It was my first trip to our most southern coast and to Stewart Island, a place as famous for the straits which lay between the departure point of Invercargill and the island. The trip over in small plane, however, was superb. To be able to see from a bird’s perspective – just amazing. Stewart Island was everything I thought it would be, from its beaches, bush, Oban’s iconic hotel, the hospitality and the superb fresh blue cod. Then there was the visit to Ulva Island, the three day Rakiura walk, a free day and the return flight to Invercargill. Plus, we had four days outside this in The Catlins. How could I fit all of my stories in just one blog?
Write different stories – of course. There were five family members going on the three day walk; all reasonably fit but, let me say, not that young, but most had been on a number of New Zealand’s Great Walks. It was a bit of a scramble for me getting all the gear together, as I, apart from gym wear, only had a pair of tramping boots to contribute. These were still in fine form, although I had only walked one other New Zealand track, since I trekked in the foothills of the Himalayas wearing them. Four weeks of walking that was! I guess I was more intrepid back then. The days when my knees weren’t a problem.
We had two days of rest and recreation in Oban before setting off. I donned my boots (so they could remember my feet) for walks around various bays. And what bays they were.
I stopped to make a phone call along the way. No wires, no connection, but a lot of fun.
Okay, so the walk itself. We hadn’t gone that far on day one, when we decided to stop for scroggin (that’s nuts and dried fruit for the uninitiated). I was thrilled, not because it was scroggin-munching time, but to relieve my sore shoulders of my pack. Scene: sitting on a grassy knoll at Kaipipi, overlooking a calm inlet, with a single yacht moored out front. Then a man in a rubber dinghy appears, waves, and asks if we’d like to join him for a cup of tea on his yacht. Carmel was keen, and we watched her leave, realising we all should probably join her. Dave ferried all five of us across to his boat, and also brought a French couple over who had innocently strayed into this rather novel morning tea invitation. Dave and his wife Patsy were characters, and weren’t letting retirement slow them down in the least.
Awaiting the next arrivals
They did indeed give us tea, and gingernut biscuits, but best was the folk poem Dave was encouraged by Patsy to recite of a man who liked to pinch bottoms, and the story of rescuing a tabby kitten from Glory Bay. We crowed over the succulent basil and parsley grown in boxes housed next to our knees. To say we were impressed by the couple’s Kiwi ingenuity, is an understatement. Thanks Dave and Patsy, you made our day. And, saved my bacon.
Day two dawned damp but I was keen to get out of there. The Port William hut was fine, but the heat and the snoring which fuelled the night were anything but. It was a day of walking solidly through bush, and at one point the track was seriously muddy. I had no problem navigating the squelch, although one member tripped headlong into it. The best thing was the light shining on the wet growth. We stopped often to just stand and admire the foliage, and try to identify the different species. I was exhausted, early on, and revelled in every break we took. There were many many steps; beautifully constructed and maintained by our Department of Conservation people, but why did they have to make the risers THAT high?
I was almost ready to lie on the path when the North Arm hut came into view, but breathed easier when I saw the fabulous bay where it was sited. Plus, the rain had abated.
I’ll skip over the nocturnal sounds which rattled the hut’s walls, which I suppose, are synonymous with a bunch of trampers bunking alongside complete strangers. Any tiredness evaporated for me as we started walking on day three, moving in and out of the bush line and exclaiming when we sighted the many lovely bays along the way.
We arrived at Lee Bay, the end of the track (for the direction we’d taken). My jaw dropped when I found we still had five more kilometres to walk along the road to Oban. It was hot by now, and I was wondering quite seriously how I’d manage. And then I spotted a small tourist bus ahead, with a group of people piling aboard. The guide saw us, and asked if we’d like a lift back to Oban. I looked at my husband, told him I’d like to accept the offer. He and I were the only ones from our family group who climbed onto that bus. Boy, was I happy to sit down, knowing I’d be removing my pack in a matter of minutes.
Fish and chips for dinner anyone? And a beer?
Many thanks to Liz, Ken, Carmel and Kerry who shared my Stewart Island adventure.