The Queen Charlotte Track – not just for your rental bike tourists.
Posted on April 3, 2012
Not wanting to do a solo 12h drive down South by myself to head down to Queenstown for all the bike festivities going on down there this past weekend, I decided to do something new that I still haven’t done as a newbie here. I am still very much a tourist in my own new hometown, and absolutely loving it. I was ready for a solo mission. No rushing, no stressing, no waiting or chasing. Just me, myself & I to worry about and my bike. I decided to ignore all the local banter about how incredibly shitty the Queen Charlotte track is, and headed out there to find out for myself just how shit this track could possibly be. My friends let me tell you, it was quite possibly, the MOST scenic, spectacular 2 day ride that I have EVER done on my bicycle – and that says quite a lot. All the elements decided to work together to create the most spectacular day, and that doesn’t happen too often out here with the NZ-5-different-seasons-in-one-day-weather (but, you know, Nelson is the sunniest place in NZ – that one is for you Jerome), but last weekend it was magnificent.
This is how it works to ride this trail – which in itself makes it very exciting & special, as you cannot do this anywhere else.
You catch a water taxi from Picton and they drop you off at Ship’s Cove – the start of the trail & Captain Cooke’s favorite hideaway spot. This takes about an hour to get there, as the taxi stops at various other little bays and inlets to drop off newspapers, food, people, mail and your luggage. Yes, they drop your bag off wherever you are staying for that evening so you don’t have to slog your stuff along with you (RAD).
Once dropped off at Ship’s Cove, you then start the ride – 71km which you can choose to do in one day or take as long as you’d like with various options along the way to camp, stay in luxury or at backpackers. The start had a pretty steep climb to begin with, but in untouched forest with magnificent trees and views over the sounds. I opted to do the ride over 2 days, so I could check everything out, take photo’s and just enjoy the moment. Thank goodness I opted for this, because with views like these, I stopped A LOT.
The ride was just super fun, some rocks & wet, rooty sections, wet clay dirt, no trampers, no other cyclists, I had this amazing track all to myself, and you could let it rip. I had a massive perma grin plastered on my face all day. I kept moving along at quite a steady pace, and it still took me about 4h30min to get to Portage and the Debretts backpackers where I was staying for the night. It was not as easy as everyone makes it out to be, quite a bit of climbing – 52km later with about 1500m in climbing. A definite monster of a day for your average rent-a-bike type tourist biker.
Of course DeBrett’s backpackers was on the top of the hill, so another climb up to a lovely house overlooking the Pelorus Sounds. There was a note on the door stating that they’ve gone to the beach, but to go inside and make myself welcome. So I went inside and found my backpack waiting for me in my room – now that to me was just amazing. Not too many places in the world that you can still do that. I guess I found my room. The great thing about staying at a backpackers, is that you can splurge on dinner & drinks, and that is just what I did at the Pelorus resort hotel. Dinner, wine, my book & the last sunset before daylight savings time kicked in – which sort of means the end of Summer…
After about 10 hours of sleep, I woke up bright and early to a very calm, very clouded in morning, beautiful in a completely different way again. I headed out and upwards for the next hour or so, with really steep switchbacks and hills to climb, until I got right above the clouds. It was magical. Once again, there was no one else around, and I had this scenery all to myself. The joys of only being allowed to mtb on this track during the off season. Perfect.
The vegetation changed quite a bit, and you could see farmland and Picton in the distance, meaning that the trail was coming to the end. There were some really wicked downhills, more magnificent views and sort of a sad feeling that it was nearing the end. The last 20km went by way too quickly, and before I knew it I was in the little sleepy town of Anakiwa – where the QC track ends. It was rather busy with a triathlon going on, kayakers paddling about, a bus load of older Americans from a cruise ship took up the entire town and they kept getting in all the triathlete racers’ way, clogging up the transition area to take photo’s and it was all just a bit too chaotic to end with. I wanted to be back on the trail, far away from everyone, but the trail has ended and I had to wait for my water taxi ride back to Picton, which was one more cherry on top to finish off a wonderful weekend of riding. Six and a half hours of total riding, 71km and a fair bit of climbing – about 2100m was a good weekend of riding in my books. For all you local QC track haters, do yourself a favor and actually go and ride the trail – I guarantee you’ll like it 🙂
Once you arrive at Picton, you just pick up your bag again – that is so cool. After a quick lunch & mandatory flat white, I hit the road back to Nelson. A quick hour and a half trip through beautiful vineyards and farmlands and endless mountain ranges with endless possibilities – so much potential out here on our doorstep, in our backyard. My mind is racing, working over time to make plans & plot adventures out here. I am inspired again, I want to show people these trails, I want to share what I get to experience on my bike. Could this be the beginning of a new exciting venture…
Peace out & thanks to my bike for being such a great model to work with. Never complaining or whining.