The day started quite slowly.
Woke up a bit excited because of the girl on my couch, but also because this most likely would be the day I would start the trail!
After a fine breakfast with Emmanuelle, we decided to do some groceries and when walking around we discussed her backpack; it was very creative, but more or less a 40KG punching bag with straps made onto it - homemade padding from a towel to try to prevent it cutting her shoulders while wearing it. When she told me she was also going to do some hiking with it, I had to laugh and we both were convinced that wasn't going to be possible; so I helped her pick one out of the not too large collection in the Picton Fish & Hunt store; a real "mom & pop store", lovely people.
A bit later we said our goodbyes as Emma needed to catch a bus to Nelson at the ferry station.
Because I wasn't sure if I could still get a taxi to Ship Cove I wandered around the harbour a bit, but luckily for me there was quite some action at the desk of Beechcomber Cruises, so I decided to go in and ask.
They had one trip left today that went all the way to Ship Cove so I bought a ticket right there right then. Because it was still some hours to go, I picked me a bench in the shade overlooking the nice marina of Picton. Compared to the inner village the marina is such a modern place, beautiful to sit and gaze over the waters, watch boats come and go, hear the seagulls and little kids chasing them off the green grass.
Finally it was getting close to leaving time and I was getting a bit nervous...
But I did really love this "One Way" on my ticket...
We got some words of safety before we boarded and off we went!
During the boat trip we made several stops, apparently I was on the 'mail-boat'. Maneuvering through the Sounds, around corners into bays and some mussel plants. It was interesting to see people living all the way out there, no roads, no cars, just a boat to get away.
We were also lucky to see some dolphins alongside the boat, I personally never saw them that close in the wild, so I took some shots while seeing them swimming playfully along.
Finally we arrived at Ship Cove. Weather was looking worse and worse, even had some rain just before landing. Ship Cove has a monument to Captain James Cook (who landed there in 1770 to resupply) and my boat-companions we're allowed to go off-board and walk around, take some pictures, stretch the legs etc. The captain of the boat told every one to be back, unless you had a one-way ticket. Looking around, I thought I was the only one to hop off so I felt excited. The captain also made a nice comment about the weka's, he first told about them like they were incredible scary creatures that bite you and you should keep your hands and limbs close to you while near them... That got me scared a bit, was he for real?
He told us it was a joke finally and told a story of a woman trying to make a picture of one, and the weka took her camera and ran off with it... So if we saw a weka (with a camera) he would return it to the woman.
Still had no clue what kind of creatures these weka's would be, but sure, I'd find out myself.
I took a stroll to the monument, but it was getting late already and I'd reckon I just check it out and move along. I started walking up the hill soon, the start of my adventure. Moving up the hill and hearing the people down below, the weird calls of birds not anything like home, the sound of the Sounds getting a bit damped by all the lush green, almost jungle-esque for my dutch eyes.
Up the muddy slopes of the trail, yellow clay-like ground that had like a 2cm layer of wet slippery on top due to the rain of the afternoon. The trail looked pretty okay though, wide and not too steep.
Halfway up the hill I heard the boat leave, it was nice, I was looking forward to the isolation.
At the first lookout the trail went down again and before going up again I passed the first possible camping spot (Schoolhouse Bay Campsite). I was only about an hour in, so thought it would be a bit silly to already stop walking. Next to that I just wanted to see more of this trail!
What was that sound rustling through the bushes, some kind of bird? Chickens? Do they have wild chickens here? Hmm, it's more like a duck, or well. When I was walking I usually came around a corner seeing this wild chicken/duck thing rush off into the bushes off-trail.
As I got down on a knee it tried to curiously investigate me and my backpack, walking towards me and snapping at my camera! Could this be the creature the boat captain had told me about?
I quickly took some shots but as it was in the dark bush, and cloudy they were quite difficult to shoot. Also the animals move in quick bursts of movement...
As I continued there were lots of other birds twirling over your head, sometimes big birds fleeing the scene as I came into their view.
Interesting to walk into this busy life of even busier birds I must say.
At the second opportunity, which you had to book in advance, I just kept moving. At the third, it was getting a bit dark already, also cause of heavy cloud cover, and I was quite sweaty and my face was wet from the rain. Hungry and hmm people around!
The trail went up and down but mostly you were walking a bit on the hillside, with lodges and cottages between you and the water. When it really became time to find a camping site I was near Furneaux Lodge. As I was getting hungry and a bit tired, I thought, let's just ask about the camping spots at this lodge.
I came into the lodge's bar, where people were having a great time. Watching sports on TV, beer in one hand, some peanuts in the other, they stared at me coming in. Soaking wet from sweat and rain and definitely not from there...
The girl at the bar did tell me what I already knew, there should be a 'Miners Camp' pretty close. So I ordered a Large black coffee to go (which was extremely hot) and went on my way again, feeling a bit ashamed of this appearance.
When I came at the Miners Camp, there was a closed gate and not a really clear sign like 'Camp Here!'. I entered the gate and couldn't really see any sign of life, nor a proper camping spot. Just wet grass and a trail leading somewhere. As I was new to campsites and I had too many questions about them, and it was still raining, I decided to keep going and hopefully find a spot near the trail where I could setup the tent.
But finding a spot near the trail seemed more difficult than I had anticipated. The trail was this hollowed out, slippery clay-like muddy trench, through just bush-like little trees and ferns. Finally I found a spot, climb up 1 meter out of the trench and yes, a tree had been cut down here or something.
I removed some branches and started setting up the tent as quickly as I could. The wind was not helping me, I really had a hard time getting the thing set up. Only my second time pitching this tent (preparation...), but I finally managed while keeping the use of a torch to a minimum. Since I had this crazy fear that I would have been sent away if someone saw me pitching the tent on that spot.
I got into the tent and cooked my meal (inside of it, which I heard later on was the most silly thing to do). Then I just tried to sleep, which took ages. The sounds of branches, twigs and stuff hitting the tent and the squeaking of the tree next to me, swaying in the wind. I dozed off but later in the night I was awake again, hearing all sorts of noises, yet the wind had calmed a bit. In the distance I heard some bird yelling a bit like a siren, and you could hear it move past in the distance. Every time the wind picked up you'd hear it more evidently. Also heard some sniffing animals near the tent. Could have been the weka's!
But finally again, exhausted by the day, caught some sleep.