January 1, 2014

Queen Charlotte Track: Day 1

As part of our Christmas and New Year's vacation, E and I set out to hike the Queen Charlotte Track.

This was my favorite vacation of all I've ever taken.

I can't explain just how relaxing and invigorating (and how much I needed the change of pace) it was -- imagine full days of hiking with your best friend in gorgeous wilderness only to arrive at a resort each night where your luggage has been delivered to your room and you could check-in immediately upon arrival, have a beer, take a hot shower, eat a delicious meal, and fall asleep (often, we struggled to stay awake past 8 PM).

Much of this trip was about re-charging, and we'd done a decent job of trying to erase some of the sleep debt we both had going in before we hit the trail.  Even so, I was unprepared for how well or how much I would sleep when given the gifts of no wi-fi for 4 days straight combined with nature, physical exertion, and an entire economy, functional infrastructure, and worldview of all service professionals built around making the track completely workable for hikers of all abilities.

We flew to Wellington, NZ on Christmas day so that we'd be in NZ and able to get to the start of the adventure on Boxing Day.  The weather had been overcast and stormy until Christmas, but Christmas Day in Wellington was amazingly clear, warm and gorgeous.  We had a wonderful lazy lunch followed by a walk along the water, where I took the most stereotypical Wellington photo ever:

Perfect: Waterfront.  Love Locks.  Large Pacific Islander about to dive into the water.

The next day, we woke at 5:50 AM and took a taxi to the Wellington Airport, where, after absolutely no security or boarding pass or ID check other than asking for our names, we were an hour early at the so-called gate.  Eventually, when they showed up, we learned that the Sounds Air flights from Wellington to Picton (between the North Island and South Island of New Zealand) had been re-routed to Blenheim due to weather.  Conveniently, all passengers on our flight have no trouble fitting into a standard tourist van that shuttled us from Blenheim to the Picton waterfront.

This flight was sold out.

Fancy instrument panels on the Cessna Caravan 208.

Diverted to Marlborough?  As in the region of my favorite Sauvignon Blanc? Hmmm...
At the waterfront, we checked in at Marlborough Sounds Adventure Company (our awesome tour organizing company -- HIGHLY RECOMMENDED), stored the luggage we wouldn't be needing on the track, checked the one bag we'd be asking them to transfer for us, and waited for the water taxi to take us to the far end of the track -- historic Ship Cove.

Picton Harbor

Ship Cove

Getting ready to start the hike.
We toured Ship Cove, and then set out for our first self-guided day, a hike (or "walk") of 8.77 miles that started with a steep climb on clay that had been inundated with rain.  The day was much more technical than we expected due to the wet trail conditions so we spent more time on the trail as "trampers" than expected (almost 4 hours), but the views more than made up for it.  Also, I found my heart rate climbing and my legs burning in ways that made me know this trip was going to be a great contribution to my running fitness as well.

Ship Cove to Furneaux Lodge Garmin Data

Ship's Cove Monument to Captain Cook

We started out at the same time as almost everyone else due to the Ferry drop off.

One of many breathtaking views along the track.

Another one.

Much of the land on the QCT is private land.

Even with the overcast weather, it was, by hour 2, easily the most beautiful hike I've ever done.

We encountered another hiking couple at this viewpoint so we took each others' photos.

The views just weren't getting old.

Even when you couldn't see the sounds, it was beautiful.

E says, "The Tasman Sea isn't as cold as the Pacific Ocean at home."

Bridge to our unit at Furneaux Lodge.

Furneaux Lodge -- private rooms, hot showers, hot meals, and a full bar.  So much better than camping.

Site of post-hike-beers-on-tap and pre-day-2 Cappuccinos.


FL said...

Looks like a beautiful start to your hiking holiday!

bt said...

@FL thanks. Yes. It was a great day to start it off. Steep, but short on distance and time. Nice and easy.

L.A. Runner said...

Amazing pictures! That's a truly beautiful place! I'm glad you got a chance to recharge the batteries. And I'm with you on the "camping"- that looks like the kind I want, too. HA!

Biting Tongue said...

@L.A. Runner -- Thanks. The re-charge was so necessary and amazing. I'm still in awe of how much we slept. I'm a complete convert to this style of vacation -- I'm bummed that so many of the great trails in the U.S. are so remote that this type of trail support just isn't feasible. I'm on a mission to find alternate options, though.

Jen said...

I'm so clueless -- when I read your title, I thought it was referring to a fancing running track. Ha! Lovely photos -- looking forward to hearing/seeing more!

Biting Tongue said...

@Jen -- As I heard all week, "No Worries!" I'd never heard of this trail (or "track" in Kiwi) either.