Losing track of time

The weka is an odd bird. With spindly legs, tubby body and a narrow, bobbing head, it picks its way through the New Zealand bush.

It is famously shy, but such is the tranquillity of the Queen Charlotte track that the odd, disconcerted weka may be the only creature you meet. Even at the height of New Zealand’s tourist season, you’ll be lucky to cross paths with half a dozen “trampers”, as New Zealanders call them, in the course of a day hiking on the 70km track along the Marlborough Sounds.

While not as famous as the Milford track in Fiordland, the Queen Charlotte has the advantage of being easier to reach and far less congested.

We caught a half-hour boat ride to a designer residence called the Bay of Many Coves Resort, set in the middle of the track where we hired a tastefully furnished one-bedroom cabin with glorious views.

Using the resort as a base, we took a water taxi to Ship Cove at the start of the track, the spot where Captain Cook and his crew first set foot on New Zealand in 1770.

The scenery has remained largely untouched since that time and the track is easily divided into three or four one-day walks, with campsites along the way for those willing to carry their own tent.

An alternative is to make a base and hop around on day trips using water taxis, or to have your luggage ferried ahead of you to accom- modation such as the Punga Cove Resort, which sits at the end of the third section on Camp Bay.

There are few things that can match a four-hour hike through rugged, native forest — ending with a jump off the end of a jetty to swim in the clear water.

You can also follow the track by kayak or mountain bike. Going by paddle boat was certainly harder work especially when the wind got up in the afternoon. But being able to retire to our cabin and listen to the waves and the native birds, before wandering down to the resort’s excellent restaurant for dinner, somehow made it much easier. — Â

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