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Marlborough Sound is Spectacular

Written on: Sunday March 11th, 2007

A journal entry from: The Winter of 2006/2007

As we had a two and a half hour drive to catch the nine o?clock boat from Picton to Ship?s Cove, we were out of bed at 5:45 am. The drive went smoothly, we parked up the car and went to the boat office to pay but they wouldn?t take our money. They told us that Ron ? the owner of Queen Charlotte Wilderness Lodge where we were staying ? would charge us for the whole package. Picton is a beautiful small town with a gorgeous harbour, the ferry that connects the north island to the south has its terminus here and in fact there was a ferry, which is as big as the ones that go between Vancouver and Vancouver Island, in the harbour when we arrived.

We were soon on board the catamaran which smoothly took us onto the Marlborough Sound for our trip up to Ship?s Cove where the boat would drop us off and then continue to the Lodge with our luggage. It was a calm clear day and the scenery was fabulous, it took about an hour to get to Ship?s Cove and along the way a guy named John introduced himself and his son, Robert, who were also doing the same hike as us. It turned out that we were the only six heading for Wilderness Lodge, all the others on the boat would be hiking in the opposite direction to us. Jean and Mike had done that hike when they were in New Zealand last time.

Mike was still suffering with his leg and he had the option of either walking with us or going directly to the Lodge but he decided to ?give it a go? and got off the boat with us.

I guess Roger was a bit coffee deprived because he was hoping for a coffee shop at Ship?s Cove, I don?t think he?d quite got the idea of ?wilderness?, when we got there he realised that wasn?t going to happen. It was just a beach with a toilet and a monument to Captain Cook and his crew.

So with only water as a drink we set off on the hike. We began to climb within a very short time of beginning the hike and continued to climb for a couple of hours. It was quite hard going and there was a lot of puffing and blowing ? and a lot of stopping to catch our breath. It was at this point that we realised that Ron would have no problem in collecting the money for the boat ride from us as there was no chance that we were going to walk back out. We were in dense forest for the first part so didn?t get to see much but John had already done the walk before and told us that once we got to the top we would get some good views. John and Robert quickly got ahead of us and it wasn?t until we stopped after two hours that we caught up to them having lunch with a super view below. We decided this would be a good place for lunch too, so did a Weka ? a New Zealand flightless bird similar in size to a duck but shaped like a Kiwi. John told us that Wekas are known to steal things so not to leave anything lying around so we weren?t surprised but very amused when the Weka grabbed the handle of Mike?s hiking pole and started to drag it into the bushes. Not sure what he intended to do with it.

Then it was onward still climbing for another hour or so until we reached the summit which was at 688 metres above sea level. We were getting some beautiful views now though and there was lots of picture taking. Mike was hurting but he was a brave soul and although he wasn?t able to keep up with us, Roger and I were glad to have rests waiting for him as the climb had been strenuous for the three of us. Jean is tremendously fit and can just skip up and down mountains, I think she was a mountain goat in a prior life. We were pleased to begin the downhill section but by now our legs were sore so it was still hard going. Also, as we?d found on our descent from Table Mountain, coming downhill forces your toes into the front of your shoes and this becomes painful after a time. I had a couple of tumbles ending up with knees that look like a four year olds ? well apart from the wrinkles anyway. It was actually quite fun coming down at first because again we were in trees and you could swing your way from one tree to another. There were also large hanging vines so we were a bit tempted to ?do a Tarzan?. Eventually we came to a wide open track which gave us views of the peninsular ahead and eventually we could see the Lodge but we were still at a very high elevation so we knew that we either would have a horrible steep descent or we would be going around and around until we got to the bottom ? it was the latter and we eventually crawled into camp at 4:30 pm. The walk had taken six hours ? just what we had been told it would take. John and Robert had already been there for an hour, had a swim and a shower and were sitting reading the paper. We later found out that John is 72 so he?s obviously in great shape but did feel as if we?d done quite well, especially Mike with his injuries.

We were greeted by Julia and Verra, two young German girls who are working at the Lodge for the summer, they showed us our rooms which overlooked the Sound. The rooms were quite comfortable although the bathroom was tiny and I think they would have won a prize for the smallest sink. After a couple of beers on the deck looking at the mountain we had just climbed over we had a shower then went into the Lodge for a very satisfying meal of soup followed by roast lamb, potatoes and veggies, rounded off with cheesecake and ice-cream.

