Day 72 to 75 – A Queen and her Weka
Thursday 27 December – Sunday 30 December
Picton to Havelock on The Queen Charlotte Track
Day: 72 – 75
Cumulative Km’s: 1,774km / 3,000km
We kick off the South Island leg of the TA with the famed Queen Charlotte Track. It would seem that our bad run of weather has come to an end and a true New Zealand summer has finally arrived. We enjoyed hot days and blue skies on the Queen Charlotte, a superb introduction to the natural beauty of the South Island.
Day 72 – Thursday 27 December, 18km
Picton to Madsens Camp, Endeavour Inlet, Queen Charlotte Track
Despite our late arrival into Picton yesterday we had an early morning today in order to make it out to Ship Cove, the start of the Queen Charlotte Track. We were booked on the latest Ship Cove boat transfer possible, 9am but this still meant that we needed to be checked in and ready to sail at 8.30am. The saving grace of waking up at 7am was the scone breakfast put on by the hostel. The scones were baked fresh that morning, pulled out of the oven right before my eyes. Cheesy and crisp on top and light and fluffy in the middle. They were simply delicious. Quite possibly the best scones I’ve eaten in New Zealand (and I’ve eaten my fair share of scones since arriving in New Zealand).
Full of scones we walked across town to check in for our boat transfer. We would be sailing with Beachcomber, a company who give a generous discount to TA hikers. We walked past a small market and felt a little regretful that we hadn’t given ourselves time to check out Picton on our way through. After enjoying our playing tourist in Wellington we vowed to take more time off trail when we hit towns in the future.
The boat transfer to ship cove was more than I expected. The Queen Charlotte Sound is absolutely stunning. Blue water flanked by green mountains. It doesn’t get much better. The captain of the boat gave us a bunch of information on history and current goings on in the sound. It was a tour in itself.
After a 2 hour cruise from Picton we were dropped at Ship Cove. We took some time to check out the historic Captain Cook monument. A big, white chunk of concrete. We filled water bottles, used the facilities and were on our way.
The Queen Charlotte Track is well maintained and at a gentle gradient. We took it easy, had many breaks and admired the views. The track dipped up and down from ridgeline to shoreline throughout the day.
DOC gives walkers a 4 day itinerary for hiking the track but the days are short and the timings are generous so we decided to take 3 days on the track instead. Given today was a late start we only went a few extra kms past the suggested camp site for the night. We opted for a private spot, Madsens Camp. I had read good reviews on Guthooks (the app we use to help us with navigation on trail) and they were all spot on!
The toilets were clean and the campsite was a beautifully terraced section of land interspersed with flowers and garden beds. There were fresh herbs we could help ourselves to, hammocks, a private beach and a wharf for fishing.
We have been on the trail for over 2 months now and today was the first time I felt it was warm enough to go for a swim. Although the sun was hot during the day it was starting to dissappear behind the mountains and the water was icey cold. The sound was too beautiful not to swim in so I braved it. The cold was brutal at first but I either aclimatised or went numb because it was OK after a while and I worked up the courage to submerge my entire body. Adam went in up to the knees and stopped. Tomorrow we said, we will have to swim in the middle of the day, when the sun is still out.
We had been briefed by fellow hikers and our boat captain, about cheeky birds along the track who steal things when you aren’t paying attention. They are called Weka and look like a brown, prehistoric chicken. They are quiet as quiet could be and sneakily come out of nowhere to pilfer hiker packs on theit hunt for food. We were vigilant with our things during the day but at night, in Masdens camp, weren’t expecting them. Sure enough, there they were. I had just started boiling water for a cup of tea when one appeared from behind me. Weka! Adam yelled. Luckily none of our cooking gear was lost.
Day 73 – Friday 28 December, 25km
Madsens Camp, Endeavour Inlet, Queen Charlotte Track to Black Rock campsite, Queen Charlotte Track
Last night was our first sleep in the tent after more than a week in a bed. We slept well, waking to magnificent birdsong, some of the most beautiful we have heard on the trail yet.
We had breakfast with a view, sitting in the hammock looking out over Endeavor Inlet. It was a slow start to the day, taking the time for a coffee before we started walking.
