Marlborough Sounds from two perspectives

Leaving Wellington for the South Island we didn’t have the slightest idea what we will be doing next. Sitting at the ferry terminal in Picton, waiting for the city to wake up, reading leaflets and looking at the map we came up with an idea to walk Queen Charlotte Track. The question was how to get to the starting point. Either by road, in a water taxi, or in…a kayak. An hour later we were sitting in the Wilderness Guides office discussing our plans, arranging the kayaks and planning the route. We decided to leave next morning, so we had time to get the food supplies and have some rest after sleepless night of ferry crossing. In the evening it got very windy, and we worried if the weather would not ruin our kayak trip.

We woke up very early to a beautiful morning, packed our staff and went to Wilderness Guides office. First we had to pack our stuff into the kayak compartments, which we were slightly worried about, whether our backpacks and their content will fit. Fortunately the double fibre glass kayak was big enough, so we had plenty of space. Next we signed some papers, checked the forecast and planned the route accordingly (so the wind will be in our favour) and got our gear. Then we went to the beach, had a safety briefing and were ready to go!

First task was to get out of port safely which meant crossing the ferry line. As it was morning they were few ferries and boats coming in and out of the port. The water was calm, so we managed to do it quite easily. After that we were free to explore the winding coastline and sheltered bays of Marlborough Sounds — network of sea-drowned valleys that forms labyrinth of islands, woody peninsulas and secluded bays. We wanted to get to the Kumototo Bay, but somehow we missed it, just because the kayaking was easy and the water calm, so we were going faster that we thought. We decided to carry on and find a different place to stop. At some point the wind picked up and the big waves appeared on the sea. Unfortunately the wind was in our face so the paddling got more difficult. We spotted small beach in one of the bays and there we went. Sheltered from the wind we had very nice break with coffee. We carried on intending to stop at Ratimera Bay. It wasn’t that far, but with the front wind and waves it took us some time to get there. We set our tent on the campsite by the sea. They were two other kayaking couples staying at the campsite.

We set off in the morning, the weather was nice and the wind not too strong. We were paddling leisurely while Marcin tried to catch fish, and he managed to catch one! We were looking for a small beach where we could stop. We found one that was narrow, but well hidden from the wind, and we had great coffee break and some time to rest our arms:) After break we started paddling to the Bluemine Island which was a long crossing. It looked like the island was just right there, but it took so much time. When we got there it was only two in the afternoon, but we decided to stay for the night at the island, just because the place was so beautiful, the weather nice and next campsite was too far away. We had time to cook dinner, stroll on the beach and relax in the sun. Even though the water looked very tempting to jump in (incredible colour, sunny weather) none of us decided to. The water was just so cold and the cold wind made it even colder. We had a call from the kayak company with the weather update and recommended route for the next day, as the weather was about to change. And we could feel it, in the evening the wind was picking up and at night was just blowing and trying to smash our tent. It rained a bit, but not much.

We were aiming for early start, but when we woke at 5.30 and our tent was shaking terribly from wind, we just went back sleep, hoping that it will get better. About 2 hours later we got up considering what to do. The wind sounded terribly, but it was coming from the land, so not causing big waves, and it was definitely in our favour. We were in the sheltered bay and the water didn’t’ t look that bad, but we couldn’t be sure what will be on the open waters as we had long crossing to do. By the time we finished our breakfast it got calmer, so we quickly packed our staff, put the raincoats on and as it was raining a bit and there were black clouds on the horizon, and we were off. The wind was in our back, so the paddling was easier we just had to look out for the big waves. When we left the shoreline and started our crossing to the Long Island the wind changed, it picked up and was blowing from the side causing big waves. It got more difficult to paddle, so we both agreed to change our route and go straight for the coastline. We were paddling into the waves with the wind in our back, so although the kayak was rocking a bit, we maintained good speed and sooner than expected we got to the Ship Cove. We had our kayak booked to be picked up at 4 pm, but it was still before midday, and we were hoping that the earlier boat will take the kayak. We took it off the water, packed our things, cleaned the kayak and soon the water taxi arrived. There was no mobile reception, so we couldn’t contact the kayak company but the captain decided to take the kayak back anyway. We were very grateful, as that saved us few hours of waiting.

With the kayak being on its way back we could start the second part of the trip, walking the Queen Charlotte Track, but hey…first…coffee break… to celebrate successful kayak trip. There were many people coming to Ship Cove, some of them just for an hour or two, some of them for day walks and some were starting Queen Charlotte Track just as we were about to.

Queen Charlotte Track took us through the lush and green native forest, higher and higher as we reached the hill tops from where we had amazing views of the Marlborough Sounds. For three days we were walking along nice path, enjoying breaks at well-organized picnic areas and viewpoints. Each time we could not help but to sigh with passion while looking at the green hills rising of the deep blue waters. A mesmerising place to be.

At the end of the trip we decided to stay at Smith’s Farm, where apart from the nice welcome with warm muffins, we had a chance to see glow-worms. We were recommended a walk in the dark to the waterfall, where those little creatures live. That was a very nice and unexpected bonus to the trip which we both enjoyed a lot.