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Oceania » New Zealand » South Island » Stewart Island
April 1st 2008
Published: April 23rd 2008
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The Mariner's ghostThe Mariner's ghostThe Mariner's ghost

Milford Sound
... So sang Paul Brady, and I'll get to the island in a minute, but first to Queenstown, a mecca for outdoorsy types who not satisfied with the lush forests, yellow beaches, thundering surf, clear lakes, abundent wildlife and lofty mountains, wish to throw themselves off a cliff, out of a plane, down a river. Whatever way you wish to challenge your inner sense of self-preservation they can arrange for you to be strapped in and pushed, for a fee of course.

Alan and Sean decided to chuck themselves off Nevis, the highest bungee jump in New Zealand and third highest in the world, while I decided to simply surf down rapids at 'Roaring Meg' on a body-board avoiding rocks and crevices and Ali extreme read and chewed toast langorously.

The morning of the jump I was so glad that I was river surfing as I didn't have to worry about them, I kept imagining having to apologise to his Mam or talk at his funeral, what would I say? Something like, 'well, he always liked to look at life from an unusual perspective'.. or 'I'm sorry Mrs Ryan, but he said that he always wanted to fly'...flippant, flippant,
Foggy MornFoggy MornFoggy Morn

Somewhere near Bluff
but true.

Thankfully when I dripped my watery way back to the hostel they were sitting there without so much as a smudge on them. Apparently it was 'incredible' 'amazing' and 'really cool'. But I've seen the DVD and the truth is it was scary looking. And a tad impressive.

While we were off doing these loonie things Ali sensibly read her book and had a yummy breakfast. That afternoon we all went off horse-riding which was most pleasant and scenic, up until we decided to gallop, which was inelegant, bumpy and exhilerating. The next day we went on a wine tour and tried a lot of 'Pinot' which is a most enjoyable way to spend a day. We met a lovely American/Dutch couple who were on honeymoon a year after their wedding. I almost said 'SNAP' but stopped when they said that they had to postpone their honeymoon for a year and were having a two week one in New Zealand, instead I said, 'what a tremendous idea, kind of an anniversary and honeymoon at the same time' and won their hearts over. If they had realised we were still on honeymoon nearly nine months after the
Sounds rosySounds rosySounds rosy

Milford at sunset
wedding, they might have thought we were boasting, so PHEW.

In Queenstown, some evening that we were on a high from extreme winedrinking/bungeeing/horseriding/switch playing/pool playing we invented the 'Bundee Jump Cocktail' which is three parts Mount Gay Rum to one part Bundeburg Ginger Ale, very tasty.

We also met a lovely girl called Lyndzy from Rhode Island who joined us in our Switch Championship, making her the first guest contestant. I also must recommend ´Bob´s Weigh´a gorgeous cafe on the main street with delish breakfasts (yes they do pancakes) - the first time we went in I asked the guy behind the counter if he knew where I would be able to pick up some cheap shoes (for the horse riding) and he gave me tonnes of advice. Two days later I was back in and he came over to the table to find out how I got on with the shoes... for a city girl like me, that was a classic tale of New Zealand friendliness.

After Queenstown we drove through beautiful scenery (it was getting a bit ridiculous at this stage, every corner we turned, 'look there's another beautiful ..............' insert mountain, river, waterfall, forest)
I regret nothiiiing!I regret nothiiiing!I regret nothiiiing!

Sean embraces the void
to Milford Sound. On the way we stopped to look at Mirror Lake and the cool Scaub bird who swims through the clear water to the bottom to scavenge for food. Then we stopped in this yellow field of corn where Ali and I decided to swing around, great fun until I went over on my ankle, ouch!

We had booked onto an overnight cruise through Milford Sound, and having done it would recommend it to anyone thinking of travelling through the fjord. We set sail at 4pm and after a bowl of soup cooked by Fay, an amazing chef, and an hour or so sailing, we anchored and people chose to either go Sea Kayaking or be taken around by Speedboat. Ever eager to put our experience at Abel Tasman to practice we all plumped for the kayaks. We went on a guided tour and saw lots of star fish, caves, shore and unfortunately became a tasty afternoon treat for the sandflies. After going stir crazy on the water we then decided to jump off the top deck of the boat, which was quite exhilerating as the water depth goes to hundreds of metres and we were hitting
Try to look cool,,,Try to look cool,,,Try to look cool,,,

Alan and Sean attempt to look unfazed by their bungee jump logistics
it from a height, so it was a real case of SPLASH.

