Queen Charlotte Track

Day 55: Havelock to Davies Bay, 12km

We finished our errands in the morning and ran into some northbounders on the side walk as we were about to leave town. We were all headed in vaguely different directions but for a moment there were 5 of us there catching up: Jeremy, Martha, Martin and the two of us. Martha greeted us in her typical fashion by exploding with excitement, something that will never get old.

We walked out of town on the Link Track, which was quite nice and offered some great views of the coastline, but abruptly ended at a windy road with no shoulder, so we decided to hitchhike from there to the next junction- about 8km of dangerous or boring road walking skipped. We got a ride with a German couple in an RV headed towards Picton and they dropped us off at the intersection of the road leading to the Queen Charlotte Track. We had a bit more walking to do to get to the beginning of the track, and as we got close a car pulled over containing Jeremy and dropped him off next to us. He walked a little ways with us.

As we were walking I got stung in the back of the neck by a wasp. It hurt like hell and I threw my pack on the ground swatting at my hair to make sure it was gone for good, but the sting kept throbbing for hours. I was so upset that I made it all the way through Nelson Lakes and the Richmond Ranges where wasps were literally bumping into me by the dozen as I hiked without getting stung and then here I am walking down a road and got nailed. Arg!

Jeremy had booked accommodation at a backpackers right before the beginning of the track, so we parted ways after buying some expensive ice creams at a small food truck “cafe”. The lady serving us at the cafe asked us our intentions and I pulled out my map of the Queen Charlotte Track to tell her where we were planning on camping. She promptly told us our itinerary was probably too ambitious. I shrugged and said we could always revise the plan.

John and I headed up the Queen Charlotte only about 45 minutes before we hit our campsite, Davies Bay. With the 8km of road we skipped today, we only walked about 12km.

I was still depressed and grumpy about my wasp sting, so once the tent was set up, I climbed inside and sulked. Tomorrow will be better.

Day 56: Davies Bay Campsite to Camp Bay Campsite, 40km

John had to put earplugs in in the middle of the night because possums were keeping him up. So we overslept our alarm slightly, which we only really set because we figured that hiking in the early morning would be nice and cool.

The trail was slightly more difficult than I had imagined. I think this is because I basically thought it would be just like the Abel Tasman, but in reality it kind of goes up and down several hundred meters over and over again, but never at an obnoxiously steep grade.

In the morning we passed a bunch of runners who I guess were part of some kind of group or program, but we quickly walked past their turn around point.

The trail mostly follows the ridge- never really going down so far as the waters edge. There are loads of nice benches and view points offering spectacular views of the surrounding sounds and ridges. The Queen Charlotte Track is along ridges that are actually a continuation of the Richmond Ranges. The surrounding sounds were once great valleys now flooded due to sea level rise since the last ice age.

There wasn’t very much water on trail and we actually wound up having to take a side trail down to a campsite with water – a somewhat long detour, but we learned our lesson and filled up with plenty of water for the rest of the day.

Nonetheless we made quite good progress, although my feet got quite tired from the mileage which they’re obviously not used to.

Around 5:45pm we were at the campsite we had intended on getting to – the one that the lady at the food truck yesterday told us was probably too far to get to in one day. She had told us she thought it was about 40km to this point but in fact it had only been 30km. We took a moment to consider our options, and decided that it was worth the effort to go another 10km to the next campsite since the weather was good. Tomorrow it is supposed to rain. I also kind of wanted to do 40km just because.

We made it to Camp Bay Campsite just as it was getting dark, which was perfect timing. I think we’ll be thankful to have less hiking to do tomorrow in the rain, but we’ll see.

Day 57 Camp Bay Campsite to Schoolhouse Bay, 23km

It started raining quite hard in the middle of the night. In the morning, we reluctantly got out of the tent after attempting to sleep in. After breaking down the tent we tried taking refuge in the shelter (meant for cooking) for the campsite. Two German guys were somehow taking up the whole 300-400 square foot space with all their wet possessions. We squeezed into a small corner and ate our oatmeal tying to take up as little space as possible out of the pouring rain. After failing to change the weather with the powers of positive thought we headed out for the day.

The day overall was wet and cold. The Queen Charlotte Track has a few places that offer accommodation along the way, and we started passing them early in the day. We decided around 11am that we would treat ourselves to a burger if there was a place to have one- due to the weather. After passing a few places we wondered if anything offered food. We were waiting for a sign that advertised food. Finally we found an establishment that claimed to have drinks and food, and it had a fireplace and a adorable miniature schnauzer. We spent 3 hours there enjoying the warmth and dog while playing an old version of NZ Trivial Pursuit.

By the time we left the rain had not let up at all but we needed to make it to our campsite. We were very slightly drier, but that changed the minute we stepped back out into the rain. We walked past places that appeared to have beautiful views and saw nothing but clouds.

When we got to our campsite we realized our rain gear had failed for at least the third time on this trip. My sleeping bag was half wet, and there was a puddle in the bottom of my backpack. We set up the tent and I put on all my clothes, shivering. We had dinner and spent a good half hour analyzing our gear trying to figure out what rain gear we would have preferred to have had, and how it could also fail. Eventually, we went to sleep.

Day 58: Schoolhouse Bay to Camp Bay Campsite, 30km

I warmed up over night, but was never warm enough to take off a single layer. It scared me that I was wearing all my clothing and just barely warm.

