Stewart Island. 8-12 March 2022

Kay and I decided to do one of the things that scares us by taking a 8 seater plane over to Stewart Island. Our other option was a 30 minute shuttle followed by an hour on a ferry across Fourveax Straight, one of the roughest pieces of water. The former was only a 20 minute flight and cost a mere $10 more. We waited until the last minute to book reasoning that we were probably better off on the ferry if it was rough. The day was perfect for flying, not a breathe of wind and clear blue sky.

There was 3 other women boarding with us and I volunteered to sit up front with the pilot. I obeyed the strict instructions not to touch anything and to refrain from talking to the very young looking pilot. That was a hard 20 minutes for me!  We had a lovely flight and perfect landing.

Stewart Island

The next day we took a ferry over to Ulva Island which is predator free so we saw and heard quite a few birds that are hard to find anywhere else in the world. We sat on a beach and ate our lunch and a naughty Weka jumped up and took part of my sandwich right out of my mouth. We were not allowed to feed the birds but he just stole it right from under my nose. Very cheeky birds šŸ¦.

Stewart Island sits at the bottom of New Zealand and is fairly close to Antarctica. It is famous for its fishing (Blue Cod, crayfish, paua) and its rough weather (wind, rain and mud). Oban is the name of the town that has one shop, a pub, a backpackers, a couple of food carts and lots of fishing boats.

The early settlers were whalers, sealers, and loggers. All frowned apon activities nowadays.

Many of us SOBO Te Araroa walkers had planned to go over to Stewart Island and do some of the walks there to finish off the trail however Covid-19 put a stop to that.

There are 3 main tracks on the island that range from 3 days to 11  days. They are all notorious for the mud, mud that can be waist high and relentless. We decided that 3 days was enough for us as we had experience enough mud in our travels to last us a bit more of our lifetimes.

The Rakiura Track is one if our Great Walks. These are designed to be walked by the general public and tourists so they are well maintained, with easy gradients and no life threatening bits.

The chain that goes under the Foveaux Strait and attaches to the mainland

I had asked Garry for good weather and he obliged. There had been a long dry spell so there was very little mud; our shoes were hardly dirty at all. But some people arrived at the second hut saying it was a hard day and very muddy. Obviously they had not done much tramping as we thought it was an easy and dry day. This shows that it is all relative to one’s previous experiences. Those of you who have experienced “Karen’s flat” will attest to that.

Groomed track
The mud
Sandy bays

The huts were only half full, probably Covid-19 related. Most of the other trampers had huge packs and a week’s worth of heavy food which probably made the day a lot harder to start with. This time I had varied my ususal diet and had instant mashed potatoes with chorizo sausage and gravy for my dinner. It was good food but I need to follow the directions more closely to get the ratios correct. One night the mashed potato was a bit dry and lumpy and the next night a bit runny. But I have never been good at following recipes as my family will tell you.

Lots of Supplejack in places
Freshly painted bunkrooms and new mattresses
Time for a read in the sun

We were really keen to see Kiwi in the wild having been told that there are 15,000 of the short, fat flightless birds on the island. There are only about 400 permanent residents and we saw nearly all of them, but, alas, no Kiwi. We walked softly and slowly for two whole days, in silence, hoping to spot one of them. That was quite hard for two very chatty women. Kiwi are nocturnal birds but the Stewart island breed come out during the day because it is too cold at night.

Some people went out after dark to sit in the bush for hours but wasn’t that keen. No one saw a Kiwi anyway so I was pleased I didn’t waste my sleeping time.

We did see a number of birds including a loved up couple of Kereru who entertained us at North Arm Hut. There were also lots of deer who were not afraid of us at all. The track is through a big hunting block but I think the deer know they are safe near the huts. Deer are a major pest in New Zealand.

We had dinner at the pub on Saturday night with a couple of trampers and caught the 8am ferry back to Invercargill. There was no wind and the sea was flat so it was a lovely crossing. The boat was filled with the chatter of about a dozen kids about 10 years old, goi g to the mainland for the day. It was nice to see that they weren’t glued to their phones.

We had a day wandering around the shops in Invercargill before we flew our separate ways. Kay back home to Putararu and me to Nelson. Kay’s will be then heading over to her family on Perth. I am staying with my brother in Nelson then meeting up with my eldest daughter, Cara, to walk the Abel Tasman Track.

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