2 Oct 2020

A Precious Endeavour

From Country Life, 9:36 pm on 2 October 2020
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Photo: RNZ/Sally Round

A possum hunter, a farming couple and a young Polish man are part of the small community who live in Endeavour Inlet in the Marlborough Sounds where, even in this remote spot, the effects of the global pandemic are being felt.

Country Life visited the bay and discovered Covid-19's tentacles have a long reach indeed.

A hammock in the bush and a feed of wild goat is heaven to Endeavour Inlet's Possum Gary.

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Photo: RNZ/Sally Round

The tall lean Southlander has been living on and off in the bush around the furthest reaches of the inlet in the Marlborough Sounds for about five years now, setting traps and living off the land.

Endeavour Inlet is at the Cook Strait end of Queen Charlotte Sound/ Tōtaranui, a good hour from Picton by boat.

Apart from a few labouring jobs around about, Gary earns an income by selling possum fur, but lately, that's been down because of Covid, he says.

Mixed with merino, the fur is made into luxury garments, which are not so much in demand now from overseas buyers.

The price was about 25 percent down last time he went in but it hasn't put him off the job because "it's still for a cause."

Gary feels there should be a bounty for getting all the other pests he gets, like the feral cats, rats and stoats.

Possums, goats, pigs and deer certainly make their presence felt in the inlet, even more so with fewer visitors around, according to Gillian Anderson who runs the Miners' Camp Farmstay at the head of the inlet with her partner Graham McMillan.

Stags in roar were metres from their hikers' cabins during the lockdown, she says. Their farmlet is on the Queen Charlotte Track and because it was closed to trampers over the lockdown period, the animals came out.

Deer dancing on the beach

Deer come out to play every evening on the beach, says Gillian.

"It's like they're dancing," she says.

Their accommodation has been busier than normal over the winter months, she says, but the couple are looking nervously to the usually hectic summer season when the bach owners arrive and many overseas tourists pass through.

"We're wondering how we make ends meet for the next few years," she says.

Watch Wojtek Gorny's video of dolphins and a seal at play in Endeavour Inlet

Across the bay, a manager at Furneaux Lodge, Wojtek Gorny, is thankful he can hunker down in such a beautiful part of the world.

He'd been tipped off about applying for a three-year work visa well before Covid struck and has continued working at the lodge since the lockdown.

"It was a beautiful lockdown here ... missing friends and family, that's not very easy but we are doing well."

There may be fewer tourists coming and going as the summer draws near and borders remain restricted but Wojtek's been enjoying watching and filming the freedom of some of the regular marine visitors to the inlet.

He rushed down to the beach with his drone on a sparkling day to find a seal playing with a pod of dolphins offshore.

"I've dreamed of having footage like that. It was amazing."

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Endeavour Inlet Photo: RNZ/Sally Round