21 February 2017


Halfway between Nelson and Blenheim you'll find a bridge that crosses the Pelorus River.  Surrounding this is a stunning scenic reserve. There are some great walks throughout he bush, some easy and short, while others are a little more adventurous.

This is the spot Peter Jackson chose as a filming location for some scenes in 'The Hobbit'. In the movie, the dwarves were filmed floating in barrels down the river.

There's a cafe at Pelorus with a large carpark offering lots of space for all size vehicles. It's a popular place for tour buses to stop. Behind the cafe, winding through a tunnel of overhanging trees, is a narrow road leading to the camp ground. There's plenty of places to pitch a tent or park a camper. The views are enchanting - offering native bush on a one side, and the crystal, clear Pelorus River on the other.
Some of the walks start around this area. If you are pressed for time, there are shorter options, which loop around amongst the bush. The longer walks take you to two waterfalls with occasional glimpses of Pelorus River.

What a sensory delight! The chorus of loud, clicking cicadas,  sweet smells of honey dripping from black, beech trees, every shade of green you can possibly imagine and the softest of warm breezes. It was magical.

Another bush walk starts from the other side of the road. After walking across the Pelorus Bridge, immediately to the right is the start of another track.This one crosses a swing bridge offering magnificent views.

It's a loooooong way down from the bridge! When other people walked across it while I was on it, it felt like I'd had too much to drink - making it wobbly for taking photos.

I google searched 'Pelorus' and found some interesting facts on the history of the area. I've copied and pasted it below.

Like so many places in New Zealand, Pelorus Bridge has its own unique piece of history to share, both pre and post European settlement.
The original Maori name for the Pelorus River was Hoeire after the first canoe to travel to the South Island. The valley was the site of a massacre of the Ngati Kuia and Ngati Apa tribes by the Maori chief Te Rauparaha, who came from the North Island coast, west of Wellington. The first Europeans to arrive in 1843 found a few remaining Maori people producing flax for Te Rauparaha. European exploration and exploitation was begun by Lieutenant Chetwode of the HMS Pelorus in 1838, who named both the river and the sound after his vessel.
Originally the route to Nelson found its way through the reserve site via the Maungatapu Saddle. Later, the path that the road follows today was discovered, and a bridge was built across the Pelorus River around 1860.
Between 1865-1866 areas of land were set aside close to the site of the current bridge, and designated as areas for accommodation and the site for future towns. However, no towns were ever built. In the 1880s gold was discovered in the Wakamarina a tributary of the Pelorus River. This led to a large population of gold miners in the Pelorous valley but still no permanent settlement was established.
Besides gold mining, sawmilling was the principal activity until the 1910s with the last of the mills ceasing operations in the 1930s. Both the gold mining and the milling led to extensive silting of the Pelorus River, and Pelorus Sound. Later, dairying has become the main activity.
With the passage of the Scenery Protection Act 1903 the government recognized the need to protect the environment. The remaining forest at Pelorus Bridge was finally established as a scenic reserve in 1912 to preserve the area's natural beauty.

I had to take a photo of this delicate flowering plant growing among the dry, rocks around the riverbed. How can something survive in such harsh conditions?

One thing I did notice while walking was the lack of bird song. There was the occasional chortle but no sightings. Maybe the racket the cicadas were making droned them out. I noticed lots of traps about the area and later discovered that 'Forest and Bird' had started a Bat Recovery Project in 2008 to protect long tailed bats.

The dramatic decline in bat numbers is probably due to high predator numbers in the area, with its mild winters and moderate rainfall. High densities of introduced wasps have also had an impact, eating most of the forest insects and leaving little food for bats.
Forest & Bird volunteers are protecting the bat population at Pelorus Bridge by trapping predators such as possums, stoats, weasels, and rats. 

I researched about the bats in the area and found the following information...

Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve, or Te Hoiere, is home to one of the last remaining populations of long tailed bats in Marlborough.
A small population of long-tailed bats roost in the large forest around the bridge and camp site. On warm summer evenings, bats can sometimes be seen in the twilight, circling high in the forest canopy or flying along the river.
Later at night, they can often be glimpsed foraging for moths above the street lights.
Before humans settled in New Zealand about 700 years ago, three bat species were widespread and abundant. Now bats are rarely seen.
One species (the greater short-tailed bat) is already extinct and without intervention, the other two species (short-tailed and long-tailed bats) will probably be extinct on the mainland within 50 years.
The catastrophic and ongoing decline in New Zealand’s bats is a result of the mammalian predators (rats, stoats and cats) that arrived with humans. New Zealand’s largest bat species, the greater short-tailed bat, died out on the mainland soon after Pacific rats arrived with Maori settlers.
The other two bat species were still common during the early 19th century, but have since almost disappeared under the onslaught of mammalian predators that arrived with European settlers.
With the assistance of volunteers, Forest & Bird has initiated a predator
trapping programme to protect the Pelorus Bridge bat population. 

New Zealand long-tailed bat facts
- Long-tailed bats are chestnut brown, with small ears and a long pointed tail membrane. They weigh 8 to 12 grams, are up to 60 millimetres in length and have a wingspan of up to 300 millimetres.
- The long-tailed bat population at the Pelorus Bridge scenic reserve is the largest in the Nelson Marlborough region.
- Long-tailed bats are forest dwelling and during daytime they shelter in the cavities of large old trees
- Travelling at up to 60 km an hour, they can cover a range of as much as 100 square kilometres.
-  Flying over forest edges, lakes and slow moving rivers, they catch insects using their extended tail membrane to scoop up their prey. 
- Females only give birth to one pup a year.

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