Day 82 – Ship Cove (South Island commencement) to Furneaux

Date: 16 December
Trail covered: 15.3km plus 1km detour to see a waterfall (kms 1695.6 to 1710.9)
Weather: on and off drizzle

I woke up to a bit of a dreary Wellington morning… but at least the wind didn’t seem to be blowing too hard. It wouldn’t make for a very nice ferry crossing if the winds were gusting at 100km/h like they were the last two days.

Morning view out the window

Kathryn gave me the first pieces of a Christmas cake she had made which tasted amazing, and also some candy canes to take with me.

There was more than this, but of course I ate it fast

The bus ride down to the ferry terminal was uneventful and I managed to get on the ferry.

Bluebridge ferry

The ferry had more stairs than the Colonial Knob, more disobedient children than a Jetstar flight and more coughing than a doctor’s waiting room but at least there’s a fair bit of space to move around on the boat. At least they open the on-board cafe as soon as you’re on the boat, unlike Fullers in Auckland who don’t open the cafe until the boat departs. So I could get a coffee straight away.

Panorama of Wellington

You could see a lot from the viewing platform.

Away we go

When I went on an extremely turbulent ferry crossing in 2003, I said I’d never take the ferry again as it was very rough and very unpleasant that day. I had to take it again in 2013 when I bought my current car from the South Island and now I’m taking it even though technically I could have taken a plane to Picton from Wellington.

The first point we pass of the South Island. The weather looks unsettled.

The boat ride turned out to be very smooth today. It was nice seeing the view out into the Marlborough Sounds. The landscape here is so different to Wellington.

Another panorama

It was 11am as we were coming into Picton.

Howdy Picton
11am picture from inside the ferry

Bluebridge put on a bus that takes you from the ferry to the office and baggage claim, and then can continue on and take you to the town centre if you so desire, but I decided to walk it because it’s only about ten minutes, I still had two hours before leaving for Ship Cove, and I also had to book my car in to get its flat tyre fixed, which I’m going to do on Christmas Eve. If I’m not back in Auckland by then then something has gone wrong!

I bought another block of chocolate and also some fruit from the Four Square in Picton.

High St, Picton

Once I got into the town centre of Picton it started to rain.

The waterfront here is beautiful, despite the unsettled weather

I checked in at Beachcomber Cruises. I could leave my pack at their office while I went and got lunch, which was nice. There are apparently quite a few other TA walkers on this boat. How exciting, I wonder who they are?

Time to go

They turned out to be Meredith and Nova, two girls from Hamilton who are section hiking the TA and had planned doing this bit around time off work. There was also a guy called Nick who claims to have done the North Island in 46 days without skipping or hitching any bits, and only taking one rest day. Wow.

The two Wellington to Picton ferry companies – Interislander and Bluebridge

A bunch of dolphins swam alongside the boat as we were heading out – they were very cool.

This was an unexpected surprise

The 1:30pm Beachcomber sailing takes a while to get to Ship Cove because it’s actually the mail run boat. They are the official mail deliverers for NZ Post to the settlements in the Marlborough Sounds which don’t have road access.

Pulling into the next little settlement

So we had a bit of fun going to all these little settlements delivering mail. We even got to deliver it ourselves.

Meredith, Nova and Nick delivering the mail

The captain was really interesting and funny and he told us all sorts of interesting things about the people and places around here. He was not a fan of John Key though, at one point calling him a “stupid ex-prime minister”.

Preparing to deliver some carpet
Delivering the carpet

One such place we delivered mail to was the Bay of Many Coves resort. I stayed here with five friends back on a February trip where the six of us walked the Queen Charlotte Track. It’s a real five-star place. Back then we did get told off for getting a bit drunk and making a lot of noise while jumping off the jetty in the evening, and also for cooking in our room (despite there being cooking elements present in the room). But they always referred to you by name there, and if you ask for something you need, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get it. For example, in other lodges if you ask for a certain cocktail they’ll just say “we don’t do that”. At Bay of Many Coves resort they will somehow make it happen.

Bay of Many Coves Resort getting their mail

It’s exclusive there because like everywhere else around here there’s no road access to it, but it’s also far enough off the Queen Charlotte Track that 98% of people who walk the track won’t reach it. It’s at least a 90 minute walk off the track, down a side track classed as “advanced tramping track”, so the majority of people wouldn’t bother.

Bay of Many Coves Resort. Between $1200 and $4200 per night for accommodation here.

Once at Ship Cove, I took a bit of time to explore around. In February we were straight into the walk but this time I went to have a look at the Captain Cook display.

Coming into Ship Cove
Captain Cook display

This oystercatcher was not happy about people being so close to its nest taking photos of the monument.

One bird I do know the name of….

I also did a 15 minute “waterfall walk” to go and see a waterfall. It was okay. It helped that there was a geocache there.

Waterfall with a geocache nearby

There was a school group there who had been to see the waterfall as well. I reckon I’ll pass them soon at some point – a big group of kids carrying their own stuff can’t walk that fast surely.

There were also weka around. These birds will appear suddenly out of the bush, grab whatever you have left lying around and run back into the bush with it. Someone a few weeks ago told me that someone left their passport on the seat beside them on a lunch break, and a weka grabbed it and ran into the bush with it. They never saw it again.

Don’t let these little blighters steal your stuff

A cruise ship was also here with people. I guess the highlight would have been the cruise itself and not Ship Cove as there really wasn’t that much here.

