Backpacking Pensioners travel blog

The historic Ship's Cove

Queen Charlotte Sound from Resolution Bay

A view from the track

High and behind another part of Resolution Bay

Some wild flowers on the track

Tawa Cove

Sea level at Endevour Inlet

Furneaux lodge at Endevour Inlet

Punga Cove Resort

Another stop in the Bay of Many Coves

A wheelie bin stop

Havelock Harbour marina

A food stop at Havelock


After driving Sylvia round the bend well over 2,000 times during the last two days on the winding narrow roads, today will be different, though we may have our ups and downs.

To complete our chosen part of the ‘Queen Charlotte Walk’ will take about 3 hours, and to get to the start of our walk will need the help of water transport, and it is a bit windy. We are on the 10am sailing as I vetoed the idea of setting out on the 8am sail. Our boat was 25 minutes late, (I thought that this only happened on British Rail). The captain explained it was a bit rough out on the Sound and he had sailed slower during his 8am departure to make it easier on his passengers; what a nice man.

The wind on Queen Charlotte Sound was a ‘south easterly’ and gusting at 49 knots, this is about as bad as it gets around these parts. As Sylvia is not a good sailor, (the girl has done good, well, not so bad during our adventures), she sat on the upper deck outside the smaller passenger cabin to the rear of our driver. In a misguided moment, I chose to sit with her. Our theory was the panels to the side of us would protect from the spray thrown up by the boat. As we sat in our cagoules, with the spray being blown back at us by the wind, we were soon aware that our theory might be wrong. However, when the front gangway was thrown up, blocking the captain’s view, he stopped the boat so that it could be secured. We took this opportunity whilst the boat wallowed from side to side, to struggle into our waterproof trousers. It was lucky that the gangway was the only thing thrown up.

These events could have provided a photo opportunity but we could not find a volunteer to struggle to the end of the upper deck to take the picture; and our camera isn’t water proof. Whilst being periodically drenched, dependent upon our angle of sail, we viewed the rainbow colours appearing in the constant spray. On the lower part of the hillsides were dwellings, many of which would need a boat to access. The fauna was natural bush, pine trees, or slopes made bare after logging. The high cost of logging some of these areas will ensure that some slopes will be allowed to return to the natural bush state after the fir trees are harvested. There were moments when we could use our cameras and the few photographs we thought worth keeping showing horizontal views, do not reflect the ups and downs of the boat and our stomach.

After calling at a predator free island to collect people who had been dropped off during the 8am sail, we crossed to the start of the Queen Charlotte Track at Ships Cove and left some of the 4 day walkers. Ships Cove was the place where Captain Cook first set foot on New Zealand. Unlike him, we did not get off. We sailed around to Resolution Bay and saved ourselves a two hour walk, and saved me a loss of 2 hours of sleep.

The day was fine and though over cast it was good walking weather. We stopped to take many photographs and talk with other walkers. It soon became apparent to us that with a bit of planning, this would be a good 4 day walk to do. There are plenty of nice places to stop along the way for a night’s rest, so we would have had choices on the distances we walked each day, and the boat would transport our packs between the stop overs. We genuinely wish we had left ourselves more time before leaving the South Island. Ah, well, we enjoyed our walk to Endeavour Bay, the only disappointment being that due to our lost half hour at the start of the sail, I did not have time to visit the hotel bar.

The return journey took us into several bays to pick up and drop off luggage, pick up anything else that needed transport, and collect other travellers. We were now downstairs at the back of the boat as, due to calmer weather, (though still choppy), the upstairs was full. By the time we left the last jetty before heading for Picton, we were sitting by luggage, fishing rods, a bicycle, piles of polystyrenes boxes, flattened cardboard, tins of preservatives and 5 Wheelie Bins of rubbish; an interesting journey. On departing the boat a hot chocolate drink was called for and gratefully consumed before walking the 10 minute path to our camp site at the back of Picton.

A new day, and one which is much calmer for the sailors. After a leisurely departure from our camp site after booking to stay again on Thursday night before our sail to the North Island on Friday, we shopped in town and then journeyed back to Havelock. This was again along the very scenic Queen Charlotte Drive, and from this end the start is up another of New Zealand’s big hills. The Drive has over 400 bends along the 22 mile length and it is no surprise to me that the lorry drivers prefer to drive down to Blenheim to join SH6 and up to Havelock, a journey of 44 miles. The really big lorries would not manage the Queen Charlotte Drive.

Havelock, the ‘Green Shelled Muscle Capital of the World’, was much calmer than when we were last here on the night of the muscle festival. Once on site we strolled around the marina, (which is very big for such a small town), and then along the main street. One display of information provided very interesting reading. Ernest Rutherford left New Zealand in 1895 as a 23 year old for the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University where he spent 3 years continuing his researches. In 1908 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for ‘his investigations into the disintegration of the elements, and the chemistry of radio active substances. Although born at Nelson and brought up in this area, it was hailed as an English success, and Ernest Lord Rutherford of Nelson, who died aged 66 after a hernia operation, had his ashes interned at Westminster Abbey in London.

Also from this area was William Pickering. He was born at Wellington on 24 December 1910 and after his mother died he was sent to Havelock to be brought up by his grandparents. Bill directed the construction of the U S A’s first satellite, Explorer 1, launched January 1st, 1958. The major scientific experiment for it was James Van Allen’s Cosmic Ray investigation, which discovered the lower Van Allen Radiation Belt caused by charged particles trapped in the earth’s magnetic field. To do this he used a Geiger Counter, the fore runner of which had been invented by Ernest Rutherford.

Bill rated the Ranger VII spacecraft of 1964 as one of his major achievements. Before impact, it returned the first close-ups of the Moon’s surface, paving the way for Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the Moon, July 20th 1969. What a pair of achievers from this small local school.

We had returned to Havelock to take part in the Tuesday Boat Mail Run along the bays of Pelorus Sound, so that is something to dream about tonight; and favourable sailing weather.

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