This article was first published in the Tararua Tramper in August 1999 Queen Charlotte Walkway with a Baby Date Unknown The Barnes' had been focused on parenting for some time and were yearning for the hills. We had been keen trampers before our first child and now we were keen to see if it was possible to tramp with a 10 month old baby. A friend mentioned that the boats plying the Queen Charlotte Walkway carried packs each day at no extra charge. With the help of the Picton information centre, accommodation and boat transport was booked. We planned to re-enter the bush gently, just 4-5 hrs "normal" walking time a day, and one night.
We caught the Friday night ferry and stayed in Picton. An easy start the next day; we caught our little boat at 9.30am. We pulled in at Ship's Cove which has a pleasant grassy area for a 10 month old to crawl around on. The other walkers left but we spent some time exercising our child and giving him a snack to sustain him for an hour or so. Oliver spotted a weka and made a bee line for it. Unfortunately this meant passing through the remains of an old camp fire. Quick intervention prevented a sooty child but the weka got wise to this. Every time we let Oliver go, the weka would put the fire place between Oliver and itself. It wasn't just the baby that got exercised before we set off!
It was a beautiful February day so we were glad the first steep climb was shaded by mature native bush. It was nice to smell the bush and feel old familiar muscles put to work. There were views through the trees and at the top a look out over Resolution Bay. A steep scramble down soon had us at our planned lunch stop, a shop/cafe whose blueberry muffins and fresh coffee came highly recommended by the ferry skipper. We were certainly not going to pass up table, chairs, fresh muffins and china coffee cups for our tramping lunch. There was a nice mown lawn for Oliver to crawl around on, and he practised walking holding on to a handy kayak. After lunch we climbed the next rise over into Endeavour Inlet while Oliver took a nap. Again a pleasant bush walk with some areas of private land. We stopped for afternoon tea on the manicured lawn of Furneaux Lodge. Oliver was let out to crawl about without a nappy on. Big mistake! You try picking up doodoos without a pooper scooper. A little further on we arrived at our accommodation for the night at the Endeavour Resort. They did dinner for us and provided a cot and hot showers, breakfast and a packed lunch the next day. Being our first time out we took advantage of everything on offer.
The next day was overcast and the track more level. A welcome break for sore muscles. This part of the walkway is not so well endowed with civilised baby exercise places but Oliver made do with a river bed and a weka with thieving tendencies for entertainment. We arrived at Punga Cove with plenty of time before we caught our boat back to Picton.
We found tramping with a baby easier in some ways than other holidays because, while we were doing our thing, Oliver was right there, strapped close to a parent looking at the view, pulling hair or taking a nap when it suited him. As long as we let him out for exercise from time to time, he was content. We look forward to seeing more of the track in the future and perhaps other similarly serviced tracks, e.g. Abel Tasman or Kaikoura. We may even try camping next time.
The Party: Kevin, Kathryn (scribe) and Oliver Barnes.