One year honeymoon around the world...17th April 2007 to 9th March 2008! Yes we're home!!

Monday, 22 October 2007

Week 3 – Marlborough Sounds to…Wanaka

Queen Charlotte Track, Marlborough Sounds.

The track is 71km long. You take a water taxi to the start at Ship Cove as there is no road access, and a water taxi picks you up at the end: Anakiwa. Ben fancied doing this over two days but I insisted on three pointing out my rather modest mountain biking skills. This would be my fourth proper outing, the previous three being downhills in South America. So we agreed on three days and booked into lodges at 26km (Punga Cove) and 51km (Portage Resort). We hired Specialized-Rockhopper (the brand) bikes & helmets and we were sorted.

The starting point Ship Cove is on the far right of the map and Anakiwa on the left.

Friday 5th Oct – We left our campervan at the Top10 campsite and took the watertaxi at 10am. After exploring a little of Ship Cove (Captain Cook first arrived here in 1700's) we set off on the track at 11.30am. We had been advised against starting at Ship Cove as the track begins with a 2km uphill "push", followed by a steep 2km downhill "ride/walk-with-bike" but who wants to do a track and miss the first 5km's?? So silly us started at Ship Cove….and pushed our bikes, in the mud, up a hill. The ride down was actually pretty good and more rideable than had been predicted. It was shattering though and as we began the second ascent shortly after Resolution Bay (where you are recommended to begin mountain-biking) Ben was helping me by pushing both bikes uphill J Given my biking skills are relatively new, whilst I really enjoy downhill riding it isn't a rest for me as my arms and legs are so tense and I forget to breathe as I maneuver the various rocks, tree routes, mud and loose debris.

That first 26km took us the best part of 7 hours and when we arrived at Punga Cove Resort I was exhausted. The reception area had closed so we went into the restaurant to collect our key and I collapsed onto their lovely, very comfortable cream leather couches…. Yes in my cycling gear that is now pretty muddy despite it being a lovely sunny day… and didn't move until I had consumed a well deserved Steinlager Pure beer. I really couldn't have cared less that I had helmet hair and was sweaty and dirty from a day on the bike. I was too tired to care. We got chatting to a couple from Christchurch, NZ who could obviously tell I was in a bad way and pretty delirious at the prospect of riding another 25km tomorrow and another 20km the day after, and kindly offered me a lift to the next hotel. I was going to sleep on it. We showered and had a lovely meal in the restaurant with a glass of wine before falling into bed.

Sat 6th Oct – MY BIRTHDAY! I was quite determined to do the whole track but the next morning I was still aching and I really didn't think I could manage another two days and keep my sense of humour plus it was my birthday. I very gratefully accepted the lift from Guy & Charlotte and Ben took on the track on his own completing it in 3.5hours. A very good time!! It took me 30mins to arrive at the Portage Hotel overlooking Kenepuru Sound and another 10mins before I was back in bed asleep for an hour or two. Ben later found me sunning myself on the veranda reading my book and enjoying their delicious Seafood Chowder. It was another beautifully sunny day and Ben and I sat outside all afternoon reading the papers. We finished the day with a glass of champagne, bar meals by the fire and shared carrot cake as my birthday cake. I had a really lovely relaxing day.

Photo of view

BEN – Biking from Punga Cove Resort to Portage As I climbed onto my bike for day 2 of the QCT and started up the steep gravel track saddlesoreness reached new unknown dimensions. I gritted my teeth and tried not to think of the soft seats of Guy's car which were at that moment transporting Sam and her bike to our next night's accommodation. After 10 minutes I rejoined the QCT and started the next long climb. After almost an hour I reached the high point of the day and was rewarded with fantastic views over the Marlborough Sounds. The track was almost deserted – I met only a couple of people in 4 hours – the sun was shining and I was really enjoying riding on the very varied track. At times it was very steep, muddy and slippery and then things would also go well for a while with dry, firm sections. The wind through the previous night had been at severe gale force and to be honest there were times when I thought the rather flimsy NZ roof was going to lift off completely. At one point I reached evidence of just how strong the wind had been as I encountered a huge tree which had been blown down and was completely blocking the track. The only way to pass this obstacle was to fight my way through the tangle of branches together with the bike – this took me around 15 minutes! The rest of the ride to Portage was really enjoyable with some long fast sections and great views. I passed a couple of Kiwi guys who were blocking the track with a quad bike – apparently they were out hunting wild pigs. One section of the ride was slightly tricky with a couple of sharp bends with huge drop offs if you missed them…fortunately the DOC had put out warning signs. The final 15 minute descent down the zig-zags to Portage was awesome…..really fast with some technical rocky sections and a couple of narrow bridges to negotiate. I pulled into the Portage complex at 1.30 pm in plenty of time to celebrate the rest of Sam's birthday with her (see above).

