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Published: March 22nd 2011
Stewart Island day!
Early start today, had to check in at the ferry building at 9am for our 9.30am ride across to Stewart Island. The ferry ride was quite relaxing, well, for those of us with good sea legs. The swell through the Foveaux Strait was like a smooth rollercoaster. Luckily the trip across was only an hour.
Upon landing we set off on foot to book in to a boat tour around Patterson Inlet. Included in this was a 1-hour guided walk around Ulva Island. After many recommendations, we decided we had to visit Ulva Island.
Ulva is a bird sanctuary and from the moment you set foot on the island you are greeted by birds sounds from all directions. While you can be dropped at the island and follow the tracks, we luckily took the guided option. Our guide, Bevan (who says he also happily answers to the name “Hey, You!”), is a former high school biology teacher who left the occupation to be truly closer to his passion. He was a fountain of knowledge and readily answered all our (Matt’s) inane questions. From our guide we learnt all about the island history, spotted native and
endangered birdlife and knelt to look at prehistoric plants and trees.
NZ, being separated from Gondwanaland before all other continents has managed to maintain many plantlife in its original, unevolved forms. Among the birdlife we spotted were the NZ Wood Pigeon (Kereru), Stewart Island Robin (when discovered, there were only 20 left, now there are over 800!! They all have issues due to inbreeding, but Bevan advised that being inbred made Stewart Island the perfect home for them!), Weka, Kakariki, Kaka, Fantails, Tuis, Grey Warblers, and we even had a Saddleback (Tieke) perch on a branch directly over our heads. The appearance of the Saddleback even got Bevan excited as he said they are rarely seen and are one of the most endangered birds in the world as only a handful remains.
During our walk we visited a beach named Sydney Cove, this was around the corner from Murderer’s Bay which we learnt was a place where the local Maori slaughtered a ship of Europeans who had mercilessly been raping, pillaging, plundering and murdering their way around NZ. However, during the fight between the Maori and the Europeans the chief’s daughter put her cloak around the cabin boy’s
shoulders, thereby protecting him from murder. He was taken in as the chief’s daughter’s slave and as he grew they became intimate. At the age of 16 they married and he was elevated to Chief of the village.
The boat tour of Patterson Inlet was also well informed and told of Stewart Island’s history as a sawmilling and whaling base. We saw a rickety looking shack down by the shore and we told that in this hut (it really didn’t look any bigger) a European immigrant, Mr Acker, settled down with his Maori wife and raised 9 children!!! When his wife died and his kids had moved on, he then moved to Australia where he had another 4 children with his new wife. That’s 13 kids! Phew!!! A little more than the 3 – 5 we’re planning on! So nanas... count yourselves lucky! Hehe
We have finally seen penguins!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We have been hunting and hunting for penguins all through the south. And it took the very, very south to finally grant us the pleasure. While out on our boat tour we were treated to the site of a handful of blue penguins playing and bathing in the water.
The blue penguin is the smallest of all penguins, weighing in at under 1kg. So not the easiest mite to spot, especially when in waters of a similar colour.
We were also treated to a close encounter with Stewart Island’s local Albatross population. While smaller than the Royal Northern that we saw in Dunedin, they are still impressive size and a real thrill to see close up. Albatross are unable to duck under the water like some other birds, penguins and ducks and so rely on surface food. As such, they have learnt that where there are boats, there is food – mainly off fishing boats. The great wake caused by our boats attracted them to us, and the settled in the water directly off the side of our boat. Truly an amazing wildlife encounter.
Following the tour we ventured out on our own for a 4km walk around to Harrold Bay where Mr Acker’s house sits for a more hands on look. The house is listed as a category 1 on the Historic Places Trust, meaning it is of vital national importance, and we have to admit it did seem historic. The size of the house interior couldn’t
have been any bigger than our lounge/dining/kitchen area. In order to fit all 11 members of the family in they had to build bunk beds 5-beds high, right to the roof.
Our visit to Harrold Bay was short-lived as we needed to be back at Halfmoon Bay by 5pm... this was when the famous seafood eatery, Kai Kart, was opening. We had read amazing reviews of the place and the Lonely Planet guide (our bible) recommend a couple of meals in particular – the sweet as sweet blue cod and the mussels. Matt’s pick was... you guessed it, 2 helpings of the Blue Cod (day 3 in a row!!), while Renee went for the blue cod and a stunning kebab of 5 mussels wrapped in bacon. The kebab was so tasty that by the time we even thought to take a photo of it, Renee had already scoffed 3 of the 5 mussels!!
Following a more than hearty feed, we had to run for our ferry back to Bluff. We decided to make an early evening dash across the lower-South Island to Te Anau in order to be close to the Milford Sound for the next day. Weather
conditions were finally on our side. Combined with very long, straight roads we managed to reach Te Anau by 9.40pm, then straight to bed for another early start the next day.
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