Lush green trees quivering as a breeze blows through, whispering from one leaf to another. The salty cleansing scent of the sea, mixed with that of fresh dewy grass. That same water meandering its way through an artist’s dream palette of blues and greens, showing off a spectrum your mind had never before entertained. Laying in an envelope of soft sheets, cool pillows, a firm mattress, having already attended to sore limbs with a spa bath, drifting away to the sounds of waves lapping and awakening to that of birds tweeting. A picnic lunch at the top of a hill with views over a geological and natural phenomenon. A cool and crisp glass of local wine, found across the world but tasting all the sweeter when poured a few miles from where it grew, accompanying a tasty dinner prepared by chefs to your specification, as the sun goes down and you ponder your day.
Although a Venn diagram of most holidays would not see these favourite things coincide, a four day trek over New Zealand’s Marlborough Sounds Queen Charlotte Trek did. The 81km route through timbered woods, lush rainforests, over rolling hills and up steep inclines is a journey in actuality, physical challenge, and mental contemplation.
An example of New Zealand’s tumultuous geological environment, new drowned valleys are a result turbulent tectonic history, a pushing, sliding and shoving of plates, a process resulting in some spectacular scenery.
On the north east of the south island, the four thousand square km of sounds, islands and peninsulas jut in and out of the Tasman Sea, comprising one fifth of the country’s coastline. The sea-drowned river valleys, caused by rising sea levels and subsiding land, is now a myriad of sights, scents, and sounds (pardon the pun) and home to a variety of fauna, flora, birdlife, geological wonders – and trampers.
Well maintained by the Department of Conservation, the Queen Charlotte track is nonetheless challenging. Steep hills and rocky slopes make for tripping and stumbling, and sometimes it is hard to remember to look around rather than at one’s feet, but to do so would mean missing out on those little bits of magic, as well as the panoramic vistas that take away the breath remaining after a particularly steep climb.
A cold cool cloud cover burns away to reveal a summer heat. Vibrant greens turn to senna coloured hues. Mini penguins that come to shed feathers and grow fluff in little boxes that line the paths. A horse grazing in a paddock becomes a welcome friend after six hours of solo hiking. A bright yellow flower isolated in an emerald maze. Shimmering water becoming deeper and more reflective as the milky film and chromatic light starts to dissipate.
As beautiful as it is, camping would kill some magic for me, especially by the fourth day. And so these delights were experienced in comfort, enhanced and enabled by Marlborough Sounds Adventure Company. They organise the transportation of your luggage, stays in four and five star hotels, and delicious hearty packed lunches. Walking, well-made beds, and wine – winner.
Need to know: The Marlborough Sound Adventure Company can organise self-guided or guided walks over the Queen Charlotte Track for one or many days, as well as mountain biking and kayaking, and provide informative literature, delicious lunches, and luggage transportation. The closest town to the Sounds is Picton, which is a ferry ride over the Cook Strait from Wellington, home of the nearest international airport.
Image credit: Marlborough Sounds Adventure Co.