Get­ting away from it all in Queen Char­lotte Sound, New Zealand

Pride Life Magazine - - CONTENTS -

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…

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