Heading into the pristine wilderness of Breaksea Sound was one of the more awe-inspiring trips in my life to date. The only way in is by boat or chopper (an hour and a half ride from Queenstown). The weather is famously notorious - raining more days than it shines, with ferocious storms lashing in from Antarctica at the drop of a hat which whip up the sea to a froth of white. Despite vigilant surveying of weather maps we still managed to hit the end of a weather pattern that saw dense fog stretch inland from the coast for hundreds of kilometres to our take-off point in Queenstown. We mooched around in a café near the airport getting our last latte fixes until, finally in the early afternoon, word came through that the fog was lifting out at the Sound and we could actually leave. It would have been so disappointing to have to can the trip. I love flying in a chopper (provided it’s not rough!) and it was incredible zooming over a thick blanket of cotton wool, with just the tips of the lofty Southern Alps poking through the fog.
There’s currently a permanent barge stationed near the head of Breaksea Sound, the sole stop-off point in this remote wilderness. We arrived to find the fog had fully cleared, and were greeted by a cloudless blue sky and a sea that was crystal clear and glassy calm. Talk about LUCK!
It’s not until someone puts a fishing line in your hand and you find yourself hauling up an edible, wriggling fish that you really get that sense of visceral thrill. Our hunting and gathering gene is so instinctive. For me it was like being a kid again, out on my grandfather’s launch in the Marlborough Sounds. I just felt so lucky to be there. There was a sense of pioneer adventuring out in this remote southern wilderness. I couldn’t help feeling like I had stepped back in time and a Moa could have walked out of the forest - although we had more than our fair share of comforts onboard, with two hot showers and nice comfy bunks, and I did score the master cabin all to myself.
In places like this I love the fact there is no corner shop you can pop down to for a quick pantry top up. You really just have to cook with what’s to hand. It makes you more resourceful about the way you cook, and more creative too. And as long as you have some good flavourings at hand you can turn any kind of seafood into something truly yummy - curry paste and coconut cream for a quick Thai -style curry, chilli sauce and lime juice to cook up a pot of fresh mussels or to slather over fish before baking, or capers, lemons and olives to make a quick little pan sauce with some butter to go over grilled or barbecued fish. If you don’t manage to score any seafood you can still turn your free range pantry supplies, like rice or pasta, into something tasty using these interesting flavour notes.