The track was beautiful, meandering along under thick forest with birds chirping and cicadas singing overhead.
We were enjoying the trail so much that we didn’t notice by mid morning that we had accidentally taken the turn off to Camp Bay. It must have been divine intervention. We were half way down the turn off before we realised so we continued along the track.
At Punga Cove there is a resort with a cafe/ bar and a jetty out over the beautiful blue water. We couldn’t turn down the opportunity for a swim and a bite to eat. We got there just after 11am. The kitchen wasn’t open yet so I opted for a fruit mince pie and a coffee. We had a swim from the Jetty and basked in the sun, waiting for the kitchen to open. At mid day we ordered pizzas and had a lovely lunch over the water. I didn’t want to keep walking. I could have rented a paddle board and spent the whole afternoon in the sun on the water.
It was an uphill walk to get back on track, my body was confused as to why I was making it walk up a big hill when it thought we should be drinking beers and sunbaking but we pushed on.
The trail climbed up the ridge with spectacular views over the sound below us. Queen Charlotte is a magical part of the world.
We took a side trip to Eatwells lookout. It was an incredible vantage point and as the signs had alluded to, there were views for days. We weren’t disappointed. It was worth the solid uphill climb to get there.
We decided to spend the night at Black Rock camp. We had hopes of making it further but our 3hr lunch break meant it would be a late night if we pushed through. It was a great decision in the end. Black rock is a beautiful spot with spectacular views out to Picton. On our way into camp we could see the ferry sailing into the sound for docking.
It was nearing dinner time when we were coming into camp and I was HUNGRY so I decided to stop early to eat. The views from the top of the ridge on my way into camp were beautiful.
In camp Adam had already set up the tent. I had a cup of tea and some nougat while watching the sun set over Picton. It was a beautiful spot to spend the evening. We met a lovely couple from New Zealand who are taking off for a year of travel in Europe next year, walking the Camino and then heading to South America. One of the lovely things about being out on trail is meeting like minded people.
Day 74 – Saturday 29 December, 33km
Black Rock campsite, Queen Charlotte Track to Smith’s Family Holiday Park
It was a glorious morning starting with meditation and breakfast overlooking the Queen Charlotte Sound and Picton harbour.
I was sitting enjoying the view and a morning coffee when Adam sheepishly approached me, “I have a problem”. Somewhere between last night and this morning his bag of toilet paper had disappeared. “Weka?” I suspected. I wasn’t entirely sure though. Of all the things a Weka could have grabbed from the pocket of his pack, why TP? I gave Adam my bag of TP and continued packing for the morning. Just as we were almost done packing down the tent I could hear something crashing around in the bushes next to us. I peered in. A Weka with Adam’s bag of TP! It was trying to bust open the bag. I left Adam to retrieve the stolen bag, covered in spit and pecked with holes.
It was an easy walk downhill to Torrea Saddle. From there it was a steep uphill climb to Shamrock Ridge. I was jealous of the day walkers and people walking lodge to lodge with little to no weight on their backs but I told myself it was good training for the Richmond Ranges. After a week of slack packing through Wellington it would have been a rude shock to go straight into the Richmond Ranges with 10 days worth of food on our backs.
Around lunch time we came across some volunteers who were asking for feedback on the Queen Charlotte Track and how people would feel about it becoming a great walk. The lady we spoke to was a volunteer with the trust, it was interesting to get her perspective on the future of the track.
A little further down the trail we reached the turn off to Onahau lookout. The sign was a little ambiguous, it mentioned 30 minutes and 900m but didn’t specify whether that was one way or return. The previous timings had all been return so we gambled on it being the same and took off up the steep climb. A couple of hundred meters in we figured out that it was in fact one way but decided to keep going and have a lunch break at the top. The views were worth the climb, it was the perfect spot for lunch.
Sweaty and a little bedraggled, feeling the effects of the sun we started our descent. We ran into a father with his two daughters who was after some info on how long the walk would take. In exchange he clued us in on there being icecreams and cold drinks for sale at Mistletoe Bay. We decided we needed to take a detour to Mistletoe bay.
It ended up being about an hour round trip. We had a break with an ice cream and I dipped my toes in the water. I even went back for a second ice cream to warrant the return walk up hill in the heat.
