|The Queen Charlotte Walkway takes 4 days to complete and covers 71km along the ridges above Queen Charlotte Sound and Kenepuru Sound. It's meant to be a moderate walk, but as it's our first one together, we decided to have our packs moved from each of our stopovers by water taxi so we only have to carry day packs on the walk itself.
Ralph kindly drove us into Picton to catch the water taxi, which meant that we could leave our car and belongings with them while we were away. We jumped on the boat for 10am and it whizzed us up the sound towards the start to the walkway at Ship Cove.
It was already a bright sunny day and the boat journey took about an hour as we stopped at various points along the way. It was quite good to actually see where we would be walking each day and we were really looking forward to getting started -especially as we were only expecting to be walking for four hours on the first day.
We hopped off at Ship Cove - famous because Cook returned to this spot five times on his explorations of New Zealand and marked by a memorial. I didn't know before, but Cook did three round-the-world trips between 1770 and 1777 - or, more accurately, two and half trips as he was famously bumped off in an altercation in Hawaii when re-supplying.
Before we got started on the walk proper we walked to the tiny waterfall around the cove, and then waited while other trampers got underway on the track. The first stretch of the walk through the changing forest was quite steep, but we stopped frequently to drink water. The forest changed quite quickly from podocarp (includes Rimu, Kahikatea and tree ferns) into the beech forest (not the same as we think of beech).
Soon we had our first glimpse over the QC sound and we were amazed by the bright green of the forest against the blue sky and the even bluer sea. I think we went a bit mad taking photos at this point but we soon taught ourselves restraint, as one view began to look quite like another. Anyway, we were soon distracted by a baby weka that chose to walk fearlessly across our path.
Moving on, we walked down into Resolution Bay and then back up on the ridge to get a great view over Endeavour Inlet, a much larger bay and the location of our first night's stopover. We decided to have lunch here but we soon realised our mistake. As soon as our sandwiches were out, a rustling in the bushes revealed an inquisitive mother Weka who came right up to us demanding food. We obliged with small scraps, upon which she let out a guttural cry and the bushes rustled again, revealing two or three baby wekas who had been eagerly waiting for the all clear from mum. Of course we were charmed by this spectacle and Kate filmed the babies eagerly, while momma weka went around the side to whip the sandwich from her hand. The resulting footage wouldn't look out of place in the Blair Witch Project, as wobbly camerawork was accompanied by yelps of pain from Kate.
Now distinctly dis-enamoured of Wekas we pushed on to our destination, descending into the Cove and on to Furneaux Lodge, a well manicured haven for walkers and day-trippers, and we found our gear waiting for us by the door. We had expected to camp the night, but we were told that they hadn't allowed camping here for two years - something that the visitor centre in Picton had failed to inform us of. Fortunately, they had one spare chalet so we eagerly snapped it up and settled on the veranda with a beer and some food and whiled away the evening in this lovely setting.