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The Queen Charlotte Track: Endeavour Inlet to Camp Bay

I woke up with a bang — literally. Groggy and feeling a bit stiff from the day before, I’d managed to turn off my alarm, which had been set to give me the perfect amount of time to get ready and get my pack out to the dock for the 9am bag pickup. When I realised it was well past that time, I tried to bound out of bed and instead banged my head into the bunk above, which quickly reminded me that the bunks were so close together it was difficult to even sit in a hunched position on them.

(Hint: If you stay at the Endeavour Resort and get there early enough to choose a bed — which was easy for me because I was the only person staying there that night — choose a top bunk. You’ll feel a lot less cramped.)

Morning at Endeavour Inlet

Glassy water in the morning at Endeavour Inlet.

Somehow, my bag made it to the dock for the 9am pickup, which was handy because I really didn’t want to carry the whole bag if I didn’t have to. Armed with my daypack, which was mostly filled with boiled water to get me through the warm day, I set off on the Queen Charlotte Track.

About 20 minutes into the walk, I could have taken the sidetrack to the Antimony Mines. I considered it; after all, the day’s walk of 11.5km was only supposed to take four hours. However, when I saw my previous day’s hiking buddies, Di and Gordon, emerge from their accommodation nearby at The Woolshed, I decided against it.

A Bridge Through the Trees

A bridge near one of the picnic tables where we stopped for a snack.

This was a good choice. I ended up having a lovely, leisurely walk with them through the forest to Punga Cove. We stopped quite a few times (and discovered on those stops that you can locate every weka within a few kilometers by rustling food packaging). And, even though the temperature must have been in the high 20s, we were constantly shaded by forest so we didn’t get the full brunt of the heat and glaring sun.

Fortunately, there were still plenty of spots where the trees cleared just enough that we could get unobstructed views across Queen Charlotte Sound. Even when they were obstructed, there was always a hint of blue and a sparkle to remind us of just what a beautiful place we’d found ourselves in. Plus, the view was often obstructed by the punga tree — New Zealand’s iconic “silver fern.”  Since it was the first time I’d seen the fronds of this tree up close, I was pretty excited. Their undersides were actually silver too!

An Obstructed View

Punga trees and the sounds beyond.

When we eventually arrived at the Camp Bay campsite — which only took 3.5 hours at a very leisurely pace, despite it being signposted as 4 hours — I was faced with a bit of a conundrum. The campsite was completely empty, which wasn’t entirely unexpected at the time we’d arrived, but my backpack being the only bag on the dock indicated that I might be the only person there for the night.

I would have been ok staying there by myself — after all, my room in the Endeavour Resort hadn’t even had a lock because the only way in was by boat — but I wouldn’t have really enjoyed it. To top it off, Di and Gordon took on the role of my parents and were really concerned for my safety. Eventually, they convinced me to accompany them to the checkin at Punga Cove Resort to see if they could get a cot for me in their room.

The Waterfront at Mahana Lodge

The waterfront view at Mahana Lodge.

It turned out that the resort was full up and had no options for extra beds so they directed me to the nearby Mahana Lodge instead. Leaving my friends behind to get freshened up, I wandered further along the waterline until I came across the lodge, which looked like a cute home set right on the water. I soon found out that they were full up as well with the exception of one caravan. Happy to find a place to settle (and also a bit happy that I wouldn’t have to pitch my tent for the night), I took it.

What a great $20 to spend too. The caravan had a nice double bed to stretch out on that was right underneath a window facing the garden and the bay beyond. It was beautiful. I really couldn’t understand why the owner, Ann, had been apologetic that the caravan was all they had to offer.

The View from the Caravan

The view from just outside my caravan.

After I went to pick up my pack and have a ginger beer or two at the Punga Cove waterfront bar with Di and Gordon, I made the most of everything Mahana Lodge had to offer. Initially deterred by the freezing water, I jumped in and swam out into the sound. It was incredibly refreshing and the perfect way to cap off a morning of walking. When I started getting a bit cold, I got out, toweled off, and laid down in the hammock. And, after the sandflies woke me from my dopey haze, I moved into the caravan and read my book in the golden light of late afternoon. Was there a better way I could have spent my afternoon? I don’t think so.

My Caravan

My nice little caravan at Mahana Lodge.

After dinner, I really enjoyed having both people to talk to and a lodge with working power to sit in. The other hikers and I played Scrabble well into the evening, and most of us were so happily ensconced that we didn’t follow the one couple that ventured out onto the track to find the glowworms that light up some of walls in constellations of green.

I wasn’t too disappointed to miss them as I had plenty of real constellations to look at on my walk back to the caravan. The skies were so amazingly clear. The band of the Milky Way was dazzling, and I even found the Southern Cross for the first time on my trip.

The Southern Cross

The Southern Cross!

I didn’t want to go into the caravan and pull myself away from the stars, but when I did, I realised that I could lie in my bed and stare out at the night sky. So as perfect as my afternoon was, the evening was almost better. I had a comfortable bed to sleep in, yet the last thing I saw before I fell asleep was the Milky Way. I could definitely get used to this glamorous world of tramping.

For more information on the Queen Charlotte Track, please see:

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