SOUND OF SILENCE
Getting away from it all in Queen Charlotte Sound, New Zealand
spectacular lookout on the ridge. You can trek up to a waterfall and see the spring from where the resort sources all its delicious drinking water (there’s a night hike to see glowworms, too). But the really big walk around these parts is the 71km Queen Charlotte Track, famed for its start being the place where the European part of New Zealand’s story began, Ship’s Cove. Kiwis love the outdoors and there are many of these longdistance walks, where locals think nothing of tramping (the Kiwi word for hiking) them over a long weekend, carrying all their provisions, and a tent. I’m tramping the first section, from Ship’s Cove to Endeavour Inlet, a distance of 15km. Again, the start is not accessible by road so I’m dropped off, with four others, by water taxi. I feel a sense of loneliness as I watch the boat disappear into the Sound. I make an effort to keep pace with the other walkers as they head off into the trees.
Around three-quarters of New Zealand’s floral species are unique to the islands, as are many of its large, flightless birds. They never evolved to fly because there were no natural predators – until the Maori arrived and couldn’t believe their hungry luck.
The track is a delight, as you’d expect from a route that gets tramped by thousands of pairs of boots every year – a wide path with views through the bush to the Sound, and it’s an easy climb up to the saddle. As I wind my way down to the pick-up jetty at Endeavour Inlet, there are Pohutukawa or Southern rata, commonly known as the New Zealand Christmas tree because it flowers in winter.
To walk the whole track in sections, there’s a convenient service that will pick up and drop off. Many people camp along the way but after a day’s tramping it’s nice to look forward to a bit of pampering and a soft bed in a plush resort – probably as fine an end to the day as you could dream up… that and a massage. Resident therapist Richelle gives me her signature treatment with peppermint and lemongrass oils and a touch so effectively firm I’m a blob of jelly when I emerge, though I do make it to dinner.
In line with the Bay of Many Coves’ focus on sustainability, the emphasis in the kitchen is on seasonal specialities of the Marlborough area. Dishes on offer tonight include Nelson scallops and Twin Rivers organic lamb with kumara (squash). There’s also an impressive vegetarian tasting menu, with each course matched with delicious local wines. The Vavasour Marlborough Pino Gris is my favourite.
In the New Zealand winter, the resort runs photography workshops and jazz weekends so there’s always a good reason to visit. There are also dining day trips from Picton – a cruise of the Sound and a leisurely lunch overlooking the inlet. The only downside is that you have to get back on the boat and leave after coffee. I, on the other hand, have another day…