In the morning I seriously contemplated just staying in the tent for the day. It was pouring rain. There were gigantic puddles next to and under the tent, and I occasionally got splashed in the face by particularly vigorous drops of water hitting a puddle. I really didn’t want to put on my wet rain gear and my wet socks and shoes and pack everything up in a pack liner that was just going to leak again.

John agreed to take my sleeping bag and put it in his backpack, which seemed to keep things slightly drier as long as I carried the wet tent.

We finally plucked up the courage to get out of the tent and start walking. Honestly, it was pretty miserable. The trail was a stream, I was barely warm, even when walking, and there was nothing to see because of how dense the clouds were. We did the 4km to get to the end of the trail at Ship Cove. This is where Captain Cook spent quite a lot of time on about 5 different occasions working on his boats.

We tried to take a few selfies at the monument, since this marked the end of the South Island portion of the Te Araroa Trail.

We sat in a little shelter by the pier and quickly ate some oatmeal, trying not to get too cold in the process.

In the meantime, a water taxi pulled up, dropping off some poor hikers. We had decided not to book a water taxi to take us from the terminus to Picton so as to save the $60 per person cost. Instead our plan was to hike 25km back along the Queen Charlotte Track to get to a road and hitch hike out.

At that moment, though, I wondered how much I’d give to not have to hike 25km back through the pouring rain, possibly spending another night braving the elements in our wet gear. I decided to walk over to the ferry and just ask to see if maybe we could strike a deal, but before I could even make a move towards the pier, the boat left.

We packed up and hiked back out the way we came, back through the puddles and trail turned to stream. As the rain continued I kept thinking about our options and whether I was being soft for wanting a way out. There were many places to stay along the way, but they were probably all very expensive – possibly more so than the water taxi. We just kept walking.

Around 2pm the rain eased slightly, and I almost felt like my rain jacket was starting to dry when we ran into Jeremy walking in the other direction. We traded notes. He had opted to take a day longer to hike the Queen Charlotte, and he decided to splurge on this trail since this is the end of his hike- he goes back home after completing the South Island. He told us about how the place he stayed last night was really nice and he had a steak dinner with a delicious desert costing him $70. He also decided to take the water taxi the day before from one accommodation to the next since he was having shin splints and he wasn’t going to see anything anyways due to the rain.

I was slightly jealous, but I also quickly realized that I was learning something from this experience. As much as it sucks, we wouldn’t have spent half an hour analyzing our gear last night if we hadn’t been soaking wet. If we always took the option to take the easy way out, we would never learn to hike in miserable conditions. But still, it WAS miserable.

We hiked on, and I started to have quite a bit of pain, mostly in my shoulder and neck, but eventually also in my hip. We got to the road around 6pm, and decided to spend a little time hitchhiking but not too long before calling it quits for the day and heading down to the campsite to set up. Nobody passed going towards town although there was plenty of traffic heading away from town- must be because it’s Friday. As we were standing there, the rain started back up again.

By 6:45 we gave up and headed down to the campsite where a bunch of school aged kids were making a racket. Luckily there was enough space for us, and we took our dripping wet gear out to set up.

Our tent had gigantic puddles in it, my sleeping pad was so wet I could wring it out (don’t ask me how that’s possible) and even the food in my food bag was wet.

Luckily it wasn’t pouring as we set up, so we didn’t have to rush, but after eating dinner in the tent the rain did pick back up again. I kind of feel like it’s going to rain forever. I hope tomorrow to get a hot shower and to find a drier to dry all our clothes in.

Day 59: Camp Bay Campsite to (close to) Portage, 18km

We woke up to… guess what? Yup, you guessed. Rain. Not a drizzle, real rain. Ugh. By now getting up and getting going in the rain has become habit.

We walked out to the road and decided to start walking towards where there was another road joining, hoping to get more traffic. As we walked, we got maybe one or two cars per hour, and none of them stopped. We were never in a great spot for them to stop because the road was very narrow and windy.

The rain continued, and my neck and shoulder started hurting quite badly soon followed by hip pain. I was miserable. I didn’t know when we would get a ride nor how far we would walk or anything.

Finally we got to a house with someone outside and I asked them how far anything was on the road, and he told us Portage was 5km away, and from there we could always see if we could get a water taxi. I felt so stupid walking towards a water taxi after walking so many extra kilometers in order to save money on a water taxi.

Finally as we approached Portage, a van drove up and actually stopped to pick us up. Hurrah!!!! It was a long, windy 45 minute drive just to get to an intersection to a road that went to Picton. John had to ask them to stop twice along the way because he was getting very car sick. I was surprised he didn’t vomit when he got out of the car the second time. He looked so pale.

Finally we made it to Picton and found out the post office wouldn’t be open until Monday. Today is Saturday. Looks like we’ll get a forced zero in Picton. I’m not really upset about that. We got a fantastic rainbow, which I hope signifies the end of the rain…

One thought on “Queen Charlotte Track

  1. Living in this Very Dry Southern California Desert made me very envious as you two enjoyed those Glorious New Zealand Rains. But day after day of being outside in those wet conditions Does Suck. Great job at pushing thru, makes those burgers at the end taste even better. Thanks for posting as it keeps me heading back to the trail. Enjoy!!!
    Just Bruce


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