After all this mucking about it was back into the boat again where Fay had cooked up an almighty feast of roast lamb with spuds, pumpkin, corn on the cob and seconds for anyone who wanted it. Afterwards we had chocolate pudding with warm chocolate sauce and icecream, divine. Then we went up on deck to watch the sun set. Afterwards all twenty or so passengers sat around and played games, chatted with the crew, drank a few beers and generally chilled out. There was a lovely vibe and people were having a great night. We were sick of switch so played ´fact or crap´a charmingly named game which was on the boat, you basically read out a statement and everyone has to say really quickly if they think it is, you guessed it, fact or crap. Surprisingly good fun. So much so that we enticed a guy called Steve to join us for a few games. Steve is Irish and did the Trans-mongolian train ride recently too so we yapped with him nostalgically about instant noodles, wodka and dried fish. Then it was off to bed
It's a looooong way downIt's a looooong way downIt's a looooong way down

Alan prepares to leave the nest...
in our four berth bunks, separated from fellow passengers by a curtain, adding to the sense that we were all on a big Swiss Family Robinson adventure.

The next morning we awoke before dawn and Fay must have been up even earlier cooking up a storm in the kitchen. Our bellies full of yummy food we went out on deck and watched the sun rise over the stunning scenery. The boat sailed through the sound stopping to look at seals and then joy of joy a school of dolphins found us and chose to swim alongside the boat for ages, amazing. After they eventually left, the boat went up close to a waterfall that apparently has age-refining properties, they told us that if the mist hits your face you look ten years younger so the four of us jostled to get soaked, and we all looked amazing afterwards (yeah, right!).

I've just read over that past few paragraphs and realised that it's mostly about the food not the beautiful landscape - it was pretty amazing - Alan's photos do it better justice than I can waxing lyrical, but it was a definite highlight of our whole journey. We
Nevis? Pshaw!Nevis? Pshaw!Nevis? Pshaw!

Two Pepsi max drinks please, waiter
were sad to leave the ship, could have lived aboard actually, but that´s the thing with travel, you´re always moving on.

So into Gertie again and off down to Invercargill to spend a night before heading to Stewart Island, the third biggest island of New Zealand, or the island beside New Zealand depending on who you talk to (the islanders refer to it as the latter, unsurprisingly, gesturing with a nod of the head whilst saying ´... oh, you came from over there in New Zealand?´). After a night back on the Switch Championship, joined by Guest Contestant Number 2, Yam from Israel, we drove to the ferry and headed to the island. We were lucky and had a smooth crossing, I fell asleep instantly and woke up when we landed.

We had an absolute magical mystery tour of the island, meeting a whole host of characters everywhere we went. It was one of those things where we had just been on the boat out at Milford two days before, which was amazing and so we didn't expect too much excitement from Stewart Island, but it blew us away. The island itself is spectacularly beautiful, lush green forests,
The four horsemenThe four horsemenThe four horsemen

Alan's horse was unpopular with the rest of the gang
huge sealions, great birdlife, delicious fush and fantastic locals who are so friendly that you don't want to leave.

After checking into our hostel we rented bicycles, getting a discount without even asking and hearing a few tales as part of the bargain. It was a real case of the inner eleven year old surfacing, with Alan and Sean trying to pull BMX moves and Ali and I singing as we cycled down hills. We spent the day riding bicycles up and down the hills (although to be honest in my case I only bicycled down the hills, walking up instead). It was like being part of the Famous Five, but without Timmy the Dog, we ditched the bikes and went exploring beaches, finding a wind broken shack full of furniture and curios and walking through dense woodland bird-watching, on one beach an enormous sealion had come up to shore and I stood there watching him for ages.

With grave reluctance we dropped the bikes back, but then went to a little caravan by the shore where we ate scrumptious fush and chups, fresh from the sea. The island itself merits a lot more time than we spent
Horsey thingsHorsey thingsHorsey things

All equestrian paraphernalia must be smelly. It is an unwritten law.
there, and for anyone interested it is possible to go on an eleven day tramp around its coast where you may be rewarded with sightings of many rare birds, including the kiwi. Most of the island is uninhabited and actually a nature reserve. For trampers there are cabins to sleep in as well as a route that is clear. I hope to go back to do the tramp, it´s so unspoilt, a beautiful place.