Ron and his wife own the land that the Lodge sits on and also most of the surrounding area right up to the end of the peninsular, so the only houses in the area were theirs and their daughters. Consequently it was very peaceful there. Apparently they bought the land 16 years ago and initially had sheep but recently have got rid of the sheep and now treat the land as a carbon sink, selling carbon credits to manufacturers who wish to be carbon neutral. He spoke about this in great detail but we came away feeling that he just found an easier way to make money than raising sheep. Think we may plant some trees when we get home and see if we can sell some carbon credits, may boost our retirement funds.

The next morning we dragged our aching muscles to the camp kitchen where Julia and Verra had laid out breakfast supplies. We had a full meal and made some peanut butter and jam sandwiches for lunch. Once we?d stretched out our muscles we were ready to tackle the next walk which continued on from the Lodge to the end of the peninsular, the round trip should take us five hours and we were promised that it wouldn?t be as tough as the day before.

The walk started off gently uphill on a wide path, Mike and I took heaps of pictures of the mountain we?d come over the previous day, trying to get the best angle of the descent into the Lodge. This part of the peninsular had much less vegetation so we had magnificent view the whole time we were walking. The water was a superb blue and there were few boats out on the ocean. We knew that the only people on the peninsular besides us were John and Robert who had left about half an hour before us. Although the uphill sections were only gradual climbs, our tight muscles felt every step so we were again stopping frequently, taking in the magnificent panorama. We were walking on a ridge running parallel to the coast and at various spot there were option to go down to the water?s edge but we knew that would mean coming back up so we kept on the ridge. After 2 hours we met up with John and Robert who were on their way back. The point of the peninsular. Cape Jackson, which houses a lighthouse was about another hour away and John told us that there was a narrow piece of land to negotiate to get to that part of the peninsular. He wasn?t joking, we soon came across the ridge which dropped off sharply on both sides. Fortunately the wind was blowing from the west which was the side with the worse drop off so at least we didn?t feel as if we would be blown into the Sound, still it wasn?t a comfortable feeling crossing. The lighthouse was a bit of a non-event although but we were able to see the area where in 1986 a pilot boat tried to take a Russian cruise liner round the point and it hit rocks, sinking in the bay beyond. One person died. Various other ships had met their fate in this same area in the 17th century.

It was lunchtime but it was very windy on the point and we really wanted to get that sharp drop off ridge behind us before we ate, so we started to make our way back. Most of the way out had seemed to be on a steady incline so we were looking forward to a flat or downhill track back but it appeared that we were going uphill again. What was that story about our parents having to walk to school uphill in both directions? Anyway it appeared that we had taken a different track which took us over yet another hill but after that it was downhill all the way back to the Lodge. The scenery the whole way had been tremendous. Back at the Lodge and time for a little rest before dinner. I walked down to the jetty where the Lodge owners have a catamaran, there was no-one else down there and it was very peaceful for a while until the next influx of visitors who had walked in from Ship?s Cove that afternoon, came down for a snorkel. They actually prised some shellfish off the rocks and intended to have them for dinner that following night.

So dinner that night was a bit noisier with another two couples joining us, they were having a weekend retreat from their children. Dinner was roast chicken, a rice dish and veggies followed by pavlova ? yummy and we didn?t have to do the dishes.

The next morning after breakfast we were being picked up by the catamaran to take us back to Picton. The journey this way would be a bit longer though as the boat had to stop at several lodges along the coast dropping off and picking up luggage. This was for hikers who were walking between Lodges and were having their luggage delivered from one Lodge to another, quite an impressive operation. It was a gorgeous morning, the boatman put chairs out on the back of the boat and if we wished we could sit in the sun and see the surrounding water and mountains. At one of the drop off points there was a couple having their wedding photos taken, couldn?t think of a better setting ? well Okanagan Lake maybe.

Back in Picton we had time to have lunch and take a look around, then the trip back to Mapua. Our rental car is a sort of ?wrent-a-wreck? affair and we had noted that the back tires were a bit bald, so I was relieved that it had got us back without misadventure and also that the roads had been dry. However when Jean went outside to hang out washing the next morning, one of the tires was flat ? worn right through, Roger is convinced that it was illegal. So someone was watching over us, particularly as Jean spotted the flat in time for the guys to put on the spare and we were able to make our tee time.


From Bryan Rite on Mar 18th, 2007

I'm glad you like it! A quick note: if you make your videos "private" on YouTube, some people (who weren't invited) won't be able to play them (they get stuck "loading" and never play). So if any of your viewers have problems playing them, get them to login to YouTube or make the videos public. :)