The Queen Charlotte Track: Building Confidence and Breaking Down


The Queen Charlotte Track, New Zealand

My transport and accommodation for the Queen Charlotte Track were provided by the Marlborough Sounds Adventure Company, as part of Tourism New Zealand’s Explore Media program.

“How are you feeling?” 

Dave eyed me nervously as I strapped on my daypack, wincing under the weight of three kilograms of dried apricots.

“Yeah. Pretty good” I replied, masking my nerves with a giggle. “How hard can it be?”

With a quick glance at the sign marking the start of the walk, I took a deep breath, remembered how well I’d done with the Tongariro Crossing and began to psych myself up for the walk ahead of me.

I can do this. 

The first hour is always the toughest.

I struggle to switch off completely, to stop mentally composing email responses and Facebook updates, to stop wanting to instantly share photos of the beautiful place I’m visiting and to switch off that deep emotional attachment I have to napping. I struggle to fight the urge to stop walking, lie on the ground and sleep.

With so little hiking experience, it takes even longer to overcome The Blerch that constantly lumbers along behind me, grabbing at my ankles and grasping for my throat. Anything to stop me moving.

The first hour is always the toughest.

queen charlotte cloudy

Ten minutes passed and I found myself panting frantically through gritted teeth. My side was throbbing and sweat was rolling down my forehead and into my eyes.

I glanced down at the information pack I’d been given before the hike. On the map, today had looked flat and easy. It was casually undulating.

My calves disagreed.

My inner demon took control once more as the thought of jumping in a water taxi and being whizzed along to our accommodation filled me with indescribable happiness.

But I can do this!

Can’t I?

After having spent the past few weeks babbling excitedly to anyone who’d listen about my new-found athletic ability, I couldn’t give up 10 minutes in. All I had spoken about about to Dave was hiking and loving it and desperately wanting to do more.

Hmmm….

I wasn’t yet ready to confess my struggles and so I remained silent, attempting to breathe quietly through my rapidly flaring nostrils. As I listened to the boys ramble on about technology and gadgets and how Apple products suck, I felt myself slowly falling into the rhythmic trance that makes all the difference.

Queen Charlotte Track scenery

A wave of relief washed over me when I saw the path finally levelling out ahead.  The gentle stroll uphill that had been mentioned in our information pack had been, in fact, an enormous mountain of hell.

Just ask my burning calves.

But it was over now.

The rest of the walk was flat and easy and I was now able to start enjoying the sub-tropical fern-filled forest scenery that New Zealand is so famous for.

Five hours later, we turned a corner, our accommodation finally in sight.

We had made it.

The first day was over and I was feeling surprisingly good about the following one.

Queen Charlotte Track scenery

I rolled out of bed, groaning loudly as my calves began to throb and cramp.

Perhaps yesterday hadn’t been quite as easy as I’d thought.

My legs were sore and tight and tired and I wasn’t looking forward to the 11 kilometres of walking I’d have to do today.

I battled my demons once more for the first hour before settling into an even pace. I spent much of the hike feeling as if I was wandering through the tropics rather than in New Zealand. The scenery was all turquoise waters, sandy beaches, rainforest, waterfalls and thick cable-like vines.

The Queen Charlotte Track, New Zealand

It happened after lunch.

After taking a quick break to snack on some apricots, I stood up only to find myself howling in pain and falling back down, gasping as my left leg began to spasm. I pulled myself back up again, struggling to stand upright, pain shooting through my calf.

“Something is wrong with me!” I screeched in horror as I fell back to the path, clutching at my leg. “Something weird is happening to my leg!”

The guys stared at me in bewildered bemusement as I writhed on the floor in agony.

I had seriously injured myself.

With roughly an hour left until we would be finishing the day of hiking, I was convinced I was going to have to be carried to our accommodation.

“It’s probably just a tight muscle, stretch it out a bit,” Dave suggested.

Clawing my way up a tree I pushed firmly against it, attempting to stretch out my calf behind me, cringing as it made the pain worse.

I didn’t know what to do.

And so I put on a brave face, pretended it was better and started limping after Dave, shaking my leg as I went.

