Day 78 – 83 – Queen Charlotte Track, the Marlborough Sounds, Ship Cove, and Picton (Fin, Te Araroa)

With four days of food in our packs and a healthy 16 hours of town time behind us, Nora and I walked a couple kilometers from the hostel to the main highway North towards Havelock, and we stuck out our thumbs. I laughed as a big rig passed us, thinking it was impossible to get a ride with one of them, but lo and behold! A huge double-long 18-wheeler stopped and beckoned us in. The driver was headed all the way to Picton for the ferry to Wellington, and we were happy to have our one ride to pick the trail back up. And when we finally made it to Havelock, there was a girl trying to hitchhike the same way as the truck. “Send her on over, I’ll take her” said the truck driver. She was also hiking the Te Araroa, and was grateful for the ride into Glenham to resupply.

So just like that, we picked the trail back up, walking a nicely graded bike trail up and around the mountains, with great views of the sounds that we were about to hike into.

We trekked right through Anakiwa, where the Queen Charlotte Track picks up. The views of the clear blue ocean water filling the valleys of this mountain range were extravagant and unforgettable. We stayed the first night camped at a eco-holiday park called Mistletoe Bay. We drank one of our beers and some wine that we had toted to celebrate our final days on the South Island Te Araroa trail.

The next day was a pretty hot one. We walked up to the Onahau lookout, one of the more scenic points at 1,200 feet above the water below.

Then we made a small detour down to Cowshed Campground to collect some water and have lunch. There was a chance the next two ridgeline camps were out of water, so we carried a few liters to be sure.

Then, back up to the trail for some more cruisy kilometers to Black Rock Camp, and finally on into the shelter and Bay of Many Coves Campground. The view from here was great, and Nora and I spent the sunset hours drinking beer and wine, making dinner, and playing cards on our luxurious picnic table.

We had a pretty short walk the next day to Madsen’s camp, where we were excited to lay in the hammocks provided at the site and soak up some sun next to the sounds. We stopped into a little resort for some strawberry milkshakes around lunchtime, then knocked out the last kilometers to Madsen’s Camp.

Madsen was nice enough to lend us his kayaks, and also cooked up a few of the mussels that we had collected from the nearby rocky outcrops. Lastly, he let us try some of the liquor that he makes and distills on site. It was delicious! One, a whiskey, and the other, a coffee liquor. A great place to visit for our last campsite on the Te Araroa.

The last day, we hiked the last 18km to Ship Cove, the Northern terminus of the South Island Te Araroa trail. We were reluctant to get there, and joked about possibly turning around and just resuming the hike going the opposite direction, southbound.

But then we arrived, and it would’ve been impossible to dampen our good spirits. We caught the 3 o’clock mailboat ferry tour back into Picton, where we had a great feast with all the things we had been craving on the trail. Finally, we ended the evening with a soak in the cedar hot tub at our hostel, paired with some delicious mimosas. What a way to end the trail! I was glad I had someone to share the finish with.

Now, we will catch the ferry to Wellington, and then hitchhike 350km up to Tongariro National Park to do the trek around Mt. Ruapehu. Stay tuned!