Days 17-19 Queen Charlotte Track (!)

~24km hiking + 27 km mt. biking + 24 km mt. biking
Total now at 1,092 km

First of all, I need to send a great thanks shout out to Cath and Lee for inviting me on this ride/hike and for handling most of the logistics. Second of all, I have become temporarily separated from my USB cable for my camera, so I can’t upload pictures for a few more days. Nonetheless, I thought I would drop the description of QCT and will add photos later.

Update: here are the photos!

Lee arranged with Cougar Lines for water taxi transfers for this trip which meant three days of minimal carrying both on feet and on bikes! What a luxury! We got up early to catch the water taxi and it took us to Ship Cove where Cpt. Cook hung out a bunch on several occasions. The first section from Ship Cove to Punga Cove/Camp Bay is closed to bikes in the high season (starting only about a week ago!) so we walked it. It was nice to use different muscles and move at the pace that allows conversation (well, and to have someone to have a conversation with!). Poor Cath and Lee must think I talk nonstop. Not only are they nice folks and easy to get along with, but we were all able to geek out about our research. It was a group of three doctors, none of which could help you if you were sick, but we can mathscience our way through all kinds of problems :-).
Here’s a map of the entire 71km route:

Queen Charlotte Track

Queen Charlotte Track

The scenery was amazing with sweeping views through the native bush out into the sounds – we could seethe North Island in a few spots too! The first climb out of Ship Cove is a serious grunt – would be hard to ride – but the reward was worth it. After that big climb, the rest of the day was rolling along ridges and over the convoluted shoreline. Any hope of keeping track of direction is quickly abandoned in this terrain, but the trail is well-marked and we just marched on. At the end of the day, my legs were tired and sore, and as the day heated up, I was parched a bit. So, setting up camp, making dinner, and crashing in the tent was all very welcome! We walked out to the jetty to look at the stars as much as we could see through the clouds, and on the way, under a steep section of roots next to the trail I saw glow worms for the first time! So cool – just these little white bioluminescent spots against the black dark soil. I was totally captivated, and now I see why the glowworm caves are so popular. These were just a few, not the entire ceiling of a cave.
In the morning, we were running a bit late so we heard the water taxi arrive for our bags while we were still packing! Not a big deal, except the jetty is 500m or so from camp. Running in my cleats with my very full (and poorly packed – sorry stokergirl!) trailer bag on my head was a harsh start to the day! The taxi that picked up our bags also dropped off our bikes (how pimp is that!?). It was nice to see my bike with knobbies, all ready for the single track, with only a light-ish daypack on my back. Off the couch was a pretty big but manageable climb and then just floating and flowing over ridges with sick views all over. The descent into Portage though was worth the price of admission ten times over! The trail is right on the edge of some huge (350 meter or more) drop offs, punga ferns all over, and just easy but exciting riding. Portage itself is a seriously posh resort with a DoC campground close by. We got the best of both worlds – a nice mellow camping experience, but not above walking to the resort for a swim, taking in the view of the bay, and a coffee and beer.
The final morning was lower key – not the big rush of the first morning, and then riding up a road to Torea Saddle and on to Anakiwa. The climbs in the morning were unreal! I had to walk in more than a few spots – a combined result of cumulative leg output over the past three weeks, very steep terrain, and mfy lack of pride about it :-). Well, the pride thing got recalibrated after I broke my chain struggling up a particularly steep section! Luckily, I was able to remove a link and keep going. The Kenett Brothers mountain bike book that is the bible of NZ single track describes the last section into Anakiwa as mountain biking as good as it gets. Sweeping riding through native bush over the water. I couldn’t really improve on that! It was about the most beautiful riding I’ve ever done. The sky clouded over which was a relief from the heat we had been experiencing. The only downside was some surly hikers. I tried to be EXTRA considerate which backfired – they clearly just didn’t want us there. It seems like maybe the first section should be open and THIS section closed in high season, but then again, it is some of the best single track in the world, so I’m not complaining. I’ll accept some annoying annoyance from a few tourons in exchange for that kind of riding.
So tomorrow, it’s off to St. Arnaud (by bus this time) and the Rainbow Road. It’s raining hard, but it’s meant to clear in the next few days, so I should have good mountain riding up there. Can’t wait – it’s a trajectory from here to Christchurch and a rendezvous with stoker girl!
Again, I really can’t thank Cath and Lee enough for making this section possible. I never would have thought to do it on my own, but it was a huge highlight of this whole venture – and nice to make a couple new friends in the process! Thanks guys – see you Friday!

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