Won’t you tell me what the Wisemen said? When they came down from Heaven, smoked nine ‘till seven, all the shit that they could find. But they couldn’t escape from you, couldn’t be free of you and now they know there’s no way out. And they’re really sorry now for what they’ve done. They were just three Wise Men trying to have some fun. Look who’s alone now, it’s not me, it’s not me. Those three Wise Men have got a semi by the sea. Got to ask yourself the question – where are you now? (Wisemen – James Blunt)
South Island, baby! That is where we are. We had a week of lounging around a 200 square meter apartment right in the centre of Wellington ( thanks Eileen and Mike!) catching up with friends and drinking too much beer. It was slightly surreal hanging in the Capital in the week after New Year as all the workers leave the City and its notoriously shit weather resulting in most of the bars and cafes we wanted to visit being closed. Our newfound resilience allowed us to cope though.
The Interislander ferry acted as a natural full stop to our North Island adventure as we swayed across the Cook Strait and cruised through the picturesque Marlborough Sounds. We pondered how the South Island would differ from the North and we didn’t have to wait long for the answers. The Cougar Lines water taxi dropped us off at Ship Cove, where Captain James Cook had moored on at least three occasions during the 18th century. The Queen Charlotte walkway is a popular 4-day excursion through the Marlborough Sounds with fantastic views of Endeavour Inlet and Kenepuru and Pelorus Sounds from its ridge line vantage point. It also has bars. And so it was that we were seated at the verandah at the Furneaux Lodge knocking back a few cold ones before struggling the last 1500m to our camp for the night. Very civilized I thought, and if I was to design a trail it would definitely pass by more watering holes.
The following day we sweated up to the high point of the trail and ended up at the Bay of Many Coves campsite. A pretty weird name for a camp site situated 350 meters above sea level. We pitched our tent on flattish ground in a Manuka stand and later that night the fun began. We had hung our food bags from a horizontal branch and I woke to an unfamiliar scratching sound. I bounded out of the tent and shone my head torch on our food bags only to see a massive possum, suspended by its tail with both arms wrapped around our dinner bag. It didn’t even scarper as I approached but maintained this look of “ can’t you see I’m busy here?”. I wanted to rearrange it’s marsupial visage with my sandal but was unsure how it would react. I had to be content with shooing it away only to find it later trying to get into the tent when we moved the food there. A fitful nights sleep was had by all.
We completed the Queen Charlotte walkway and arrived at the charming hamlet of Anakiwa. Kath had organized for us to stay at a friends’ holiday house. We even had time to catch up with our beloved Labrador, Tana. All was well with the world. Then along come the Pelorus River Track. This track kicked our butts. It had an uncompromising climb to just over 1000 meters above sea level, followed by a toe-crushing decent. It was rooty and strewn with boulders. It had narrow wire suspension bridges which swayed as you walked and threaten to toss you into the river below. It was a battle fought over four days and somehow we got through. It provided many answers to the question of how the South Island differs and left us pondering whether some sections of the island are too challenging for these hikers.