6th February 2016 at noon I arrived at the harbour of the Stewart Island (officially named Stewart Island/Rakiura) by ferry, a Catamaran. The sail has been quite hard, because the speed and the meetings of the Tasmanian Sea and the Pacific Ocean, but I did not get seasick. Entering the island I have got the feeling I entered “Saltkråkan” (Seacrow Island), the island the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren wrote about, but never existed. The difference was not only the language spoken, but the mountain of Stewart Island. The other things could apply on this island. The houses and cars are always unlocked, the people very friendly and it happens not so much. The tourists are coming, especially during the summer holidays and they think they own the streets 😉. There is a theater in the only town, named Oban. I have got the feeling, that there are more tracks than villages. However the most important is, that you still can find kiwis (birds) here and penguins can be seen in the evening, almost part of the year.
I chose to visit Stewart Island because I wished to see kiwis in nature. I already have seen them in a bird-station (see Queenstown), but I think it is more amazing without a glass wall between them and me, even I understand, that I cannot be so close to them “in real life” than in the bird-station. In addition to that, I hoped to see penguins in their natural area.
I had a lot of time to spend at this island, exactly two and a half day, because the return ticket was for the 9th February at 8am. I chose to spend the extra night on the island in favour of the stories about the possibility to see kiwis and penguins other travellers told me in Te Anau. Directly after my check in I went to town to buy some food. This little island has a cafe and a restaurant, but I exceptionally preferred to cook my own meals. I bought a plate with pre-made lamb burgers. I thought, there were two (2) on the plate and by this, that the price is very high. When I fried my first hamburger meal, I found four (4) instead. To eat hamburgers for four days after each other is actually not so cute, but it was economical a good choice. I varied my meals. The first day I had the hamburger with cheese and a fried egg, the next day I ate the hamburger with fried egg and cheese and the third day I ate one of each kind, though there were no need to carry hamburgers with me on my next trip. To all these hamburgers I had plenty of green salad, because I also had bought a bag of salad.
Meanwhile I was eating my first lamb burger meal, I have been told, that there will be a local rugby match at the playground somewhere behind our hostel and that it will be funny, because the locals would not really know the rules as well as they would not have “rugby clothing”, that means, one would not really see, which players belong to which team. Of this reason I tried to find the rugby field after I had eaten, but did not. Therefore I followed the signs to the “Observation Rock”. I hoped, I will see the whole island from this point. The street up there is the second steepest street in New Zealand I have been told by a female Kiwi, who worked in her garden when I passed her on that street. In one way I was disappointed, when I finally had reached the place, because I only could see the other side of the island and another island. On the other hand side I was happy anyway, because the view was great. Though I went down again and used this time another street, called “Viewstreet”. From here I could see the rugby field. I went there, but in that moment the play ended. I spoke with some travellers, who also slept at the Bunkers backpackers, before I went to town again.
I passed the museum, but it was closed – maybe for the rugby match, maybe for it was a weekend. I decided to go to the theater / cinema instead and watch that recommended movie about the island. I was to early for the next time the movie will be played. I bought the ticket and went to the harbour for taking photographs. Back at the cinema I still had to wait, but more visitors were arriving. Finally we were allowed to go into the cinema. We could choose our seats, though I took one in the middle at the third row. It was perfect even people came to sit in front of me. The special seating with different spaces in the rows was helpful. Unfortunately I could not hear all the speech by the voice of the storyteller, who was imagined to be a dog.
In the evening by dawn I followed a couple from the hostel to the rugby field, which by the way was called Traill Park, for watching kiwis. Even it became really dark and we were waiting for more than an hour, we could not see any. I hoped I will see them the following evening and went back to the hostel. While walking I could see the stars in the sky very clear. That was amazing!
There are some easy and day walks on the island and I decided next morning to make almost one of them. I chose the one, who goes to Deep Bay. It was really an easy walk, but with lots of save stairs, which were easily climbed. I enjoyed the great views and continued some kilometres to the Ringaringa beach, which unfortunately could not be accessed for dangerous rock falls, though I returned to Halfmoon Bay and the hostel. It had been a warm day and I was happy for a rest after my evening meal before walking to the harbour for looking for penguins. Unfortunately they were not coming that evening and a local woman told me, that they suddenly in February not are showing up anymore. I even tried this evening to see Kiwis, but I was unsuccessful again.
My last full day on Stewart Island was the 8th Feb, a holiday because the Treaty of Waitangi. I could not find any celebration on Stewart Island, but the restaurant had a competition about the “Man of the year”. While the manager of the hostel went to the restaurant for looking at the spectacle, I walked another track. Actually my goal was to the Moturau Moana Garden. I had to walk the road and I dit – passing the Presbyterian Church. Arrived at the gardens I was surprised about the little size of the area, but I was thinking about the size of the island and understood, that I should not have awaited more. It was not high noon yet, though I started with the track to the Horseshoe Point. By following the signs from the garden I walked the track in the other direction as recommended, but that was good for me, because most of the time I had the mountain on my right hand side and the steeps on the other. This track was not good maintained. Several parts of the track would not exist anymore if not many people would use it. Happily it was not as complicated as the walk to the Pinnacle Hut on the Coromandel Peninsula. Walking that track the other way around meant, that I had to force the very steep from the Dead Man’s Bay upwards. Tired and very hungry I came back to the hostel (I had not taken something to eat with me, because my goal has been the garden).
At the hostel I fried the two left hamburgers as well as the two left eggs, had cheese on each of them and the rest of the salad. I had two meals in one. By the walk in the sun and my big meal I have got very tired as well as I was thinking about the upcoming morning, where I had to be at the ferry terminal at 7:30am, so I was to bed without neither looking for penguins nor for kiwis.
For more photos of Stewart Island click here!
I had an early morning – even I hate early mornings 😉 – and was in time at the ferry terminal. The sea had white crowns, which means it was windy. A few people became seasick, but the crew of the ferry cared very well about them. I had a seat in the second row with none sitting in the first one, though I felt very comfortable. About the arrival in Bluff and the rest of my journey in New Zealand please go back to South Island again.