Friday, March 11, 2016

Picture perfect

The day after our arrival in Picton, we were blessed (#blessed!) with the most beautiful weather for our day walking the Queen Charlotte Track in the Marlborough Sounds. The day began with a short 20-minute water taxi ride to Torea Bay, where we were to begin our walk to Mistletoe Bay, just under 8 kilometres away.

Reflections on the water on the boat trip

This sounded like an easy enough walk, but I forgot to take into account the elevation changes, from sea level up to 407 metres on the track itself, back down and up a bit again, and then we were foolhardy enough to add in an extra trek 130 metres up to a peak of 416 metres, because someone had etched "worth it" on the sign.

We went from Torea Bay on the right to the YOU ARE HERE

Raring to go at Torea Bay

This probably sounds like nothing to many of you, and there were definitely times on the walk that I was cursing letting the gym slip over the past months (um, years, to be honest). But it was a challenge for us, and one that had ample instantaneous rewards, in the form of breathtaking views over the Kenepuru and Queen Charlotte Sounds, on both sides of the track, and in the form of personal satisfaction. You know when you see amazing views on postcards and websites and so on, and you eventually realise there's no way they were taken without the aid of some sort of flying machine? Well, trekking up those 416 metres gave us exactly those picture postcard views.

Jules the explorer

I was particularly proud of going up to the "hilltop lookout", just before we would start our descent to Mistletoe Bay. To be honest, if I had known how steep it was and how much I would feel like I was going to die, I might not have done it. But once we started, determination and basically a desire not to have put myself through half the painful ascent for nothing kicked in, and we triumphantly made it all the way to the top.

Unless I'm mistaken, the path we took basically runs up the middle of this land

Our reward was not only beautiful views of the sea and the track we had walked up, but also a close encounter with a family of weka, a flightless native New Zealand bird. I don't think I had ever seen weka before, certainly not in the wild, and we had no idea what they were until we looked them up later. They sort of waddled and sounded like ducks, but with completely different heads. And they were totally not afraid of us - something that we assumed was caused by visiting trampers feeding them, but when we looked it up online, the information said that all weka were generally curious and unafraid.

A weka family

For the last part of the trek, down to Mistletoe Bay itself, we turned off the main Queen Charlotte Track on to the James Vogel track. This in some ways seemed even harder than the hilltop detour. It was what I would think of as a classic bush track - that is, pretty rough and ready. We were having to watch our step over tangled tree roots, clamber down steep slopes holding on to trees or rocks with our hands, and duck under and over branches and fallen trees. It was only an extra 1.5 km or so, but it felt like forever. Especially with the tantalising thought of being so close to somewhere we could just plop down and rest and get a cold drink.

Jules and the evil tree roots
Somewhat less energy left at this stage of the walk
 In the end, we survived and were so pleased we did it. I forgot to turn on Map My Walk until we had already done the bulk of the initial steep ascent from Torea Bay, but with the hilltop detour and the James Vogel track, we did 12.36 km (plus however much the first bit was). Jules's step counter has us at 22,520 steps or over 17 km, although that includes walking to and from the boat as well. With breaks for lunch, photos, and dying, it took us about 6 1/2 hours, plus over an hour at the end waiting for the boat to come get us again. I've had more relaxing days, but this was definitely one of the more rewarding ones!


  1. Haha, this totally made me laugh. I absolutely hate hiking, but once I get going, my determination kicks in and no matter how miserable I am, I'm still like "I will win this mountain, at all costs!". The views you had were amazing though!

    1. Definitely easier with such Inspiring scenery!

  2. I see "Fireball" is at it again!

  3. Next year the Milford Track?

  4. Oh, I am impressed with your hiking accomplishments!

    I appreciated your rather technical description of the birds: “They sort of waddled and sounded like ducks, but with completely different heads.” Ha ha.


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