Stewart Island Report 03/01/2014
Guides: Chrissy and Leo
We arrived to meet everyone in Invercargill on the 3rd, and enjoyed a delicious meal at the Victoria Railway Hotel. Making up the party were myself and Leo, Jan and John , Joann, Glennis and David and Janet. For the most part everyone got on very well, bonding instantly over terrible jokes and a reasonable amount of wine. The weather forecast didn’t look that promising with 3 days of rain forecast, but we were pleasantly surprised when the next morning dawned calm without a cloud in the sky. We flew into Mason Bay that morning, with excellent views of the North West coast and Codfish Island. After a spectacular beach landing just up from Duck Creek we trekked the short walk up the Mason Bay Hut. After setting up camp and a cup of tea we embarked on a day trip to big Sandhill. We followed the DOC trapping line up round the side. It’s fairly rough and takes a lot longer as it follows the forest, but provides quite a pretty walk and a nice break from the exposed sand dunes if it is hot/ stormy. After a leisurely lunch at the summit we followed the sand dunes all the way down to the beach, finding patches of gunnera hamiltonia a herb endemic to these particular dune areas, and seeing keruru and plenty of dotterel.
The entire party decided to camp in the tents that night, and despite a little rain overnight, all emerged dry and reasonably well rested in the morning. Jan, John David and Janet all managed to see a kiwi that evening, a large female tokoeka, very close to the hut.
The next morning we packed up and head off for Freshwater Hut at about 10.30. The mud was quite manageable, ankle deep at worst, and we were entertained by lots of cheeky robins and kakariki chattering overhead. The bad weather caught up with us by lunch time, and we were all rather glad to arrive at Freshwater, a little sodden but in good spirits. Our ride into Oban with Ian was very rough! Hot showers at the Rakiura Lodge were much appreciated before we headed down to the South Seas Hotel for a meal – delicious fresh fish and seafood, perfectly prepared. Sunday night is Oban’s infamous pub quiz, and we stopped by the pub for a beer or two afterwards to catch the last few rounds – hilarious, but not the best idea if you get easily offended or don’t like excessive swearing…
The following day we hit lucky with the weather again and had a gorgeous morning exploring Ulva Island. The birds were out in force and we saw kaka, kakariki, robin, mohua, brown creeper, a juvenile saddleback/ tiekeand even what several people swore was a kiwi, foraging in the daytime! The afternoon saw us head out for a stroll to Ackers Point, past the historic cottage and to the site of the old light house with excellent views of the coast. It was clear enough to see as far north as the smelter at Bluff. We had dinner back at the lodge before heading out to Obans one and only cinema for a screening of Pete’s film “A local’s tail” which everyone seemed to enjoy, apart from the unexplainably atrocious Australian accent of the narrator.
The next morning was our last together, and provided time for an explore of Oban. We met up again for a last lunch of takeaway blue cod and chips at the beach before farewelling Jan, John and Joann and Glennis on their flights while Leo, Chrissy and David and Janet were to stay on the island for a few more days.
For more information on our guided trips to Stewart Island, check out our page on the Stewart Island track