Queen Charolette Track

Coming off the ferry the van has changed its mind and is unwilling to start. It’s also shoved against the side of the hull and so we need several people to push this heavy thing out a little so we can open the compartment where the battery is. Of course, the people in their cars are just pouring off the boat until all that is left is one old man waving at me to move my vehicle. I finally get him to come over and he radios for help to get it out.

At the last stop at the Warehouse I’ve also bought booster (jumper) cables so after we get a few more of the staff over to shove it away from the wall I hook it up to an idling truck and it starts, the staff starts to leave, it stalls, I jump out and yell at them to come back, jump it again and finally get off the ferry and checked in to a very nice hotel, perhaps the best in Picton. We deserve it.

Arrangements are made to take a mail boat up to the beginning of the Queen Charolette track and spend two nights out. We take long showers, do laundry and watch DVDs out of the hotel’s extensive collection.

The van won’t start in the morning and I can’t get the manager to give it a jump. Instead he calls the best garage in town to help, or at least so says he. The guys who come out get it running and say the choke is stuck on and that’s why it smokes.

When we go over later the engine is cleaned, and the owner starts going over some things with me. It leaks because a cooling hose to the radiator has come detached. There is silicone caulking around the rocker panel and it needs a new seal. These are made out of cork and are breathable, so the caulking is not stopping a leak, but is not really good for the engine. We leave it with him and go on our walk.

Once again, being in nature resets our attitudes into a pleasantness not encountered in the van nor when surrounded by people in bustling cities. We befriend the boat driver and he starts selling us on the area. He has to cut it short because one of the passengers has fallen gravely ill. After checking her condition and giving her a sickness bag, he turns the craft around. She collapses on the dock and it makes me think it might be much more severe than just sea sickness.

We get going late and with the first day being 27 kilometers long it’s going to be tiring. Not too bad though because we’ve decided to pay the extra ten bucks for pack transport and only have our day packs on us, with yummy food waiting for our arrival and it’s a gorgeous walk.

We do pass out early but wake up in the dark to a possum rustling through our stuff. Unfortunately, a plastic bag has been left out with a tantalizing sent for the possum nose to investigate. I chase him off and bring the bag inside our tent and go back soundly asleep.

The second day is a little shorter than the first and goes up to a ridge line. It overlooks farms and harvested forests and is not quite as nice as the first day. Our bags are at the hostel and we have to hike down the hill to get them.

We meet the mechanic out with his kids at the hostel. When he leaves the manager states he’s the best around. It’s also the second time we hear the story of how he escaped Zimbabwe and by the end, he mentions it, too.

Our bags are late arriving and we sink into the picnic benches on the front porch drinking milkshakes, talking to some fellow hikers. Two women from Sweden are so sunburned it hurts to look at them. Another hiker is a guy called Hallel from Israel, now living in Paris. He works for Johnson & Johnson and came out for a meeting, extending his trip to do most of the Great Walks while he’s down here. It looks like he’s with his girlfriend but he tells us it’s another Israelite who approached him on the boat and they decided to meet up at the end of each day to chat.

Even with the rain the third day is the best. The views are stunning from the ridge. It’s mostly native forest, with many stands of Beech trees. We talk about explorers and what their encounters might have been like with native people. At the end of it all we go to a little café with Hallel. Sitting there are the two Swedish women and it turns out they are doctors. Seems they would’ve taken better care of their skin, then. And they look so young!

We’re chatting about when the boats are due to arrive, theirs earlier than ours. So we’re relaxed when I look over and see their boat come in. The girls don’t move. We wonder aloud what the time is, and if that might be their boat. They hustle off in a hurry, cutting off any goodbyes. We wait for our boat and it’s a little late in arriving.

As soon as we get back I hustle to the auto shop to pick up the van. He tells me the battery wouldn’t stay charged so he checked the alternator. It was bad beyond the ability to rebuild, so he puts in a new one. This is also in the circuit with the choke, so it now does not smoke as a side benefit. He made the decision because it was impossible to reach us on the hike, so I pay for it and take off to pick up Erica who is waiting at the dock with our bags.