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Hiking the Queen Charlotte

by Pamela Blalock
with John Bayley, Susan Lowery and Maureen Schade

Our second week of hiking with Susan was to be an easy stroll on the Queen Charlotte Track. Susan had originally talked about a much more challenging trip in the Nelson Lakes. But with concern for my knee, the logistics of this trip made it an obvious choice. The far end of the track is only accessible by water taxi, and the various companies that provide this service also provide a bag transport service for not much more cost than the fare to the start and back from the end. The other feature of this track is that there are lots of lodges, complete with restaurants on the track. This all combines to make this a very accessible and relatively easy hike. You can just carry a small daypack, with lunch and wet/cold weather gear, and send your other gear on the boat. Hiking without a heavy backpack is much easier, and longer distances can be covered in less time, not to mention with less stress on the knees.

There are many different types of accommodation along the route, ranging from basic backpackers up through luxury rooms. We opted for backpackers. We brought food to cook, but also planned to take advantage of some of the food available on the track.

We stayed at a backpackers in Picton so we could catch the first boat out the next morning. The weather has been rather changeable here lately, and it was a bouncy ride out to ship cove. It was almost chilly when we started, but the initial climb up from the cove helped take care of that.

It was still cloudy, but not quite raining, so the views while not spectacular, weren't bad. We stopped for lunch at a lovely open spot with a couple of benches and a nice view and a few resident wekas, who are very quick to grab any food unattended. We took great care not to feed them, but they were very clever and quick, and we watched several others have their lunches swiped practically from their hands!

The first section from Ship's Cove to Resolution Bay involved a good climb and descent. Since this track is one of the few where mountain biking is allowed, I took careful note of how it would be to ride. The first two days (of hiking) are closed to biking in the summer, but would again be available in March. I decided the first bit would be a bit of a mission, but once past Resolution Bay, it would be a very easy ride.

We had all day to cover 15km, so we took our time, stopping for lots of photos and snacks. It stayed overcast and never got hot, so we weren't in a rush to go swimming.

At one point a clever cicada hitched a ride on Maureen's pack. Wanting to see without disturbing it was made easy with the digital camera, as I could take a photo and then show her what was on her back!

We noticed that the area seemed under attack from the NZ Navy. Fortunately they were just doing some exercises, but there were half a dozen ships in the harbour, and of course, carrying on the theme of our previous hike, they were based at our lodge for the night.

We arrived to find a tent full of sailors having a grand time and a few beers too. At least we could also have beer or lattes or whatever we might want to order from the bar or restaurant. We did take advantage of being able to get a bottle of wine to have with the meal we prepared. We were dismayed to find that we had somehow mislaid a garlic bread, along with a few other supplies. (We stopped at the backpackers in Picton on the return journey and found the bag of food in the kitchen).