Monday, May 7, 2007

Queen Charlotte Track Adventure (Part II)

After a wet night, where Aaron discovered he was in a slight depression and his sleeping bag got rather soggy from water seeping up through the ground sheet. Needless to say we got little sleep after that. We got up in the morning to low cloud and drizzle, we had a quick breakfast, packed up our very wet tents and left our bags down at the jetty for the water taxi to transfer to our next stop. This is the great advantage of the Queen Charlotte Track, that you can get a water taxi to pick you up and drop you at various jetty’s or you can just get your stuff transferred between stops. This meant we only had to carry small packs during the day.

We set off up the hill to the Keneperu Saddle. The track was slippy from all the rain – but not too bad and once we were on the ridge line the riding was quite enjoyable – even in the misting rain. We even got the occasional view down on to the sounds through the low clouds. There was a lot more farm land along the first part of the ridge than I expected, and the track didn’t feel quite as remote as it had done at Ship Cove.

One of the many coves in the Marlborough Sounds

The ridge line was fairly undulating with a few steeper climbs that saw Aaron and I regularly off our bikes, pushing them up the hill. Dave Osmond, however, was powering up the hills as if they were extra grippy grit - we shall have to find more unfit friends to come on our adventures so they don't get bored waiting up for us the whole time.

Dave Osmond

The descent down to Torea Saddle was a fun ride – although we were all going pretty cautiously as our brakes were not working very well as a result of all the mud. Our final ascent of the day was up the hill the other side of Torea Saddle. This was pretty brutal and after 5 hours of riding already I certainly wasn’t feeling the most fresh, so I was soon tramping up the hill with my bike. We descended down to Mistletoe Bay, our stop for the night, a very idyllic little inlet. A total of 35 km in 6 hours.

Mistletoe Bay appeared to be rather deserted, which was a little disconcerting as we hoping not to camp as Aaron’s sleeping bag was soaked. Eventually we managed to track down the manager of Mistletoe Bay and got access to a half renovated back packers accommodation. We didn’t care, there was a shower and a bed.

After a great night’s sleep we woke to pouring rain. After dumping our bags at the jetty to be transported back to Picton by the water taxi, we set off with a steady gentle climb up the final hill of the track. By this time only my granny gear was working as my back derailleur had seized up. Didn’t really matter – I’m not sure I would have been going much faster with a harder gear. We were riding through some beautiful forests alternating between large tree ferns and open beech forests, with some great views down to the water below. The track was great and we would have been flying down the final hill if it hadn’t been so wet and slippy and our brakes had worked….

Beech forests

We got back to Anakiwa at the end of the Queen Charlotte Track after 2 hours covering 12 km, had a quick snack before cruising back on the road to Picton, another 25 km on the tar. This was a beautiful ride along the road, riding along the sounds. We were deliberately riding through the puddles on the side of the road to clean off our ridiculously muddy bikes…. We were totally soaked by this stage so extra water was of little consequence. There were a few hills on the ride back to Picton, and I was almost looking forward to them to warm up. The descents were also becoming hard work as our brakes were almost useless by this stage. It took us an hour and a half to ride from Anakiwa to Picton and we were just hoping that our bags with dry clothes would be waiting for us. Unfortunately that was not the case and we sat wrapped in blankets at the water taxi terminal for another hour until they finally arrived and we had to sprint over to the ferry terminal to catch the boat back to Wellington.

So a rather wet couple of days – we will have to ride the last two days in the dry sometime and do some justice to those fun flowing single tracks through the lush forests and experience the great views down on to the sounds. Sorry Dave, we wished we could have provided you with better weather - but I guess it was a novelty value to see that much rain and mud after the last few years in Canberra.

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