By Phoebe Squire

After four years of completing our Duke of Edinburgh awards, myself and four others from Wellington East Girls’ College, along with our award leader, Deb, set off for the Marlborough Sounds to walk the Queen Charlotte Track for our Gold Qualifying tramp. 

It was a beautiful sunny day when the six of us took the ferry from Wellington to Picton to begin our journey. Our spirits were high as we hopped on a water taxi to Ship’s Cove, the starting point of the Queen Charlotte Track. On our first day, our plan was to walk from Ship’s Cove to Schoolhouse Bay to stay the night, and we were looking forward to a short two hour tramp. We managed to tackle the unexpected steep climb, which made the view at the top of the saddle so worth it. 

At Schoolhouse Bay, we set up our tents right in front of the ocean and then soon experienced the true peskiness of wekas. It was a real mission to ensure that we were always watching our belongings, and making sure to never leave anything unattended. By the time we left Schoolhouse Bay the next morning, the only item the wekas had nicked was a sandwich. 

Photo credit: Grace Buur

On Day 2, we walked seven hours and 22 km from Schoolhouse Bay to Camp Bay. We enjoyed walking along the ocean and the track was reasonably flat. However, from Day 2 onwards, we encountered what I would say was our greatest challenge throughout the tramp, blisters! The undulation and hard surface of the majority of the track resulted in all of us flying through our limited supply of blister plasters and sheep’s wool. In the end, we all had to resort to strapping tape to limit any more blisters. 

By the time we made it to Camp Bay, the sun had come out and some of us jumped off the campsite jetty for a nice, refreshing swim. Later that evening, we went in search of phosphorescence in the ocean which was sadly unsuccessful; however, we found glowworms glittering like stars on the cliffside, which was amazing!

Photo credit: Grace Buur

On Day 3, we left Camp Bay bright and early to get started on our most challenging day yet – 23 km of steep climbs on a burning hot day. One of my main struggles was rationing my limited water to last throughout the day since we were never sure when we would next encounter a water supply. 

Day 3 also tested our fitness as we battled steep uphills and we had to learn how to communicate with each other when someone would fall behind. We came up with a system of stopping for a quick breather after every 20 minutes or so during the most strenuous parts, just to make sure we weren’t too separated from each other. We had morning tea at Eatwells Lookout, which provided a breathtaking view of the whole Queen Charlotte Sound. 

Photo credit: Isabella Hargreaves

By the time we reached Cowshed Bay after eight long hours of walking, we were all overjoyed to finally reach the campsite. We all enjoyed risotto for our last dinner after a tiring, but rewarding day. 

Photo credit: Phoebe Squire

Gales had been blowing all night and it was raining heavily by the time we set off for Day 4, our last day of walking, not long after 7am. We encountered the most strenuous obstacle of the whole journey, which was our final hill. It took us an hour and a half to walk about 4 km uphill, rising over 400 meters in elevation, in muddy and wet conditions. 

My whole group and I sped through the last 4 km across Te Mahia saddle. We dropped down to Mistletoe Bay in record time, meaning that we had officially completed our four day tramp. After a quick swim, we caught the water taxi back to Picton, before catching the ferry back home that evening, tired but happy. 

Photo credit: Phoebe Squire

Tramping the Queen Charlotte Track was an amazing experience. The scenery was so beautiful and despite the challenges, we all had a really great time. I really loved the opportunity to bond with my group and to see more of Aotearoa. 

We’re delighted to share another trip report from recent recipients of FMC’s Youth Award Grant. These grants are awarded four times a year, so if you’re inspired to get some financial support, head over to FMC’s website to apply.