Here at Wilderlife, we’re collating Victoria’s diaries, photos and videos into a digest. Each post spans a section of Te Araroa between major towns and rest days. 

Walking with her seven-year-old daughter Emilie, together they are raising funds for Federated Mountain Clubs and telling stories about the mental health benefits of time spent in the wild places of NZ, as well as the importance of protecting those areas for future generations to enjoy.

Queen Charlotte Track:  Part II

Camp Cove to Havelock

Day 48:  19 December 2021

Camp Bay to Black Rock Shelter (20 kms/7.5 hrs)

It’s hot!

The birds were awake well before us, but by 5:30am I was up packing our gear and we were on the track by 6:50am. The sun was already out and I wanted to cover some distance before it became unbearable. Even though it was still early, the climb up the hill was hot and sweaty.



We powered along, enjoying spectacular views of brilliant blue and green as we passed Deep Bay and the Bay of Many Coves.

The track was busy compared to the relative solitude of the previous days. We stopped for snacks at the Bay of Many Coves shelter and spent some peaceful moments watching a family of weka bustle about in the undergrowth.



We powered along, enjoying spectacular views of brilliant blue and green as we passed Deep Bay and the Bay of Many Coves.



We reached Black Rock shelter by 1:30pm, burning hot and tired, gazing wistfully at the sparking blue waters several hundred metres below, yet unable to muster the motivation to continue to Cowshed Bay campsite.



Although the wind was picking up, it was quiet and peaceful up here and I wanted to lie down as my head was throbbing.

Once she saw that I was out of action, Emilie played around the campsite by herself and I lay down, wincing with pain, contemplating the uneasy relationship modern society, or perhaps Pakeha society, seems to have with nature.

It’s as though we just don’t understand our place in it, or that we even have a place. For so many people, nature is something to placate, to spectate, to photograph, to poke and watch it move, or to conquer in some feat of physical endurance, then to turn away from, back to our creature comforts.

Not so many people seem comfortable just being in nature. Yesterday I observed a young couple arrive at the campground, flushed with the effort of walking (their packs arrived on the water taxi). They then chose to sit and watch a movie on their phones.

The group of teenage boys on a Duke of Edinburgh mission set up camp then sat to play cards, their backs to the scenery, loud voices scaring away the songbirds.

I lay squinting up at the low canopy of mānuka scrub, watching the way it moved with the wind. I suppose different shaped leaves create different noises when the wind moves through them; altogether an orchestra culminating in a low roar.

I suppose if we have a place in nature, it’s our role as advocates and guardians. Otherwise our natural world would get along pretty fine without our interference.

Day 49:  20 December 2021

Black Rock Shelter – Mistletoe Bay

This morning a korimako sat in a tree right above our tent and called out to the sun. I’ve never heard one up so close. It felt like a wonderful gift and privilege to be witness to this little bird’s morning ritual.

As I listened to its intricate orchestra of clicks and whistles, a warm feeling of bliss spread through my sleepy body. I turned my head to look at Emilie and she was awake too! We locked eyes and smiled quietly, sharing this joyful moment.

The first rays of orange light spread through the mānuka bush as the sun rose above the ridgeline of the sounds. We headed off around 7:30am, not as speedy as yesterday, but determined to cover some distance before the heat of the day made walking unbearable.



As usual, Emilie started the day out strong, forever the storyteller, this time drawing inspiration from the family of weka we had watched wandering around the campsite.

Her story revolved around mother and father weka caring for their two little ones. I rose to my role as the enthusiastic listener, suggesting ideas to develop the story further.

Geez this kid was cute – her messy little pigtails with her too-big hat dipped over her face, stomping along and waving her hiking poles with enthusiasm.



Today’s conversations ranged far and wide, from the plants and animals we observed to our feelings. We told stories and analyzed the rationale behind the characters’ behavior.

Emilie is currently reading Joy Cowley’s delightful Snake and Lizard chapter book, full of love, arguments and the type of drama you’d expect from two very different reptiles determined to be friends. I notice it’s the stories where the two argue profusely and then make up that she loves the best.

But why does Lizard tell Snake not to do that when he does it too!? Do you think Lizard is mean for saying that to Snake? Who do you like better? I quite enjoy referring to these characters when we discuss our own feelings and behaviours, as it seems ‘Savage Seven’ is the coming of age of self-awareness, as well as big bursts of hormones. She can go from sweet to savage very quickly as emotion whips through her.



