Queen Charlotte Walkway
by Peter Smith
The trip was to run over Waitangi weekend but with several children at new schools it was decided to postpone the trip until Easter. Early checks with the StraitRunner showed that they would drop us off at Ships Cove and pick us up at Gem Resort. This would alleviate the need to go into Picton and get a boat to the start and finish of the tramp. Our dealings with the StraitRunner didn't go too smoothly, now they couldn't drop us off at Ships Cove due to a DoC ruling, then the sailings we were originally booked on were commandeered for the Nelson run. Eventually all looked good for Easter. We were booked on the 7.30am sailing on Good Friday, and after switching boats at Gem Resort we would be at Ships Cove by 10am. The 10pm news on Thursday night gave the headline news that the StraitRunner had hit a swell, lost some life-jackets and then hit the sandbar and broken its propeller. Ringing the company provided little information. Christine was on the phone to us immediately, it was time for contingencies. We rang the others and decided to meet at the InterIslander at 7.30am. We couldn't get on the Lynx but were wait-listed on the Arahura. We rang the boat operator to tell him not to pick us up at Gem Resort, we would be in contact. This was travelling on the fly. If we couldn't get on, what were the other North Island possibilities? Half of us were called, we said we would only go in a group. Yes, we were all on. We rang back the boat operator. We then tried to book a return on the Aratika. On Monday night it was full, we would be on standby. We cancelled the StraitRunner booking.
The Glenrose was at the Picton terminal to meet us and after getting all the packs on board we chugged off passing the Bay of Many Coves, Endeavour Inlet, Resolution Bay and around to Ships Cove by 3.30pm. A bit later than we had expected, but at least we had got there, all 22 of us. Ships Cove was where Cook had stopped over five times during his travels around the world. There were several people there. Camping is not permitted in this bay so with limited time it was just a quick look around before packs were put on. Up the muddy track to the top of the pass and down to Resolution Bay. Beautiful bush with bellbirds and black fantails singing and chirping as we passed. Some mountain bikers loaded with panniers were finding it hard-going up the slippery track: much faster walking. As we headed to Resolution Bay the track turned back to School House Bay and the DoC camp-site. A few decided to visit Resolution Bay first and after finding no campsite returned to School House Bay. A pleasant spot and we just managed to get our eight tents on the levelled sites. By the time dinner was cooking the light was fading fast. So an early night for everyone, after the events of the previous 24 hours everybody was pretty tired.
A leisurely start the next day, breakfast was eaten and the children played around the coastline finding crabs and skimming stones across the water. Down where the river comes into the bay was where the school house used to be and where we were camped by the large kohekohe tree was where the old Post Office stood. We left about 10am and passed the settlement of Resolution Bay. As we walked through a farmyard it looked like walking through an Indian village with the odd animal here and there and the ramshackle buildings. The track climbed to the saddle, our cyclists whom we had met on the track the previous day overtook us. From the top we looked down to Endeavour Inlet. We could see Punga Cove, where we would be on the Sunday night and the track taking us up the ridge to above the Bay of Many Coves. We thought that there might be a track down to the campsite at Tawa Bay, but it was only accessible by sea, so we stopped on the track for lunch. On down towards Furneaux Lodge passing the frontage of many baches on the way. Our arrival at the Lodge was like arriving at an English pub, everyone sitting around supping ales. A party of Germans gave us some apples, we must have looked as if we needed them. After everybody arrived and ice blocks eaten we moved to the backpackers cottage next door and pitched our tents in the adjacent field. We then used the facilities to cook dinner, there were even showers for those in need. After food the children tired themselves playing sardines and chasing possums in the dark. When all was quiet, the adults went to partake in some liquid refreshment and then to bed.
It poured during the night. Next morning the track continued up past the Endeavour Lodge to the turn off to the antimony mine with all the pig skulls hanging on the fence line. It seemed a long walk around to Big Bay, the rain clouds were threatening again. We eventually passed the half way mark and arrived at Big Bay at just on 1pm, way pass lunch time for some. On and around the bay to Camp Bay where there was a little drizzle setting in. The campsite was at varying levels and after a bit of debating we set up camp, then wandered along the track to Punga Cove to explore. So dinner and then the children went off to see glow worms in the bank along the track.
Next day Gordon and Jackie put their main packs on the boat to Gem Resort and we all climbed up the road to Kenepuru Saddle, the weather was improving and the sun was starting to show through. We followed the side of the ridge looking up the Kenepuru Sound to Portage. On to the ridge and we could look down on the other side to Deep Bay. We continued climbing slightly until we reached the shelter for lunch. Then on until we eventually came across the track going steeply downhill all the way to Gem resort - it would be a bit of a climb coming the other way. Gordon and Jackie's packs were nowhere to be seen and after some frantic ringing around were located back in Picton, apparently their destination was not clearly labelled. It wasn't long before the StraitRunner appeared, but we had cancelled that booking and made alternative arrangements. After half an hour we caught the prearranged launch back to Picton and were on standby for the evening sailing. Our numbers were eventually called and we sailed back to Wellington. So apart from all the transport logistics, a very enjoyable trip.
Party members: Bill & Alison Stephenson, Christopher & Jonathon, Bruce Richards & Hayden, Christine & Peter Whiteford, Andrew & Aaron, Carol & Ray Molineux, Anne, Stephen & Claire, Gordon Vickers & Jackie Challis, Julian & Brittany, Peter Smith (leader) & Trish Gardiner, Stuart & Nigel.