We got back to the junction and started again on the Queen Charlotte Track. It was 11Km to Anikiwa. It turned out to be some of the prettiest walking of the whole trail, along the waters edge with views out to the sound.
Just before Davies Bay, the last campsite of the trail, we thought we should make a plan about where we would be camping for the night. Our plan was to make it to Smiths Family Holiday Park, about 4km out of Anikiwa. Unable to get through to them over the phone I looked online and they were booked out for the Christmas/ New Year period, everything was. We tried calling them again but couldn’t get through. Just before we headed of from the picnic spot we gave them another try. I got through and sure enough they would fit us in! They are incredible people who make an exception for TA hikers. We powered on happily towards Anikiwa.
At Davies Bay I had a quick bite to eat and a final pause to admire the view. I was glad we wouldn’t be spending the night there though. Given the time of year it was full of people with full eskies and jetskis and sounded like it was shaping up to be a noisy night.
We had 4km of road walking to get to Smiths. Road walking is never fun but from Anikiwa to havelock is the Link Pathway. A huge cycle/ walking path that was recently constructed and is continuing to be built bit by bit. It keeps the hikers and cars separated and makes it a safe and happy experience for every involved. It is a great initiative by the local council, we wish more local councils would get on board and construct similar pathways. It was not only used by hikers but many local residents out walking their dogs or riding their bikes.
It was 7.30 by the time we arrived into camp. It had been a long day and the sun was still shining in force. The kiwi summer has most definitely hit! We were welcomed with glasses of cold water and banana muffins. Add to that the feed we were given for the pet pigs and sheep and I was in heaven. We were told about a glow worm trail a short walk from the property but were tired from a long day in the sun and opted to chill for the evening. It was nice to rest knowing tomorrow was a short day into Havelock.
Day 75 – Sunday 30 December, 14km
Smith’s Family Holiday Park to Havelock Holiday Park
I had the alarm set for 6.30am but it was more like 7.30am by the time I forced myself awake. In all honesty it was the lure of feeding the farm animals that forced me up. I had a leisurely breakfast with a coffee in a real mug (opposed to my silicone hiking mug). It was nice to relax and ease into the day knowing we only had 15km ahead of us.
As early as 8am the sun was already out. It was shining and it had bite! It was going to be a very warm day on the trail.
Smith’s Family Holiday park is definitely a family holiday park. Big groups of families were in for the Christmas break, getting their hoardes of children ready for a day in the sun. It made me feel greatful for being so free and unencumbered.
After a leisurely breakfast and feeding the farm animals we heading off at around 9.30am. The link pathway kept us off the road for about half a km before we were once again dodging traffic.
In the fleeting moments we could take our eyes off the road the views over the estuary were really pretty.
Its was only about 5km of road shoulder before we were once again saved by the link pathway. A whole 8km of it into Havelock. The sun was blaring by this point. It was almost mid day and in the direct sun it was the hotest we have been on trail yet.
We climbed a small hill which felt like Everest in the heat of the day. We continued along the mountain side enjoying a gentle breeze and trying to keep as sun safe as possible.
I found a small waterfall enroute and made the most of it, wetting down my buff to keep me cool for the remaining 3km into Havelock. It did the trick and allowed me to power through the last few kms.
We crossed the weir and into Havelock we tramped. it was only 1.30pm, perfect timing for lunch at the bakery. Feeling refreshed we headed to the 4 Square to resupply for our next leg of the trail, the Richmond Ranges. A lot of people were sending ahead resupply packages for this section, worried about the type of things they would be able to buy from a 4 Square but mentally fatigued by the stress of buying and sending more than 1 months worth of food in one go we decided to risk it. Being the day before New Years eve the supermarket was busy but it was sufficiently stocked with everything a hiker could want. They even sold gas and backcountry meals.
We lugged our haul down to Havelock Holiday Park where again we received special TA hiker privileges of a reserved space in a full camp ground with a discount to boot. We made the most of being in town, enjoyed a berry icecream in the afternoon and a couple of beers over dinner.
The half day on trail was much appreciated before a big 10 days through the Richmond Ranges next week.