Queen Charlotte was the George III’s queen, back in the days when the sole criterion for running a European country appeared to be coming from the correct extended family rather than actually being from the country you intended to rule. After all, she was born in Germany, and so was George’s grandfather George II. George III is nowadays famous for losing the American colonies and his marbles, and so giving us something to call the Regency Period while George’s son (also, of course, George) ruled in his place.
It was during George III’s reign that Captain James Cook visited New Zealand. Cook came here on each of his three big voyages, and on each he laid up his ship at a place now called Ship Cove in the Marlborough Sounds. Cook named that sound for his sovereign’s wife – Queen Charlotte Sound.
Today we have the Queen Charlotte Track which goes from Ship Cove at the outer end of Queen Charlotte Sound, to Anakiwa at its head. The 71km track follows the ridge between Queen Charlotte Sound and its neighbour Kenepuru Sound. And I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to walk the whole thing over Easter.
I could have organised the whole thing myself. I keep telling myself that. I could have booked accommodation and water taxis and carried everything I needed on my back. That’s what I would have done two decades ago and what some people on the track clearly were doing. But instead I chose to go with Wilderness Guides who did all the bookings, and (the best bit) shipped my bag from place to place so it was always ahead of me when I arrived somewhere for the night. As their name suggests, Wilderness Guides will fix you a guided walk, but I figured I’d rather find my own way – it’s not exactly hard – and opted for independence from the guide. Everything worked swimmingly.
We stayed in hotels and lodges, so there was always a cold beer, a warm shower and a decent dinner awaiting when we arrived. Truly this is tramping de luxe. It didn’t hurt that the weather was very good, either.
And the track. It’s just beautiful. The Marlborough Sounds are a drowned valley system, so there are long tongues of the sea separated by torn strips of land. The overall effect is of green hills alternating with blue water, with the occasional touch of mist. Here are a couple of pictures taken on my phone:
That’s Kenepuru Sound in the morning, taken from just above The Portage.
A view along Queen Charlotte Sound towards the sea from where we stopped to eat our sammies on the the last day.
I had a fantastic four days.
If you like a reasonable walk but really can’t be bothered to do all the organisation, or carry four day’s supplies and a tent, try this.