Let's get started!
Today was my first day of two on the Queen Charlotte Track ("QCT") in the northeastern region of the South Island, in the Marlborough Sound. I am essentially starting here and ending this 2-week trip in the "Fjordlands" with an overnight kayak trip.
The QCT is one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks” and it usually takes walkers 4 days to complete; bikers, 2-3 days. I ambitiously set myself out to complete it in two days.
I woke up to a beautiful day in Marlborough Sound. This was the view as I left the harbor to ride the water taxi for 1 hour to Ship Cove. My AirBnB Host told me I was in for a treat, for it had been very rainy and more rain was coming.
...Time passes. Bike Ride Day 1, Complete.
What was I thinking!?
I’ve never mountain biked! The closest I’ve done is a paved road to Todd, NC when I was younger, and another time, also on a paved road when I went to the Gaulley River, WV in 8th grade. Basically, I was a kid when I last “mountain biked.”
Read the Maps!
That was so hard, but still, so awesome! That was a strenuous 4:45 hour experience, but the vistas made it all worth the while.
To a fault, I don’t read instructions or maps. I just like to find out my starting point, understand the end point, and go.
It would have been wise for me to have read the details, for the first hour was spent pushing my bike up the hill to Resolution Cove. I was perplexed and very concerned, “was my whole ride going to be like this?”
I began to feel like Sisyphus pushing his rock uphill.
I reached the top, ecstatic, because the view was incredible and the sun was peeking out of the clouds just in time, as it had been somewhat overcast.
I felt like Maria from The Sound of Music.
And the nice gal that also had arrived on foot ahead of me, struck up a conversation with me. Exchanging the typical, “where are you from?” we discovered we’re both North Carolinians! She from Charlotte, and I from Winston-Salem. How about that!?
Looking at my bike, she said to me, “you pushed your bike all the way up that hill?” and a trio of hikers also arrived behind us, asking me the very same thing. I shrugged and cheekily said,
“Ya! As it turns out, this is my hiking buddy, not biking buddy!”
The trio of hikers pulled out the map and showed me what I’d just done; a steep incline, and the sidebar saying
“do not attempt to bike this part of the track.”
I was relieved! I was not in over myself after-all! And the rest of the way seemed reasonable, with enough downhills to give me some speed to go uphill, as was the case for Torrea Saddle.
I passed through some pretty streams and waterfalls. If you recall from my Blue Mountains experience, I'm a fan of waterfalls. So naturally I stopped to snap a pic.
I’m having fun now, zipping through the trail and seeing beautiful vistas, feeling generally like a rockstar. I pass some hikers and sit down on a bench to take in the views. They catch up with me and sit down, too, and ask,
“you bike this trail a lot?”
I said, “nope. in fact, first-time mountain biker.”
They quickly reply, “you look like a professional biker!”
Yissss! I so got this, I tell myself. I feel good. Get up and hope I don't make a rookie move and fall in front of them.
It's all downhill (literally & figuratively) from here:
2 hours later. I’m still not at Punga Cove. There’s not a soul on the trail. Except for the black mountain goat on the trail that scared the bejeezus out of me.
Looks can be deceiving.
I pull out the ‘real map’ and see that Punga Cove was/is much, much further away than initially thought, for the other map was not drawn to scale.
1 hour later. Nothing, Punga Cove not in sight. Water is out. I also have no snacks. I don’t need to further elaborate much on my state of being at this point.
1/2 an hour passes by and I really, really am almost there! I see a sign! It points out, 45 minutes by foot.
I immediately wonder, “How fast do I bike this? Can I make it in 20!?”
I do, sort of.
You see, in 10 minutes, I make the turn and finally see Punga Cove. Halleluja!
I fall over the front of my bike off the side of the trail.... and I fall HARD.
I don’t know how. But it all happened in slow motion.
The lush fern broke my fall and tangled up my bike, thereby stopping us. Yay. Thanks, fern!
I just had to sit there, thank my lucky stars, and just laugh. I was only .5km away and I really wiped out. I guess I gotta earn my stripes? Being the lone one around, I had to climb my way up and attempt to free my bike from the tangled mess I'd created.
I reached Torrea Saddle. Water is 3/4 gone. I look at a different map and looks like Punga Cove is just across the way, should be there in an hour, maybe? It’s all downhill from here compared to what I did!
Punga Cove, at last!
It gets better from here, for I check in to Punga Cove Resort to find that my room has been upgraded to one of the premier Chalets and the dockside grill is still open for another 1/2 hour. FOOOOOOOD!
As for tomorrow’s bike ride? Plan B. Its supposed to rain, so will head back and check out the wineries in Marlborough for I don’t need any more muddy falls!
It was quite a comical and memorable day. I asked for an adventure and boy did I get it! I would do it again in a heartbeat.