Late that afternoon we went for a beer in the local hotel and ended up staying most of the night, meeting all sorts of characters and being totally welcomed into the community. There is a ´Five O´Clock Club´and seeing signs for this beside a pair of spectacles hanging on a hook, I was intrigued, so I asked at the bar and they told me to wait until five and ask them myself. Well of course I did and ended up meeting a lovely bunch of guys who all live on the island and meet up every evening for a drink. They even deemed me an honorary member and I was chuffed. Every member has to have a nickname, so I was duly dubbed 'Smiler' (aw....if
Alan's new friendAlan's new friendAlan's new friend

It attacked shortly after
only they knew) (oi Alan, what do you mean?!). We also met all sorts of people, from a sound young guy Ryan (who we nicknamed 'twohavaloafoflove' which he kept saying to the barlady, it means 'hello' in Fiji and then he added 'love' at the end, apparently... it made sense at the time...) who worked on the ferry to a woman who has recently moved there, to the young woman working behind the bar. I had lengthy chats with ´Friday', he manages a cargo ferry that goes over and back to ´New Zealand´(sorry, couldn´t resist!) and we had seen him load a truck earlier from the pub window. Friday was full of wisdom, insights and funny stories and between laughing at his jokes and pondering over his advice we learnt an awful lot that night.

The next morning we caught the ferry back and of course knew a heap of people taking it, from the guy who rented us our bikes through to the young man working there and two Americans we had chatted to over tea. It was really cool going over one day as strangers and leaving the next knowing a whole bunch of people and a
Relaxing with a Bundee Jump (tm)Relaxing with a Bundee Jump (tm)Relaxing with a Bundee Jump (tm)

They induce the same sense of vertigo!
lot of the gossip.

By the way - for any single ladies that are sick of the singles scene, don't go for speed dating and fancy a quieter more serene lifestyle, Stewart Island might be the place to go...in August, they hold a barbque - the reason I say this is that I was told by reliable sources (plural) that there are only four single women on the island and over sixty eligible men... Just throwing it out there(!) Basically Ali and I were sitting down by a notice board in the pub when someone carefully put up an ad for the barbie. Later it was removed. Later still we asked what it had all been about and were advised on the statistics. And I have to say...

We headed on up the coast to Dunedin, called after ´Edinburgh´, a lovely university town which seemed positively cosmopolitan after the island and sound. Ali´s workmate Ciaran had moved back home after a while in London so she was looking forward to catching up with him. He had some great mates and so of course we all ended out on the Octagon, although I cannot confirm or deny reports that
Queenstown, eveningQueenstown, eveningQueenstown, evening

The view over town from our hostel
we were last sighted in an Irish bar, that would be too shameful to admit having done our best to avoid them wherever possible. Ali also spent time following in the footsteps of Janet Frame a poet who had spent years of her life there, and found it reet moving. It is pretty cool to see where someone you read is from I reckon. Alan visited the art gallery on the Octagon and went sightseeing with his camera and saw the station and cathedral. I don´t really know what I did... em, tagged along with Ali and Sean part of the time, sat drinking coffee and meandering about the rest. It was that sort of break, we just chilled and caught up with emails, that type of thing. Bliss. Oh, and it was there that we tried the Dunedin famed 'CHEESE ROLL'... check out Alan's photo for visual evidence.

After a few nights there it was time to move on. But I will be back, after all, I didn´t get to visit the Cadbury´s factory.










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Group photo!Group photo!
Group photo!

Vinyard tour
Straight from the society pages...Straight from the society pages...
Straight from the society pages...

Alison (left), and Aoife enjoy a sophistcated glass of Rose at the launch of etc.
Art in a VinyardArt in a Vinyard
Art in a Vinyard

For the rubbered bourgeoisie
Big Al, big AlBig Al, big Al
Big Al, big Al

Alan tackles a burger the size of his head at Queenstown's infamous Fergburger. It. was. incredible.
The hustler The hustler
The hustler

Aoife got mad pool skillz
ArrowtownArrowtown
Arrowtown

We took a trip to nearby Arrowtown, which was quaint but dull.
Chinese settlement, ArrowtownChinese settlement, Arrowtown
Chinese settlement, Arrowtown

There was a recreated 19th Century settlement on the edge of town. The gold rush brought hundreds of Chinese prospectors.


23rd April 2008

How're you ever going to be able to stop ....??

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