Nov 7 day 68 Furneaux Lodge to Portage Bay DeBretts Backpackers 34 km 8:00-4:00
There is something about the familiarity of this area that makes me both happy and nostalgic. I hiked the Queen Charlotte over ten years ago, and also parts of it a few years back with my colleague Greg. It is New Zealand tramping at its most civilized– well-maintained trail, many possible accommodations, and food available at most points during the day. Had a late start (at least for a possible 35 km day) because the bed was so comfortable and then I made coffee and sat out on the lawn watching the morning come in. Once again the weather was perfect and the morning tramp cool and pleasant. Mid-morning I arrived at Punga Cove, another place that made me smile, and had a late breakfast or an early lunch. It was there that I learned about the special pass you have to buy now to hike the Queen Charlotte (18$). It is the only New Zealand trail you have to pay to hike, the result of a couple of landowners who got together to deny access without recompense. Background is important here: there are thousands of kilometers of trails in New Zealand and many if not most cross private land at some points. Those passages are always well posted and trampers have to exercise caution around livestock, close gates, show respect, but landowners allow the access and put up with the nuisance because it is all part of what makes New Zealand the country that it is. There are fees to pay for staying in hut and campsites, but never to hike except now on QCT, which is, because of the fee, no longer one of the NZ Great Walks, a designation that carries a lot of prestige and economic growth to the area. The people who run lodges and campgrounds are very disappointed. It turns out the landowners causing all this turmoil are American. Arrrggh! I didn’t let it spoil my day, though I gritted my teeth every time I saw a sign for the QCTLC, as they labeled everything in that section — benches, picnic tables, etc., as if that generosity makes up for their avarice and failure to understand the country they have chosen to live (or at least own land) in. From Cove to Portage bay was a long but not difficult walk. My feet were tired when I found a bed at DeBretts Hostel, a place full of cyclists for the weekend. Wandered down to the hotel for fish and chips and a pint. Satisfying day.