The remaining hour of the hike stretched into two and yet, while I was in a great deal of pain, all I could feel was disappointment.

I wouldn’t be able to hike the final day.

I had failed.

I had let myself down. 

As I stumbled up to our accommodation for the night, I had no idea what the following day would hold. Could I really manage a 25 kilometre hike when I was already this broken?

Could I heal myself with a few more dried apricots and a good night’s sleep?

22 Comments

  1. October 11, 2013
    Reply

    We are currently in Nepal getting ready to head out on some kind of multi-day trek, possibly the Annapurna Circuit, which is more accurately categorized as a multi-WEEK trek so I feel your pain figuratively here, but will undoubtedly feel it literally once we set out. I am completely unprepared for this as I think the longest hike I have done on our trip was actually in our first month, lasted about 4 hours, and nearly killed me (the humid Japanese summer didn’t help matters). I always say I’m great at walking (go me!), but it’s when you throw hills into the mix that I want to die.

    You’re right that good scenery helps a lot and works as a good incentive; you clearly had some of the world’s best on this trek! I also find that I do better when it’s slightly chilly out as I hate feeling like a big ball of sweat.

    • October 19, 2013
      Reply

      Good luck, Steph! ;-) I’d like to say that after the first painful few days it gets better and stops hurting but I have no idea if that’s true. I’d love to hike the Annapurna Circuit though.

    • October 31, 2013
      Reply

      The Annapurna Circuit is amazing and intense and wonderful and painful. The last two days we had a 5 minutes walking, five minutes resting rule because it was such hard going. It’s not steep. There’s just NO air. It’s a remarkable and terrifying experience. But you’ll see yaks and they’ll make you happy :)
      You’re probably hiking it now but I wish you a virtual good luck!!!

      • November 26, 2015
        Reply

        Thanks for sharing your experience, Noelle :-)

  2. October 11, 2013
    Reply

    Always take the water taxi. ALWAYS. I think I got cramps just reading this and am still convinced you have replaced the real Lauren with some other Lauren who loves hiking, and are disguising it rather well by continuing to write blog posts. I’m onto you.

    • October 12, 2013
      Reply

      I should have taken the water taxi! I actually managed to get cramps in my leg while I was writing this post. That’s got to be some kind of sign.

  3. October 11, 2013
    Reply

    Oh my god that view though! That last picture is stunning. You’re definitely a trooper and I’m eager to read more!

    • October 12, 2013
      Reply

      It’s such a beautiful part of the world!

  4. October 12, 2013
    Reply

    Did you visit a paradise by any chance? Your pictures are simply spellbinding – the vista looks so blue and serene!

    • October 19, 2013
      Reply

      The colour of the sea was such a ridiculous shade of blue!

  5. Scarlett
    October 14, 2013
    Reply

    Well I personally think you’re a trooper. Although I would love to hear more about the excessive amount of apricots you took with you… x

    • October 19, 2013
      Reply

      I didn’t know what to pack for the hike so I ended up filling a bag up with 3kg of apricots. It was so expensive and I didn’t even eat half…

  6. Carrie
    October 15, 2013
    Reply

    So…did you make it? What happened next!

  7. Rebecca
    October 16, 2013
    Reply

    haha loved reading this! keep up the good work and finish the trek! you will be glad when you do. amazing pictures!

  8. Carmen Allan-Petale
    October 16, 2013
    Reply

    Did you manage to do the rest of the hike? The suspense is killing me! :-)

    • October 19, 2013
      Reply

      I’ll be writing this up within the next few days!

  9. October 17, 2013
    Reply

    The second day of hiking is usually worse, as your muscles aren’t used to that type of exercise. Once you get going again it usually eases up though. I always found that sitting down makes things worse and stiffer and walking helped ease the tensions during my EBC trek.

    • October 19, 2013
      Reply

      Yes, I think that’s true. It was usually the first half an hour of moving after a rest that was agonising.

  10. Renuka
    October 18, 2013
    Reply

    Such nice pictures! A perfect haven for nature lovers.

    • November 14, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks, Renuka! It’s definitely a spot for anyone who loves nature and doesn’t mind a bit of sweat and tears to get there!

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