New Zealand is a great paradise for a walking holiday. There are 7 great walks in New Zealand. I haven’t attempted any of those walks yet because I don’t have the fitness level for long hikes. One of New Zealand’s best kept secret I think is the Queen Charlotte track. It is not exactly a secret but there is less crowd here compared to Nelson.
Stay longer and head to the Marlborough Sounds and you will find solitude, beauty and nature at its best. Marlborough Sounds is located in Picton, the top end of South Island – New Zealand.
The Queen Charlotte Track can be hiked or cycled as a day trip or from 3 to 5 days. Most people prefer the 4 days and 3 nights option. Hiking can be done independently or with a guide. I did this alone. Boy, what an adventure it was! Did I mention I get lost and injured my knees?
If you are heading this way, a few tips for consideration.
- If hiking on multiple days, let the water taxis deliver your big backpack to the next accommodation for a fee. Just hike with a day bag. Very convenient.
- The hostel or your Picton accommodation can book the water taxi and accommodations in Marlborough Sounds. Some give discounts for water taxis. Best to check before booking.
- If hiking alone, leave your itinerary with someone. Stick to plans and hike on preferably busier days, example, on Sunday when there are more hikers.
This can be done either from Ship Cove or Anakiwa. Most starts from Ship Cove. So here is a tale of my adventure or rather misadventure while hiking the Queen Charlotte Track.
Ship Cove to Resolution Bay – 4.5 km, 1 – 2 hours hiking
At Ship Cove, there is a 30 minute sidetrack to a waterfall. Worth a visit before starting the hike.
Once the hike starts, it is uphill climbing all the way to a lookout. Not used to the attitude, I had a tough time at the start when headaches plagued me. Tip : Get those hiking sticks. Your knees will thank you.
After huffing and puffing for a while, I reached the lookout. What a beautiful view! In the distance is Motuara Island – a sanctuary for the South Island robin and saddle back. There is also Kapiti Island and the North Island in the far distance.
Next is the descend to Resolution Bay. For overnight stay, there is Resolution Bay Cabins. Other options : Sounds Outdoors or campsites at School House Bay. I opted to move forward.
Resolution Bay to Endeavour Inklet – 10.5 km, 2 hrs – 2 hrs 45 mins
This is the easy walking section – up and down gentle hills with the blue and greenish water on the left side of the track. My destination - Cnoc na Lear. Since it was off season, I had the place all by myself and a free muffin on arrival. Sweet! Other accommodations : Furneaux Lodge, & Endeavour Resort & Fishing Lodge, No Road Inn, Tawa Cove Lodge and The Woolshed.
This is a good day walk which usually ends at Furneaux Lodge Jetty. I did this on Sunday and there were several hikers that day. The next morning before leaving, I saw dolphins in the bay catching their breakfast. Awesome!
More pictures from Day 1, click here.
Endeavour Inklet to Camp Bay – 11.5 km, 2 hrs 45 mins – 4 hrs 30 mins
Near Furneaux Hotel, there is a waterfall lookout. Just follow the orange triangle signages. This was the start of my misadventure. The path was a bit overgrown when I hiked and I missed a few signages. I kept hearing rustling in the bushes and harden my heart to move forward.
All of the sudden a big orange dog with a collar appeared. I thought a heart attack was imminent. Hah! Good thing it was friendly. So for a while the dog would accompany me before dashing off and returning to my side. Then, it suddenly disappeared. I heard the theme of twilight zone playing in my head. That was the moment when I realised I was lost.
I must have spend about 30 minutes trying to find my way out. I blew my whistle but nope, nobody came. Time to pray and I thank my lucky stars that my prayer was answered.
Lesson learnt : Don’t get distracted when hiking and always memorise the trail, eg, a stream with big rocks. Use the camera to photograph the landscape along the way.
So I managed to find my way out and arrived at Mahana Homestead Lodge. Other options : Punga Cove, Noeline’s Homestay or Camp at Camp Bay.
Camp Bay to Portage bay – 23.6 km, 5 hrs 30 mins to 7 hrs 30 mins
This is the hardest part of the trail when steep uphill climbing seems endless. I only reached Kenepuru Saddle when I realised that to hike this section uphill alone was treacherous when both my knees were so swollen any moment my legs would collapse.
Before that I was following a road and met this kind gentleman who told me the road also lead to Portage Bay. I should have asked how far was the distance and try to hitch a ride. Unfortunately there was no vehicle. I reached a farm and decided to turn back.
The nearest accommodation from there was Punga Cove. Dragging my right foot, I literally limped my way there. There was a public phone at the dock and a kind lady at the reception sold me a phonecard. The next watertaxi would be there at about 3.10pm. A long wait – so I spend a bit of time there at Punga Cove.
While squatting at the shoreline and staring at mussels, a remarkable thing happened. I heard splashing behind me. Ho and behold! A real live octopus was splashing water at something near the shoreline. It was about 2 meters from me. Wow!
I knew that any sudden movement would startled it so only my head was turned to watch the scene intently. What an experience! The minute I slowly tried to use my camera, it sprinted away. I only caught the tail end of its splash before it darted away into deeper waters. My adventure had not even ended yet.
The water taxi came and dropped me at a pier. I then realized there was more walking to be done because Portage Hotel is not exactly at that bay. I should have called earlier and asked if there was a pick-up service. Grimly I started limping uphill on the road.
It must have been about 50 meters distance before a vehicle appeared on the road. A lady was driving and stopped to ask if I was heading to Portage Hotel. Yes! Apparently she was there to pick up 2 couples from another water taxi. I thanked her profusely and told her what happened. On the way to the hotel, I realized how far away it was. I would not have made it on my own because it was already dark by then.
The staff at Portage Hotel were wonderful. I was the only person in the bunk and turned in early because I was very ill. Even with two thick duvets, I was shivering uncontrollably and my right knee felt like icicles. I realized that I was having a fever. Time to get up and drink warm water now. It was 1 am and I couldn’t sleep even after forcing down warm liquid and panadol.
Next morning the fever subsided. Both knees were twice its normal size and the pain was excruciating. Luckily the night before I had informed the staff to book me a water taxi heading to Picton in the morning. Next morning, a heavy fog shrouded the bay. It was time to wait and I ordered a mocha. Hmmm…delicious! Soon I was on my way back to Picton.
The remainder of the Queen Charlotte tracks are :
Portage Bay to Mistletoe/Waterfall Bay – 4.5 km, 2 hrs 15 mins – 3 hrs
Mistletoe/Waterfall Bay to Anakiwa – 13 km, 2 hrs 30 mins – 3 hrs 45 mins
If anyone is keen on hiking this track, click http://www.qctrack.co.nz/track/walk/
I had been given many gifts and respite during the whole 3 days experience. I made many mistakes and was very, very lucky. Someone up there was watching out for me. For all that happened, I do not regret the experience. I learnt so many valuable lessons.
Hope everyone has a good adventure now and then. Even if it is not, life is a learning lesson.
Till next time, have a great week ahead!