Thursday, 18 December 2014

Queen Charlotte Track

From Sunday to Wednesday I was walking the Queen Charlotte Track with family in the Marlborough Sounds. The weather was excellent; the whole trip was wonderful.

It's a 71km walk and we did it in four days. We flew from Auckland to Blenheim on Saturday and stayed in Picton on Saturday night. On Sunday morning we took a Cougar Line boat to the start of the track at Ship Cove (where Captain Cook careened and resupplied his ships on five separate occasions), then spent five hours walking to "The Woolshed", homestay-ish accommodation at the head of Endeavour Inlet. Remarkably, though the lodges and homes around the Endeavour Inlet are far from any road, they have mains electricity and broadband Internet connectivity good enough to stream video.

The next day we walked three-and-a-half hours to stay at Punga Cove Resort, arriving before 11:30am. Since we had so much time left in the day I decided to try a solo side trip from the resort (sea level) to the summit of Mt Stokes --- at 1200m, the highest point in the Sounds region. I didn't really know what I was letting myself in for; Mt Stokes was nearly 7 hours return from the resort, and a tough uphill slog for much of that, so I was quite exhausted when I finally got back to Punga Cove around 6:15pm. However it was definitely worth it for the amazing views.

Tuesday was the toughest day for the rest of our group, as we walked for about eight hours from Punga Cove along ridges all the way to Portage, staying at Debrett's Backpackers. It's just a long day of up-and-down. We had a decent rest at Black Rock Shelter, which has magnificent views over the Sounds to Picton with snow-capped mountains in the far distance.

Wednesday, yesterday, we did another six hours to reach the trail end at Anikawa around 2:45pm.

The places we stayed were each quite different in character, but all very good. We ate out every night (at Furneaux Lodge, at Punga Cove Resort, and at the Portage Hotel); all the meals were expensive but all also very tasty. We didn't have to carry sleeping bags or cooking gear; we could have made the walk even easier by using the boat service to ferry our overnight bags from one location to the next, but didn't.

This is a really lovely walk and was a great way to experience the Marlborough Sounds. The Sounds are beautiful --- lots of ocean, coastline, hills and islands almost entirely covered with different kinds of native forest. The track is in excellent condition, long but not difficult. You constantly feel compelled to stop and take a photograph of the dazzling view. A remarkable place; a great trip.

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