A small shipwreck sits derelict along the shore. The Janie Seddon is a famous ship with a long history. Built in 1901 in Scotland, the ship was once used as a fishing vessel and it’s the last ship to be used in both World Wars by the NZ government. In the evening, when the tide is low, concrete slab stepping stones form a path so visitors can hop through the muddy banks to get a closer look at the decaying skeleton of a ship.
The clouds parted and the sun shone on the wreck lighting it up an ancient and rusty copper and orange color, almost golden. Some considered it an eyesore and even appealed to have it removed but the community spoke out and it remains moored. Since 1953 its been beached and tourists come by to take photos. It was once used to scout the bays for mines as well.
If you continue south from Motueka towards Nelson, there’s a spot in Mapua called the Jester House Cafe. There was an old lady, who lived in a shoe. Well, not just an old lady, her husband did too, and the place is a guesthouse shaped like a boot. The Boot is a luxury guesthouse located in the back next to the main restaurant and where out on the lawn there’s a large chessboard and pieces, a huge penguin and tiger sculpture, and a magnificent osc-eel-ator.
The NZ longfin eels are the main attraction though. The signpost is what drove us to stop here. “Tame eels” seemed quite peculiar and piqued our interest so we made the trip. Down the steps, and in the creek tons of black longfin eels swam in place and moved about like sluggish snakes. I went down to pretend to feed the largest one and it opened its mouth expectantly. Others trailed behind it and hovered near the banks. It was pretty surreal and eerie. What nightmares are made of!
The Longfin eel is the largest and longest living eel in the world and it occurs only in the rivers and lakes of New Zealand.
The biggest longfin eels reported have weighed as much as 40kg and estimated to be 60-90 years old. Longfin eels breed just once, at the end of their life. When they are ready to breed they leave New Zealand and swim 5000 kilometers up into the tropical Pacific to spawn, probably in deep ocean trenches somewhere near Tonga. The females lay millions of eggs that are fertilized by the male. The eggs then develop into larvae called leptocephalus and look nothing like an eel. They are transparent, flat and leaf-shaped. The larvae reach New Zealand by drifting on ocean currents, and probably with some directional swimming.
When they enter the rivers the leptocephalus change into more of an eel shape but are transparent. These are called Glass Eels. Glass eels move from salt water to fresh water between July and November each year, often in very large numbers. Whitebaiters sometimes find them in their nets as by-catch.
After picturing worst-case scenarios like falling in and getting tangled in eels, we decided to continue on our way towards Nelson.