Day 151 (Mon 19 April): Anakiwa to Portage bay
Started 8.20am, finished 1.50pm, 20k.
Pain in the head status: I thought the migraine might be moving on today but it turned out it was just moving position and settling in to the other side of my head. It was an uncomfortable travelling companion but I was grateful for the easy track, the cool bush and the beautiful weather, which meant this unwanted hanger-on was more bearable.
Word of the day: Anfractuous, winding or circuitous.
We set off once again under calm blue skies and commenced the final stage of our journey, the Queen Charlotte track, which we planned to do in four days, leaving time to catch a water taxi to Picton and fly home to Wellington on the fourth day. The track was undulating, as we would expect from a coastal walk in Aotearoa, and also anfractuous, winding around the limbs of land that jutted out into the sea. Apparently, the Marlborough Sounds is the only place in Aotearoa that is sinking into the ocean rather than being ground upwards by tectonic plate movement and was once a system of river valleys.
After a couple of hours, we began to pass walkers and cyclists going the other way – the ‘normal’ way to walk this track – the way you go if you want to have your packs ferried from place to place so you can have a leisurely stroll with a day pack. We were definitely the freaks going against the flow and lugging all our gear, but even so, a lot of the people we passed were slower and sweatier than I was, even with a migraine. This is definitely a walk marketed as an ‘easier’ tramping track that might catch some people by surprise if they were not used to hill walking.
The beauty of the walk was being able to peer down at the many bays along the coast and watch the boats circle around, even sighting the ferry to Picton. There were more picnic tables and seats than on the entire Te Araroa trail.
We reached Portage Bay in good time and checked in to Portage Lodge, as part of our commitment to finishing the trail in style, luxury and hygiene. I hand washed my underwear for the last time and they dried out on the balcony of our room, which had views over the bay. We finished off the day with a meal at the lodge restaurant that was plentiful in fresh vegetables. That made up for the potato wedges and ice cream we’d had earlier.
Day 152 (Tues 20 April): Portage bay to Punga Cove
Started 8.20am, finished 2.45pm, 24k.
Pain in the head status: The migraine continued to be a painful nuisance all day. It seemed almost fitting to end this tramping experience with a migraine, almost as if my head wanted to reintegrate me back into the reality of recurrent, resistant and unpredictable pain, which I’ve had a hiatus from. But it finally lifted in the night, after a snooze before dinner and a good sleep after.
Word of the day: Ephemereal, transitory/lasting only a few days.
The ephemeral sunshine was replaced by clouds today but it was still a very benign temperature with no wind. I have to admit I spent most of the day in a state of zoned out mindlessness, not paying a great deal of attention to my surroundings. My excuse was the migraine and that I’ve walked this track before although my memory of it was imperfect.
I did notice plenty more sightings of sparkling bays below us, as we were mostly high up on a ridge, walking through exotic pine trees and seeing lots of dead trees in the regenerating native forest where the wilding pines have been sprayed. Hat off to the local community who are leading the charge against the wilding pines and doing their best to support the native trees but it will be generations if not centuries before this bush looks anything like it was before it was burnt off in the 1800s. We also spotted some of the mussel farms that export those thousands of green lipped mussels around the world.
We ate our final lunchtime wraps (with cheese) while listening to a vigorous family dispute about whether ‘undulating’ was an adjective used to describe a track or whether it could be applied as a verb to a person’s actions (e.g. ‘let’s go and do some undulating’). The dispute was unresolved by the time they packed up and pushed their bikes up the undulating trail but undoubtedly provided conversation for several kilometres.
We continued down the undulating trail to Punga Cove to continue luxuriating in creature comforts such as pillows, sheets and hot water at the lodge there.
I was thinking during the day that pain not only negatively affects one’s cognitive faculties but also severely saps one’s sense of humour. Then a podcast arrived in my ear buds about humour, with the shocking revelation that the average four year old laughs 300 times a day but it takes the average 40 year old over two months to laugh that much. Our levity takes a nose dive around our mid-20s, according to the researcher being interviewed. I resolved to watch some comedy as soon as we got back to Wellington.