Yesterday we were talking about feelings and got to a place where she told me sometimes her heart felt black and that’s why she spoke to me in a mean way. When I offered a cuddle, she said yes. Then later she snarled at me again and when asked, said her heart felt “like a happy rainbow, so there.” I retreated to a safe distance to let her blow off some steam. Parenting is tough, aye?! And Trail parenting is bloody hard work.


Day 50:  December 21 2021

Mistletoe Bay – Davies Bay (10 km)

This morning’s dawn chorus was accompanied by strong winds and gusts of rain. But we still got up and packed, hanging the tent fly out to dry over breakfast. Our sense of urgency seemed to dwindle as the weather cleared, and by the time we walked into Davies Bay it was a glorious, golden day. The crystal blue water was deceptively cold and after ten minutes of splashing about like seal pups, our teeth were chattering so we hauled out onto the grass to warm up.

Somehow time slipped away until it was 3:30 and neither of us felt like leaving this beautiful place and anyway, we didn’t need to get to Havelock today. We set up the tent in a quiet corner of the bay and went back into the water, this time we were marine biologists on a mission to explore.

The magic of low tide was all around us, a symphony of tiny movement within the soft muddy sands. If you were still and watched closely, you could see the shallow water teeming with crabs, so many shapes and sizes – hermit crabs rocketing across the seabed, mud crabs sizing each other up, a drift of reddish brown seaweed turning out to be a camouflage crab with humorously long limbs and beanstalk eyes.

We held hands and wandered further out, cold water passing the tops of our thighs, the sunlight reflecting off the ripples and casting shadows on the seabed. Translucent schools of mullet darted and twisted around us.

“If you stand really still” I whispered to Emilie, “they’ll forget we’re here.”

So we stood, holding our breath as they flickered closer and closer. Dark slits and gritty underfoot turned out to be clams, large pen shell clams with their deep tap root buried into the mud, as well as smaller, rounder shellfish not dissimilar to the tuatua we’d seen on Ninety Mile Beach.

We eventually wandered through the water to the far side of the bay. The rocks hid slithering gangs of half crabs with huge pinchers disproportionate to the rest of their little bodies. More hermit crabs rocketed around in the shallows, the most charismatic of all the crabs with their funny gait and little pop eyes. Some sort of sea snail was also cruising around at a surprising speed and as I sat, toes dangling in the water, a small sea star made its way up onto my foot.

I love the magic of low tide. It summons up all kinds of warm memories – the marvel of exploring rock pools for tiny marine treasures with my brother, long ago when there seemed to be only us in the world.

I hope I can pass this feeling of joy and wonder on to my daughter.


Day 51:  December 22 2021

Davies Bay to Havelock (20 kms/8 hrs)

It’s 9:30pm and I’m lying on top of the covers with a damp face cloth draped over part of my body because it’s too hot to sleep.

It would probably be way cooler in our tent, but we’d opted to stay in the Backpacker’s. We might as well make the most of their facilities to scrub ourselves up and wash our clothes before heading on to Pelorus and the start of the Richmond Ranges section tomorrow.

Emilie is sleeping on the single bed on the other side of the room and I can hear her heavy breathing from here.

She walked eight hours today in the sweltering heat, over 20kms from Davies Bay all the way through to Havelock. It was tough going. The wind came up and the sun beat relentlessly, scalding the backs of our legs.



As the day grew on and the thermostat rose, Emilie slowed down, signs of distress showing in her little pink face. We stopped for breaks, gulped water and I rearranged her pack and took her heavy gear in my own. At one point I soaked our washcloth in a tiny stream and applied it to the backs of our necks, our sweaty faces, arms, chests. Anywhere to try to cool us down and get respite from that heat.



And now, in an upstairs room, we’re quietly sweltering while the cool night air passes by outside.

But it’s nice to be clean. We have space to reorganize our gear and grab a few hours of downtime before our next mission – the Pelorus River track to the start of the Richmond Ranges, which will bring us out at St Arnaud in maybe ten days’ time.


Victoria and Emilie are walking the Te Araroa over the 21/22 summer season. They are raising funds and telling stories about the mental health benefits of time spent in the wild places of NZ, as well as the importance of protecting those areas for future generations to enjoy.  To see all their stories, visit and follow them @adventures_with_emilie on Instagram and Facebook.

90% of the funds raised are donated evenly between the Mental Health Foundation and the Federated Mountain Clubs of NZ Mountain & Forest Charitable Trust. 10% is going towards some of the expenses of walking the trail.

If you’d like to help them out, please donate via their give a little page.