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The Queen Charlotte Track; Published by New Zealand Mountain Bike Magazine Dec 2008

March, 2009

Ship Cove to Anakiwa, Marlborough Sounds, NZ

If there is such a thing as the ultimate cross-country mountain bike ride, then surely the Queen Charlotte Track has to be up there with the best that NZ can offer

“While the Queen Charlotte Track is regarded as a classic New Zealand walk, it is also regarded as New Zealand's best single track mountain bike ride” After two months of patiently counting down the days to our three-day adventure waiting for us in New Zealand’s south island, the day had finally come.

The Queen Charlotte Track (QCT) offers a very unique riding experience. Firstly, it takes three days to complete, making it an ideal long weekend getaway. Secondly, you will be thrust headlong into one of NZ’s most beautiful geographic wildernesses. Thirdly, the QCT offers something to all kinds of mountain bikers irrespective of skill and discipline.

Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a full on DH rebel – there will be riding to suit everybody’s tastes on this northern tip of New Zealand’s south island. The track stretches between Queen Charlotte and Keneperu sounds. It is 71-km in length from the start point at the histpric Ship Cove to the finish in Anakiwa and offers stunning views along the skyline, coastal forests and historic bays.

My NZ riding buddy, Julian and I took a very leisurely three days to complete the route from Ship Cove to Anakiwa but there are riders that do it in two days straight.

Day 1 | Ship Cove to Punga Cove

The QCT starts from Ship Cove, to get there from Picton requires the services of the Endeavour Express water taxi, phone +64 3 573 545. The regular service departs Picton for Punga Cove and Endeavour Resort daily.

From the back breaking climb out of Ship Cove we follow the skyline for 25km around Resolution Bay and into the Endeavor Inlet, our reward for the climb is the fast flowing single-track carving it’s way along the spine of the Charlotte Sound. A welcoming beer at the Furneaux Lodge is a must and even more of a must is attempting to ride the wire bridge a short distance after!

The decent in to Punga Cove is a rooty slippery roller coaster of a ride which can really test even the most advanced mountain biker. We hired a twin chalet at Punga Cove resort, there is a great restaurant and the view from the bar deck is simply breathtaking – right on the sounds!

Julian on the Queen Charlotte Track, Day 2

The next day starts with a steep climb out to Keneperu Saddle to get you set for the toughest riding of the three days. The landscape becomes more exposed as we approach 450m in height throughout the course of the day. The views high up on the ridge offer great vistas of the sounds, both north and south and of the track which lies ahead.

The rain can and did creep in, so it is a good idea to pack waterproof jackets and gloves because the temperature can also drop suddenly. Tight twisty single track weaves it’s way up and down the ridges making it a long but rewarding day.

The highlight of the second day is undoubtedly the descent into Portage. From Black Rock shelter, a popular place to meet with other cyclist and exchange the odd yarn about the track, the trail continues to climb a little before dropping like a stone into Portage Bay. The super fast single track seems to go on forever, weaving, accelerating, braking, pedalling, and dropping in this on going cycle.

Day 2 | En route to Portage

We opted to camp on the second day, pitching a tent at Cowshed Bay campground. The local Weka birds are not shy when it comes to tourists on their patch. One such bird tried with near success to steal Julian’s bike from right in front of him! The camp ground has toilet facilities and a water tank - you can use the bar/restuarant at the Portage Resort, there is even a shop to stock up on Gatorade and lollies for the final day’s riding!

The resort in Portage is very polular with weddings and receptions and gets booked up early so to secure a room you should book well in advance.

Day 3 | Portage to Anakiwa

Our final day starts with the toughest climb of the three days. By now I am starting to feel tired and the climb is slippery after the rain fall the day before. The trail is like clay under foot and each step forward throws you half a step back, it’s pretty hard work. The tyres just can’t grip in this mud and I have to walk out, no surprise to my Kiwi riding pals as I do have a reputation as a great walker on the mountain bike trails!

As you drop into Waterfall Bay and on to Anakiwa through the sheltered pine forests you feel like you are flying, the helter skelter ride that is this part of the ride just rocks! We had smiles for miles with the fastest single track of the weekend ahead of us. This ride is just so much fun! Racing through the pine forests and skimming my way around the single track I forgot about the world outside, the office and the city.

You really do feel a million miles away, maybe because of the water taxi making the QCT just ever so slightly out of reach for the hoards of mountain bikers to get to. May be because the views are out of this world or the riding is just so dam good. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t really matter; the QCT should go down as one of the top NZ legendary tracks

Map and Distances

Full Story: Download the full Story from New Zealand Mountain Bike Magazine here

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"They say the journey can be more important than the destination, in mountain biking there is no destination, just a bike, a rider and a place to ride"