In December last year I went to visit my brother and sister-in-law on the other side of the planet – no seriously, they live in New Zealand and if you’ve ever travelled there from South Africa then you will agree with me when I say that any South Africans visiting New Zealand should get a medal when they step off the plane … or a cake with the words; “You made it!” in icing on the top. It’s far. But despite the crazy long flights and stop-overs New Zealand is beyond worth a visit. I popped over to Christchurch New Zealand for a week and a bit and spent my time exploring the Earthquake stricken city of Christchurch (a must-do if you’re in the area) and hiking the beautiful Queen Charlotte Track in the Marlborough sounds near the seaside town of Picton. The hike was definitely the highlight of my trip and I would highly recommend it to anyone travelling from near or far. Here’s why this awesome trail is a must-do for young and old.
We drove up to the tiny sea side town of Picton on a rather warm afternoon and arrived just in time to go to bed. We had to be up super early the next day to catch the ferry across the harbour to where we were starting the trail. We were spending three nights and four days tramping out here in the The Marlborough Sounds so on the ferry ride way over I was mentally preparing myself for the ordeal to follow. You see, I was recovering from a knee surgery I’d had just 6 months prior to the walk and so was a little apprehensive about the whole thing. Luckily there was plenty of pretty stuff to distract me on the way over. The Marlborough Sounds is an extremely beautiful area and when I wasn’t contemplating my fate on the trail I was mesmerized by the enchanting network of sea-drowned valleys. Whilst staring at the forest-covered mounds popping out the sea you can imagine this would be the sort of place Peter Pan and his lost boys would hang out or where mystical creatures would frolic and play by the sea.
Visitors wanting to explore the area can book a ride on the Cougarline Ferry and enjoy a relaxing tour of the area by sea on-board the ferry (lucky sods) or jump off at various spots along the Queen Charlotte Track to explore by foot or by bike. We, of course were exploring the 7okm long track between the Kenepuru Sound and the Queen Charlotte Sound by foot and were dropped off at the Kenepuru Sound to begin our 4-day adventure. Over the next three nights and four days we spent our days walking the trail and our afternoons and nights unwinding. Luckily, my brother had the foresight to organise a trip where our backpacks were transported to our accommodation for us each day. We each bought The Round Trip Track Pass at $105 (NZ) which allowed us entry point on to the track, return from any exit point and a free transfer of your luggage to your accommodation along the way. This meant that we only needed to carry a day pack with our food and water each day.
The area has a number of cosy and affordable accommodation options available to hikers and others exploring the area and we stayed at a different spot each night. All of the spots we came across where beautifully maintained and run by the live-in staff who made sure we had hot water and a clean bed to sleep in at night. My favourite spot on the track was definitely Mistletoe Bay Eco Village – a campsite and holiday resort with fabulous swimming facilities. I could have easily spent another day and night at this spot. When we arrived here in the afternoon we spent the rest of the day swimming and jumping off the pier down by the resort’s beach. All the accommodation spots we stayed in were self catering and each night we cooked a delicious meal from the ingredients we had transported in our overnight packs.
So why did I love this trip so much? Well, besides the long days of 3, 4, and 5-hour walks and a serious knee niggle it was the most beautiful place to hike. The views along the way are absolutely breathtaking and I’m quite sure it’s one of the most spectacular places in the world to hike (and that’s taking Cape Town into account!). We did have one day where my crazy brother miscalculated the distance of our walk (it was meant to be 8-hours and ended up being 13 hours!) so I’d highly recommend that you double check (and then check again) the distances for each day so you don’t get caught in an interesting situation where one of your fellow hikers (me) is enduring her own personal nightmare for half the day. Just a thought.
The facilities in the area are also absolutely fabulous and I love that you can plan your trip to suit your own needs and fitness levels. We hiked the full trail but you can also spend one day hiking an easy 3 hours and then spend the night over at a lodge and ferry out in the morning. This makes the Queen Charlotte Track perfect for hikers of any age as well as families with little ones.
What to take:
– A day pack with enough sunscreen,water, high energy snacks and lunch for each day you’re hiking. These items can go in your overnight pack and can be portioned out into your day pack each morning.
– Enough clean clothes for hiking, relaxing and swimming – you will want clean underwear, hiking socks, shorts and a T-shirt for every day you are hiking. So prioritize that. You will also need a warm top and some comfy clothes to relax in every evening. Just one or two T-shirts and a pair of longs and shorts will do as these can be re-worn for the short times in the afternoon that you are relaxing. Most importantly don’t forget your swimming togs! The water in New Zealand is cold but you will want to swim after a long day hiking!
– Some drinks and snacks to unwind with: Don’t forget to pack a few beers, cold drinks and snacks to enjoy when you arrive at your accommodation for the night. My sister-in-law was pregnant when we did the trail so she ferried from one accommodation spot to the next each day and was able to chill our drinks in the fridge before we arrived – what a blessing!
For more information on the Queen Charlotte Track – including accommodation, ferries and trail access visit the Queen Charlotte Track website.