Sun 7th Oct – Day 3 of the QCT. Night in Picton

Mon 8th Oct – Drove to Nelson. Did our shopping. Feeling abandoned after 3 days alone our campervan fridge went on strike and turned itself off defrosting the meat we had in the mini-freezer, and a few other fridge items looked a bit dodgy too. We then went to find a site and parked up to make a late lunch. We then walked back into Nelson, about 20mins and luckily in the sunshine. The weather for Tuesday was looking good: certainly the best day for the coming week so we booked a day-kayak trip at Abel Tasman National Park. We then wandered round shops and I bought a new replacement engagement ring as the stone fell out of my Heathrow airport 8 GBP purchase. Ben likes to say he's the only guy who's had to buy 2 sets of rings for his wife and now he can say 3 J It was only 8 NZD this one.

Back at the van we enjoyed a beer OUTSIDE of the van on a picnic bench in the SUN! Can't remember last time it was sunny & warm in the evening. Unfortunately it didn't last for long as once sun dipped behind the trees it got a bit nippy.

Tues 9th OctSea kayaking in Abel Tasman. We had an hour's drive to Marahau on the East Coast of the North Peninsula. The route was fairly easy but soon after leaving Nelson we were behind the courtesy bus so we followed that the rest of the way as it certainly wasn't a slow bus and there were some very narrow and windy roads! We had booked with 'Kateriri Kayaks' but they must have merged/bought 'Abel Tasman Kayaks' as all the gear had their logo all over it. Our guide was called Jared and there were 8 in our group including Ben & I. Everyone bar the guide was in a double kayak – much more stable than single kayaks. Ben & I got nicknamed "Team England" and another honeymooning couple, Steph & Kyle were "Team Australia". The other 4 girls in our group weren't fast enough to get a name J …but I would get to rest while we waited for them to catch up. I reckon I was kayaking solo most of the time as Ben was in the back "steering" and would cheekily stop rowing as I couldn't see him! J

The coastline is very picturesque along the Abel Tasman National Park and there are lots of small beaches to pull up at, and even camp. It would be lovely in summer to spend a few days kayaking the coast and stopping off at the isolated beaches. Starting to think we should have come in Summer! The sea got a little rough at times when we had to paddle further out to avoid rocks. We saw several sealions on a rocky island just off the coast.

Had a really good day but the sun vanished shortly after lunch and it got a bit cold. We had brought dry clothes to change into as we had kayaked about 20km up the coast and were taking a speedboat back.

Hot showers and back in the van. We drove to Murchison: a 2 hour drive south taking us closer to our desired destination of Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers.

Wed 10th Oct – Nearly 5 hour drive to Franz Josef Glacier. We walked most of way to terminal

Thurs 11th Oct – Day hike on Fox Glacier. Helen and Dave had kindly given us a day trip on the Fox Glacier as wedding present so we were looking forward to getting our feet on the ice. We met our guide and the rest of the group of 8 people at the centre in the village of Fox Glacier. Fox Glacier is a tiny village on the West Coast of NZ which consists of small collection of motels, a couple of cafes and bars, a store and a petrol station. A small van took us to the car park from where we headed off on the route up to the glacier. It took around 1.5 hours to reach the ice itself. The track there took us through the temperate rain forest up and down some ladders on the steep valley side and round some exposed sections where there were some chains to add a bit of security. I (Ben) had actually been to this glacier 13 years earlier. At that time you could simply walk on to the glacier at the terminal face but changes on the lower end of the glacier meant that this was no longer possible and so the new route had been cut through the mountainside on the left. We finally got to the ice and put on our crampons – one guy in the group almost made a early exit by sliding on some hidden ice into a rather large hole. Luckily it was not too deep and he was able to scramble out. We headed out onto the ice through a huge crevasse and gradually climbed up onto the ice. We were very lucky as the sun was shining brightly and there was not a cloud in the sky. The sunlight shone all over the glacier and the refracted light created some fantastic blue light within the ice. We had great views over the lower valley rainforest and out to the Tasman Sea. We stopped on some rocks for a spot of lunch and then headed on further up the glacier. The guide demonstrated the depth of some of the water filled holes in the ice by shoving a walking stick down. It was supposed to pop up again but unfortunately got jammed under an ice ledge. Fortunately with some poking and prodding with another stick we managed to free it. As the sun started to drop we headed on down the glacier and off to mountainside track again. It felt strange walking without crampons but we were soon back on the valley floor. It was a great day out and we were extremely lucky to have a beautiful day out in the sun and snow (it rains on over 300 days a year in this part of NZ apparently). Ben

Fri 12th Oct – Today we headed south for Wanaka driving through Haast and some spectacular scenery on the way.

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