Marlborough Sound and the Queen Charlotte Track


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Published: January 24th 2010
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Well we certainly felt the full force of the waves on the Cook Strait, after a fairly rough crossing both Lisa and I arrived in a misty Picton with limited visibility of the sounds. The wind was so strong that we spent our time coat surfing on deck which seemed like the thing to do hence the lack of any ferry photos. Well what to do on a rainy day in Picton? We decided to go and see the Edwin Fox, a migrant ship (now more of a hulk really) that was built c. 1853 to sail the voluntary migrants from GB to NZ. It has an interesting history and had been used for many ventures and cargoes, even as an Australian prison ship where the surname of Holloway appeared on the inventory of Australian prisoners (no comment....).

We found a 'sweet as' DOC site in Momorangi Bay that was directly on the beach and part way along the Queen Charlotte Drive. As we had hoped the following day the weather cleared and we took in the scenic Queen Charlotte Drive and Keneparu Rd. This took us through twisty turny roads of many bays of which some are in the attached photos. The day finished with a drive out to Havelock for the 'world famous in NZ' Marlborough sound green lipped mussels (these are giant in comparison to the UK!, some can measure over 200mm long).

The following day we saw the start of the Queen Charlotte Track. This walk is touted as an easier hike for the less hard core trampers who dont actually want to carry their pack! fine by us so we booked 2 days of the 4 day track starting at the far end to avoid the tourists... We got a lift with the mail run which doubles up as a water taxi for tourists, the driver explained in detail how stressful his job was and that anything could go wrong when throwing a letter up to some old dear on the shore, hmm I dont think he was really stressed at all! We saw the salmon farm en route that had been raided by numerous seals in the early days, rather then fork out for netting they decided to 'escort' the seals a few hundred km away after drugging them. It took them two days to get back! They then tried drugging them and dropping them south of Fjordland, 2000 km! It took the seals 6 days to return, needless to say they now have netting (lol).

First stop was Moturara Island, a tranquil bird sanctuary where the howling calls of annoying Australians can be heard for miles around, beautiful place shame about the people! However we did get a peek at a Blue Penguin chick (arrr) and some amazing close ups of the South Island Robin (grey) and rare Saddlebacks. We were then escorted across the sound to Ships Cove for the start of our walk where we met our first Weka, a ground dwelling bird not unlike a Kiwi (I think but then I have only seen pictures of Kiwis). Ships Cove is where Capt. Cook visited on five separate occasions in the ships Endeavour and Resolution, the first of which was in 1770.

Heading south from Ship Cove we began the Queen Charlotte Track with a 2 hour walk to Resolution Bay. Climbing away from Ship Cove, the beauty of the walkway was soon revealed. A deep canopy shades of tree ferns, the occasional nikau palm and other plants. A lookout offered a pleasant respite and good views of Motuara Island and the outer Queen Charlotte Sound. Beyond it we could make out Kapiti Island and the North Island in the clear weather that we were experiencing. It was from Motuara Island that James Cook declared sovereignty over the South Island. From Resolution Bay the track follows an old bridle path ascending over a ridge and leads down into Endeavour Inlet. The gentle inclining track passes through stands of kamahi and then beech forest as it passes over a saddle. Then it's a fairly easy walk down past Tawa Bay, through The Pines (holiday settlement with homes, baches, jetties etc) and on towards the areas lodges, in total about 4 hours walk. The track then gradually descends through sections of manuka, five finger and mahoe are followed by a magnificent stand of original native bush and crystal clear streams, we even did a spot of paddling to cool off.
We spent the evening at Furneaux Lodge, a century old Homestead provided much needed chillout time. Lisa wanted to go for a swim in the sea and promptly ordered me to get changed to act as a human thermometer. Needless to say after nearly getting pneumonia Lisa decided against going in and dipped one toe in! It was a beautiful sunset over Endavour Inlet and I tried to photograph the stars using Lisa as a tripod (I didnt quite explain that some of the exposures are 10 minutes, getting her back for the thermometer thing...)
The following day we had a 4 hour walk from Endeavour Inlet to Punga Cove, This section of the track generally follows the coastline around Endeavour Inlet, much of which consists of regenerating native bush, with a predominance of manuka, kanuka and five finger. Once farmland, this part of the walkway has reverted to nature and the forest is again taking over. However we were pleased to order a beer at the Punga Cove bar and met a Mancunian whom Dave started talking about the state of Britain with, luckily for Lisa the Water Taxi was only 1 hour late so she could hear the whole conversation (....hmmm)



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