The following is the text of an email sent by Peter Belsham reminiscing about his childhood in Colac Bay. Peter now lives in Nelson.
“Hinetui Point is where the whales used to get washed ashore and my father taught me how to pick the ambergris up. I initially made the mistake of picking this black stuff off the beach with my hands and I couldn’t get rid of the smell for days. Dad used to take the ambergris home and send it to Holloways Hardware in Invercargill. They would send it on to France where it was used as a base in perfume production.

As kids, we climbed up Colac Bay hill to the trig station. There were cattle at the top and we had to climb over a fence and run like hell to avoid them. We would climb up onto the trig station and admire the views. What a marvelous sight at the top, right across to Rakiura, Codfish Island and back towards Bluff.

We used to follow the railway line towards Wakipatu and sandhills, where the crawly ponds were. What fun we had catching them and lighting a fire to cook them for a feast. We paddled flat-bottomed boats in Lake George, despite being told never to go there; and we pulled flounder nets on the beach at Colac Bay. What big flounders we used to catch. They went straight into the pan. Boy we lived good!

Royd Crengle and I used to ride right round Colac Bay hill, where the late Bill Cleaver was running the farm. Royd rode a big grey horse called Sandy and my horse was called Dillon. When Royd took off, I didn’t have a hope in hell of holding Dillon and I had to cling on for dear life.

We would leave Colac Bay in boats and set off for the Mutton Bird Islands and sometimes it got really rough. In those days the roads to Riverton, Pahia and Orepuki were gravel and we would travel to Riverton for the annual rowing regatta. By the time we got there we were covered in dust but our hair would be slicked down with plenty of Brylcreme to look good for the girls.
The train came from Tuatapere and we used to catch it at 8am at ColacBay to go to Invercargill. It was a long trip then and we didn’t get into Invercargill until 10am.

I remember the cattle drives’ from Tuatapere to Lorneville Cattle yards too. We were told to keep indoors on those occasions. There were always some that took to the bush and this pleased the locals greatly as my father was a hunter and a good shot, so we all lived on beef for quite a while. I cherish these memories and will never forget them. We grew up in a great place.”
Nā Peter Belsham.