Cruise ship passengers – I don’t know how they get back to the ship

The boat arrived at Ship Cove at 3:30 but I didn’t start walking the main track until 4:10pm after seeing the display and the waterfall. I had booked into the “hikers cabin” at Furneaux Lodge, 15km from the start of the track, and I told them I’d be there at 7pm. I wasn’t too worried about being a bit late except that I didn’t want to miss dinner. So I did the next 15km quite fast.

Queen Charlotte Track information

There are markers to show you how far there is to go until Anakiwa.

71km to Anakiwa

4:10pm is definitely the latest Ive started walking on any day!

I have booked into the Furneaux Lodge for two nights already. The forecast for tomorrow is so bad that no way will I be walking anywhere tomorrow if it’s accurate. On the other hand if it’s not accurate and tomorrow is a beautiful day, I will be sitting around the lodge tomorrow for no reason.

Finally back on Te Araroa

It wasn’t too long before there were great views.

The view from one direction
The view from the other direction

At this point there was a bit of drizzle, so I put the pack cover on my bag. The little pull thing you pull on to tighten the cover immediately broke off. Come on, couldn’t that have happened while I was in Wellington?

At this point…

It didn’t really matter, it’s a 55 litre pack cover on a 60 litre pack, so it doesn’t really need tightening anyway. But I might get a new one over Christmas. It is hard to get a hi-viz pack cover in a 60 litre size but that’s not so important now that I’m in the South Island because there is hardly any road walking.

I can see a campsite…

When I was halfway there, I suddenly got a sharp stabbing pain in my back. It was so intense that I had to immediately stop, take off my pack and also my shirt, and see what had happened. It was in a very different place to the back pain I was having last week, and it was also a lot more concentrated in one very specific spot. I wondered if I had been stung by a bee or bitten by an insect. I had a look and couldn’t see anything. Whatever that was, I hope it doesn’t come back – that was scary.

I feel like I haven’t had an annoying song stuck in my head for a while now. It tends to happen when I’m on my own, I think. Today it was the old Tux dog food television commercial that most kiwis would recognise. “Tux keeps ’em full of life. Fit as a fiddle, sharp as a knife”. I think it was in my head because of the line “from Cape Reinga to The Bluff, only one feed that’s good enough”. What they don’t seem to realise is that to TA hikers, The Bluff is the campsite on Day 2, whereas the point at the bottom of the South Island is simply Bluff. So therefore Tux doesn’t have a very wide reach at all.

The first campsite is Schoolhouse Bay campsite, about 5 or 6km in. I saw Meredith and Nova there.

Meredith and Nova setting up camp

They had set up as far as possible away from the school group, who were also there.

The weather cleared again quickly after the tiny bit of rain earlier. It was looking very pleasant. Does that mean it’s going to be nice tomorrow? Have I made a mistake booking into Furneaux Lodge for two nights already without seeing the weather tomorrow first?

61km to Anakiwa. From memory these posts are every 5km. I must’ve missed the 66km one.

I continued on and about an hour and a half later reached Furneaux Lodge. Just before getting there there were a bunch of houses – they had no driveways (due to no road access) but did have boats in garages.

Houses with no driveways

I can see the Furneaux jetty now!

I checked in at 7:15pm, only a little bit late – and as luck would have it, I had the bunk room to myself. And it smelled really nice since it had a diffuser in it. The top bunk was really close to the bottom bunk though. I slept in the bottom bunk but scraped my head on the top bunk twice even though I knew this fact. And like often happens, there are no power outlets by the beds. Do people not factor this in when they design rooms?

Furneaux Lodge hiker’s accommodation
Coffee and hot chocolate-making station

The staff here were immediately very nice. The lady even offered to carry my stinky pack and shoes to the room for me, but no way was I going to let her do that.

The main Furneaux Lodge building

What I like about this place is that the staff are professional, but also really friendly and helpful and just normal people – it was just how I remembered it from when I stayed back in February. I got some dinner and the whole time I was eating the waiter was behind the bar telling the waitress “so I was like really and she was like yeah and I was like no way and she was like totally”. You wouldn’t have got that from the staff at the Bay of Many Coves 5-star resort.

The grounds

I got a three course dinner and also a drink. The food almost cost more than I paid for the room. The food was $62 and the room in the bunk room was $65.

Dinner – halloumi and eggplant burger, and cider
Dessert – chocolate tart with sour cherries

I also put my wet stuff in the drying room – a little room with a heater which felt a bit like a sauna. My stuff was wet from the humidity and walking the 15km so fast. Hopefully I won’t forget it’s there.

I went to sleep pretty soon after that. And not long after I was in bed the rain started pouring down – very fortunate timing indeed. It was nice to be wrapped up warm in bed. Looks like the forecast was right after all.

Not the best forecast for tomorrow. I also don’t like the use of the phrase “the north”. The north of what exactly?

Today's walk on the map (blue = Te Araroa, red = today's walk):

6 thoughts on “Day 82 – Ship Cove (South Island commencement) to Furneaux

  • Hi Matt,
    I’ve just started reading your blog a few weeks ago, so haven’t quite caught up yet. Just wondering, was the skipper on the mail boat from Picton called James? An older guy with big bushy eyebrows? I used to work with him at Milford and Doubtful Sounds (in the south).

      • Ah no, that’s not James. Looking forward to reading your blog when you get to my neck of the woods. It was interesting that you flew out of Queenstown on the Monday before lockdown, I had also just come out of the mountains after a three day trip in the Caples area (at the other end of Lake Wakatipu) and I couldn’t believe the craziness of the world, I can’t imagine what it would have been like after months in the wilderness. Hope you get to finish the last bit of the trail next summer, you’d be welcome to camp on my lawn if you made a side trip to Te Anau before hitting the Takitimus.

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