January 2, 2014

Queen Charlotte Track: Day 2

We slept 13 hours, woke to sore quads (some of those downhills were brutal on the first day), and enjoyed cappuccinos for breakfast.

I was a bit concerned about our luggage getting picked up and delivered to the dock in time for the boat, but E's complete confidence in the resort's ability to execute was correct.  Our luggage headed off in the large cart pulled by a tractor along with several other bags, all labeled for their next destination.

We read a bit in the AM after breakfast so as not to arrive at the next resort before check-in.  Finally, around 11 AM or so, we picked up our packed lunches and headed out.  It was overcast and cool, just like the previous day, and it had rained that night and early AM.

Day 2 of our walk was the easiest day on our schedule, just shy of 8 miles and not much in the way of elevation gain or loss -- yet, again it was more technical than we were expecting due to the mud, puddles and wet conditions of the trail.  We managed to finish in just under 3 hours (not including a 15 minute or so lunch stop). 

Like the day before, we regularly passed other groups of hikers, primarily on the uphills and downhills.  I realized a few things on this trip about my general level of fitness:

i) Trail running is *great* training for hiking.  In general, despite being in my Brooks Ghosts instead of hiking shoes, I found that I knew which foot placements would be good options and which ones would be slippery -- this knowledge let me keep a constant effort going, which helped with keeping a steady pace on the climbs, descents, or amongst roots, rocks, etc.  Also, on the downhills, I adopted a slight bouncing walk that was one gear away from a jog.  I found it to be low effort and *very* efficient -- much easier than trying to brake with my legs and keep to a walking pace.

ii) My general upper body and core strength is much more of an asset while hiking (probably trail running too) than running on the road.  Before E's broken foot, while I could always win on distance, E's comfortable running pace for shorter distances definitely pushed me into a zone where I was working much harder than him.  The opposite is true while hiking -- my comfortable pace both for climbing and descending is in a zone where E is working much harder than me.  I attribute the majority of this to pumping my arms and being able to recruit my core so my legs didn't have to do all of the work.

iii) Knowing how to fuel from running is very helpful when hiking for several hours.  While the needs aren't the same and you can digest much better hiking than you can running, I found it very good and comforting to know when to schedule snacks, meals, and liquids (although it was cool enough and damp enough that my liquid needs weren't that high).

iv)  By day 2, we'd learned that we are what the boat taxi company refers to as "Fast Walkers".  When stops to enjoy the view are included (which makes sense, as you are there to sight-see) we tend to average below 25 minutes per mile.  It's much more variable than that, of course.  A mile with gorgeous views at the top of a long climb would take us closer to 30 minutes, where as a gentle downhill through the bush would be closer to 20 minutes or less.
One of many gigantic ferns in the "bush" of the track.
 Day 2's views were equally gorgeous to Day 1's.
The view of Endeavor Bay from the track.
While our tour company put us into 3 resorts along the track selected by them, there are actually multiple campgrounds and 28 different resorts along the way.  This made for interesting interactions with various folks as they hopped on and off the track according to their itineraries.  Often we'd be passed by trail runners (many of whom were in minimalist shoes) going one direction who would then pass us again on their out and back from their resorts.

One of many resorts on the track where we did not stay.

This suspension bridge was so quaint, it felt like it could have been an Eagle Scout project.  If you zoom in, you will see the warning that the max load is 2 Persons. 

A very shaky suspension bridge.
The track guide warned us about these flightless birds that are very accustomed to humans and will beg for food.  They were everywhere on the track, but particularly plentiful at the rest stops, view points, and picnic tables on the track.

Baby of the flightless bird endemic to the area whose name I forget.

Adult of flightless chicken-like beggar bird.
Eventually, after about 2.5 hours of hiking (or "tramping" as the Kiwis call it), we turned the corner and saw our resort on the other side of the bay.

View of Punga Cove (our resort) from across the bay.

Almost there...
We checked in and were absolutely charmed by the view from our A-frame cabin as well as the view from the bar on the dock.

The view from our A-frame cabin.

View from the Punga Cove Bar (on the dock).
The infrastructure on the trail is so good that it was easy to forget just how remote we were.  This hotel key reminded us how much effort was being expended to get everything we were enjoying out to us.  The resorts typically had electricity (generators?) and wells to supply water for bathing, toilets, and cooking, but laundry went to and from Picton by boat each day, as did all consumables and trash.

Rural Bag 408 -- now that's a remote address...

Shortly after locking this door, we fell into deep restful sleep.  I don't know if we actually made it 'til after sunset.  We were exhausted and we knew we had the biggest day of hiking ahead of us the next day.


Arvay said...

I love that you have a shirt that matches the foliage *exactly*. :)

Happy New Year!

bt said...

@Arvay -- well, except for the highly reflective bits...

Jen said...

I also find that I engage my core much more while running on trails than road. I'm curious -- how many people backpack (if any) vs. take a boat tour like you and E are doing? What are the campsites like?

Biting Tongue said...

@Jen -- Everyone has to take a boat to get to the track, it's the only access on either side unless you want to leave a car and drive the long way around, which is much slower.

Many folks camp, but I was surprised to see relatively few folks on the tracks with full packs (a few, but not many). I asked a Kiwi who regularly backpacks and he explained that there are only two tracks in NZ that have pack transfers (Queen Charlotte and Abel Tasman) and that it's considered such a great benefit that almost everyone pays for pack transfers, even if they're camping.

Didn't see the campsites, but I'm sure you could poke around the NZ tourism site for more info...