Monday, November 22, 2010

Stewart Island, a Short and Sweet Visit

Let it be known that with the rare exception of day one of a band trip, I am not keen at getting up at 5:45am in the morning, and waking up in a sleeping bag in a freezing cold cabin after only a few hours' sleep doesn't come close. I was grateful for my sleeping bag, however; it kept me warm and sandfly-free in my little green cocoon.

Sunrise at Gunn's Camp

By 6:30am we were pulling out of Gunn's Camp and heading for Invercargill, the southernmost city in New Zealand, and one of the most southernmost cities in the world. I didn't stay there long, as I was heading with seventeen other passengers from the Stray bus to Bluff, where the Stewart Island ferry departs from. One of Invercargill's claims to fame is it is the hometown of Burt Munro, whose story was told in the biographical film The World's Fastest Indian. The Indian Scout Motorcycle he used to set the world speed record for that class of bike in 1967 (which still stands today) is apparently housed in a mall in Invercargill, which I unfortunately didn't get to see because of the necessity of catching the ferry to Stewart Island.

The ferry ride over was on a small, fifty-seater passenger ferry, which despite Captain Bob's skillful handling through the roughest of the waves, ended up being very bumpy; several people were seasick, though thankfully I was not among them (I was already feeling motion sickness from the four-hour bus ride).

I'm starting to think Real Journeys runs
everything in New Zealand...

Captain Bob

The thrilled-looking passengers, all trying not to get sick!

A few minutes out of Bluff we passed by Dog Island and its signature black and white lighthouse (it is painted in bands of black and white to help it stand out in the daytime). Built in 1865, the lighthouse is the tallest in New Zealand, and had the first revolving light in the country.

Dog Island and its signature lighthouse

Our first glimpse of Oban, Stewart Island

When we arrived on the island the seventeen of us had no idea of where to go; we had been told by Tia to go to the "backpacker hostel" to see about our accommodation, but she neglected to mention there is more than one backpacker hostel… we went to Bunker's Backpackers, who although not being the correct hostel, were able to sort us out (I ended up staying there with five others from the bus, while the others went to the other hostel).

The first roadsign I saw after getting off the ferry. I bet it
leads to somewhere different from BC's Horseshoe Bay!

Bunker's Backpackers

Stewart Island, the third largest (and sometimes woefully forgotten) island of New Zealand, has a stable population of around 420 people, most of who live in Oban, where the ferry terminal is located. The population depends mainly on tourism and fishing for its livelihood. In fact, most of the island is protected nature reserve, with eighty percent of the island set aside as Rakiura National Park. Rakiura is the original Māori name for Stewart Island, meaning "Glowing Skies", possibly for the amazing sunsets or Auora Australis that can both be frequently seen here. (But not this evening... it was too cloudy, sigh). The Māori legend New Zealand's creation tells that Maui and his crew raised a giant fish (the North Island) from their canoe (the South Island), but the fish was so heavy they threw over an anchor to stabilize themselves (Stewart Island). As such, Stewart Island is also known as Te Punga o Te Waka a Maui (The Anchor Stone of Maui's Canoe).

Penguins! We didn't see any, however.

Oban and Halfmoon Bay

This photo almost looks tropical. The water was cold, though!

Stewart Island is 65km long and 40km wide, but has only 20km of paved roads… I spent the afternoon traversing some of those roads with Bart (The Netherlands).

Bart reacts to the reassuring road signage

We saw a giant outdoor chess set in Halfmoon Bay, skipped stones near Evening Cove, wandered through a golf course to access Deep Bay and Deep Bay Road, saw the final resting place of Reverend Wohlers and his wife,

The Wohler Memorial

 traversed through a sheep farm generating power with a wind turbine,

A green source of energy on a Stewart Island farm

Sheep may safely graze. Photo credit: Bart Van Vliet

and took a beautiful walking track to Golden Bay and Thule Bay, where we saw weka birds traversing the path in front of us.

Crossing a stream on the walking track

The weka

Oh my, I think we angered it! On the other hand, in this
pose it is easy to see how they are related to chickens.
Photo credit: Bart Van Vliet

We also climbed up to Observation Rock, and then down through the Fuchsia Walking track, where we were enthralled with the local birds, including kaka, korimako, and tui (the tui actually dive-bombed over our heads! It was crazy).

Photographing birds is not my forte.
If you look closely there is one in the fern...

... one overhead...

... and one with red plumage.

Kiwi crossing!

The scenery of Stewart Island is eerily similar to BC... if one doesn't look so closely at the trees, the mountains and ocean views look like they could be located around Vancouver Island.

Stewart Island = Vancouver Island

Posing at Observation Rock

I guess they really wanted a parking lot!

For dinner Bart and I bought fresh Stewart Island Cod from the local (and only) supermarket, then cooked it up in a stir fry with rice, peppers, carrots, and a leek. Topped off with chocolate mousse for desert, I can now say that I am suitably wired, exhausted from getting up so early, and a little strung out from the two movies we have watched in the lounge of the hostel (The Beach, which was disturbing, and currently The Hangover, which is just irritating me).

The interior of Bunker's Backpackers, showing its guests in
various stages of relaxation. Photo credit: Bart Van Vliet

There is no rest for the weary; tomorrow morning we have to be at the ferry terminal (mercifully, a five-minute walk from the hostel) at 7:30am to catch the 8:00am boat back to Invercargill... our stay on Stewart Island has been short and sweet. This entry has made far less sense than I wanted it to, but I am going to blame exhaustion. The remedy: bed. Goodnight....


1 comment:

  1. There is a chance you qualify for a new government solar energy rebate program.
    Find out if you are eligble now!