February 25th-March 1st
Heading out from Granity I felt pretty damned good. Who is a hiking machine? I AM! I am also delusional. I made my way to Picton, where I was to start hiking the 71km Queen Charlotte Track. While not a Great Walk, it was supposed to be a relatively easy track along the beautiful Queen Charlotte Sounds that lie at the north end of the South Island.
I was up bright and early, my favourite, to catch a water taxi to the start of the track. I went down to the docks to check in, and found out that my water taxi ticket included a daily pack transfer. Basically, the water taxi company would take my big bag from campsite to campsite every day, so all I had to carry was whatever I needed on the track that day. I declined. Because I am a stubborn fool. I felt like, I carried my pack on every single other trail, why not this one? Pride, painful, painful pride.
My first day of hiking was basically a joke. I got dropped by the water taxi at Ship Cove where the trail starts off. This was also the first time I met the infamous weka bird aka the devil chicken. I only had 4.5km to hike to get me to Schoolhouse Bay where I was to camp that night. Even though I took my time, I arrived at my (deserted) camp site by noon. I started to set up my tent and the weka, of course, decided to come investigate. Let me tell you, they have absolutely no fear. I had met some people whose tents and bags had been destroyed by them, so I made sure to let them know we were not friends. After getting set up, I decided to take a nap, because why not. I dozed for a few hours and then slowly awoke, happy to be in my tent in the solitude of nature. Or so I thought. Upon opening my eyes I came face to face with a devil chicken who had slipped under my vestibule and was pressing its face against the very thin mesh of my tent, staring into my soul with its beady black eyes. Naturally I screamed. Devil chicken panicked and started ramming itself against my tent trying to get out. It eventually escaped and I recomposed myself, happy there was no one else camping to have heard our little performance. I went down to the beach to see how warm the water was. I got down there and saw a wasp, and then another, and another… Turns out there is this black fungus that grows on the birch trees on the track and it gives off quite a sweet sap that the wasps go crazy for. The track is like a wasp rave, they are everywhere drunk on this stuff, just going nuts. I spent the evening in my tent reading, hiding from the devil chickens and party wasps.
I got up early for day 2 which was set to be 22km, woooo. After having breakfast and packing up, I went to refill my hydration bladder. This was the first campsite I had been to where there was no warden present to ask questions or chat with. Now, every other place I have stayed in a hut/camped there was always a warden to tell you that the water was fine, they drank it every day without treating it, and they never got sick. The signs also just ‘suggested’ you treat the water, this sign basically said I had to. Ummmm do I actually have to, or are they just airing on the side of caution? Of course, this hike I didn’t take my water filter or water treatment supplies because the last 4 hikes I didn’t need them. I have had serious food poisoning in the past, so I’m a little mistrustful of sketchy food/water. To add to this, I had a date when I got to Wellington a few days after and really didn’t want to be deathly ill. Chances were high I would puke from nerves anyways, I didn’t really need to add some water parasite to that. So you know what I did, I didn’t refill my water. I figured I had 1L left, there were campsites along the way, I could find someone to ask if the water was ok and fill up there. Idiot. To condense my 22km of hiking that day down, it was 30 degrees and there weren’t ‘campsites’ just lots of cabins and retreats for rich people along the way with many signs about ‘GUESTS ONLY’. I eventually dragged my ass into the Camp Bay campsite, where I set up camp and promptly drank 1L of untreated water because I didn’t care at that point. Fingers crossed.
After hiking with next to no water, I figured day 3 would be much better since I would be fully hydrated. It was the longest day, almost 25km, but hey, I got this remember? Sweet baby Jesus no. No, no, no, no. The trail never ended. I don’t know if I was having an off day or what, but it was like sweet torture. There were no massive elevation gains, but it was just constant up and then down, and then up and then down. With my damned bag that I could have had taxied for free. The upside, the scenery was as always, amazing. Anytime you got to the top of a ridge there were gorgeous views of the sounds. The beauty of nature got me to about 20km. Listening to KoRn and System of a Down got me through the last 5km. I arrived at Cowshed Bay campsite to find it was overrun with teenage girls on some retreat. The campsite was also packed full. The wind was really picking up and I don’t love feeling like I am going to blow away, so I pitched my tent off in the woods, not really in the campground. I feel asleep to the sound of a 13 year old girl screaming her head off because she had left snacks in her tent unattended and a devil chicken had stolen them. Like a lullaby to sing me to sleep.
“Its 5am, why the hell is my alarm going off?! Also, what is that sound? It’s a dinosaur OH GOD, no wait dinosaurs are extinct. It actually sounds like…an alien, oh shit I look like Sigourney Weaver from Alien: Resurrection and they have come for me.” I was supposed to start hiking before the sun came up, as I had 20km to do and had to be at the water taxi by 3:30pm. Not going to lie, those damned birds were so scary sounding, and it was so dark, I couldn’t bring myself to leave my tent. Fail. By the time I was packed up and ready to go, I was an hour behind schedule. I got to the start of the trail and just stood there dreading the hike before me. An older man walked up behind me; I told him to go ahead, I was mentally preparing myself. Well didn’t this guy (oh I am terrible with names!) just say, “Come on, let’s go, we can start together!”. So off we went. We hiked the whole day together and it was so nice to have the company. He was catching the same water taxi as me, so he was going at a pretty good pace! He was also smart enough to have his bag transported. He had ended up hiking alone as his wife had a series of really unlucky events along the trail. We made it to the water taxi with at least an hour to spare, but I think if I had been hiking alone without someone to push me, I might have missed it. As a result of the drunk rave wasps, I didn’t have many chances for photos along the trail. Apparently blue is their ‘angry’ colour and wasn’t I wearing a baby blue shirt. The good news, the water didn’t seem to have poisoned me. The next day I headed off to Wellington via the Interislander ferry and decided if I did puke from nerves on my date, I would blame it on the water anyways.