The three of us had never really fished before so we were slightly unsure upon arrival of the level of skill required to partake. But apparently, it would be pretty hard even for a beginner not to catch a salmon in an ornamental lake teeming with fish since it's fed directly by a breeding pool!
Still, the prospect of having to spike our salmon in the head once we'd caught it worried us. But, since the lady had told us it could be 10-20 mins before we caught anything, we thought we'd have time to come to terms with the prospect then.
After a quick lesson on how to cast out and reel in, we picked a spot on the lake at the opposite end to the other fishers and I opted to go first. I intended to use my first attempt to get used to the rod and remarked 'I've not cast out far enough'. I got half way through my sentence and felt a sharp tug on the end of the line. I felt panic as I had not been expecting to feel anything so soon and rushed Martin to grab the net to fetch it from the bank once I'd reeled it close enough. All of a sudden, we had a salmon in a box and didn't know whether we should catch another or just head back to the farm kitchen after 5 minutes worth of fishing! We decided one would be enough between 3 of us and we didn't know how much it would weigh (they were priced at $19 a kg).
Passing a group who had a box of about 4 or 5 fish, a gentleman decided to tell me the experience would have lasted longer and the fish been easier to catch if I'd reeled it in slower and tired it out. As he was talking, a fish from his box pushed past the lid and jumped onto the grass, wiggling its way back towards the lake whilst one of his companions chased after it. I had to bite my tongue a little.
The farm offered to fillet or smoke your fish for you free of charge, so we opted to have ours smoked with lemon and pepper. The whole thing cost us around $30, with drinks and garlic ciabatta portions. The best value lunch I've ever had! And the freshest fish too, at about 15 mins from hook to fork.
We then drove back over the hills to Marahau where we would be taking our water taxi from the following morning. After setting up camp at 'Old MacDonald's Farm' (no kidding), we had a three player game of rounders and a walk along the stream before turning in.
Hope you had a nice day Marts!