Queen Charlotte Track
After too many rides on planes and busses, too much waiting to get to the start, it was finally time to take a last boat ride out to the start of the Queen Charlotte track. There had been a bit of rain during my two nights in Picton, but Thursday looked to become totally brilliant,
I took the early boat out to Ship Cove, at 8 am. There were some other hikers onboard and everyone was looking happy and expectant.
From Ship Cove the walk was up over the saddle and down to Schoolhouse Bay. It was a nice, well maintained track and even though there was a bit of climbing, it was nice easy walking. A perfect start to get your legs and lungs working.
I continued on towards Furneaux Lodge where I had an unexpected lunch. There was a nice restaurant and rather than making a peanut butter and banana wrap, I had a large cider and a hamburger. This was the first of many times that I found great food along the trail that I wasn’t expecting. In fact, I carried a lot of unnecessary food during my walk. Had I known how much food I would be able to buy along the way, I would have carried a lot less.
After lunch and a bit of a rest, I continued on through great scenery to Camp Bay campsite. Day one was 29 km and felt surprisingly easy. I was sure I would feel it the next day and I felt hotspots developing on the bottom of my soles and had already decided to walk in shoes the next day.
There were a lot of people at the campsite, from all over the world but a lot of New Zealanders, as it turned out, it was the start of a long weekend. A lot of them had had their packs transported by boat to the campsite and had walked with just their day packs, and would have their packs transported to the next campsite the next day. It turned out that it was a service that the boat company offered at no extra cost if you bought a return trip, that is a ride out to Ship Cove and a return from Anakiwa. For anyone walking just the QC, it would be a great way to do it.
It was interesting to watch and talk to the many different sorts of hikers at the campsite. Some obvious beginners who had trouble setting up their tents and lighting their stoves, some Europeans with great big 20 to 30 kilo packs, and some more experienced hikers with lighter and more organized kit.
The next day I got up early but took it easy before heading off up the steep hill that was the start of day two. This day would be shorter but everyone was expecting it to be harder, with much more climbing and descending.
About half an hour into the hike, I caught up to a kiwi girl I had spoken to the night before and we walked the rest of the day together. It wasn’t planed, our pace just matched and she was good company, she didn’t talk much at all and we could both just enjoy the views.
It was a harder day, partly because the track went up and down more, but also because we had yesterday’s hike in our legs.
The day finished after 24 km at Cowshed Bay campsite and after setting up the tent, I walked over to Portage to get a pizza and a cold beer. Ok, maybe two beers..
I got an early start again the next day and headed up over the hill at a good pace. I was back in flip-flops and feeling surprisingly good. It took me just a bit more than two hours to do the first section to Te Mahia Bay, a section that is listed as a four hour walk. I rewarded myself with a brunch at the Te Mahia resort as I hadn’t had any breakfast and was looking forward to a large cup of coffee.
It was very easy to polish off a portion of fish and chips!
Then there was only the last section towards Anakiwa to walk. Like the rest of the track, it was beautiful, with great scenery but it was also a lot more crowded. I met more hikers and a lot more mountain bikers than any of the other days. It’s not that it was crowded, but nowhere as empty as the days before. It could have been because it was a long weekend and that the weather was great. I couldn’t really have asked for better weather than I had for the three days on the track.
Would I recommend the QC track?
Yeah, without hesitation! It was a great walk and would be well worth it even if you wanted to do “only” the QC. I would probably have done it over a longer time if I wasn’t continuing on along the Te Araroa. There are lots of interesting sights to see along the way and plenty of campsites, if a little bit expensive.
As I write this, I am in Havelock and have just bough food for nine days hiking along the TA. It’s the last chance to resupply for a while and I hope I have bought enough!
There is also a question about what the trail is going to be like further south. Two hikers have been killed during the weekend trying to cross rivers swollen by rain and some trails have even been closed. It should not affect me for a couple of weeks, but I will have to see what the situation is like when I get further south.
But to start with, I have to try get through the next 9 to 10 days. It should be interesting to see what it’s like to finally get out in the wilderness here in NZ!