Good day to you all. Welcome to the Southernmost chapter in my Aotearoa Adventures. That’s New Zealand to most of you 🙂 Today I would like to tell you a little bit about my journey by car and boat to Steward Island, the Island off the south coast of the south island from Bluff. Yup, my main goal of this trip was to get all the way from the far north of New Zealand to the far south, and you can’t get much further than actually leaving the main island and getting onto one of the other smaller islands off the coast. Granted, there are islands much further south, but this was really the best I could do. Things got off to a bit of a shaky start for various reasons for the day, but eventually everything worked out, which it always seems to if you just relax and go with the flow. Check out my map, pictures, and of course read on for the gory details. Or at least some of the details. I’m going to try to be brief, as I find myself again 3 posts behind, which sucks when you’re me 🙂
The first real challenge of the day would be to get to the ferry terminal in Bluff. Yes, it’s only 27km away, so I could have biked it, but then my bike would be unattended all day, and I’d have to bike back in the twilight at the end of the day, so I wanted to hitchike. I got up around 7am, and made some little cardboard signs, and was on the road before 8am. The first ferry wasn’t till 9:30, so I figured I’d be safe. Rides were slow in coming, but eventually, I was picked up by Ang, whose house I was at for a BBQ. She took me to where two roads meet on the way to Bluff. From there, it was another little bit before a local who works in Bluff gave me a lift. Sweet. I was down there around 8:40. First stop, bakery, then to the ferry terminal. I asked to get tickets, and was told it was full, and that I’d be fourth on the waiting list. Oh crap! I hadn’t counted on that. As it isn’t that big a boat, I thought I’d be screwed. At 110NZD, I didn’t like the idea of departing two hours later on the next boat, but what could I do.
To kill time, I took a quick walk around Bluff, at which point it started pouring, so I headed back to the terminal. I was in luck, and eventually, I got my ticket for the first boat. Guess someone bailed due to the bad weather. Huzzah! The ferry was a passenger catamaran, and she went pretty quick. The Fouveux Straight was quite choppy, and the ride was half the fun of my day overall. By the time we got to Stewart Island, the rain had stopped, and it looked like it might just be overcast. A quick walk to the DOC office helped me figure out which trails I should tackle in my mere 8 hours on the island. I opted to head to Maori Beach, by way of Garden Mound, and returning via Horseshoe Point, then carry on past town to Ringaringa Point and Wohlers Monument, a point further south. It was an aggressive plan, but as you might suspect, I made it. But barely.
Overall, I think I hiked around 27km that day, on varying terrain through woods, along beaches, around slips, and to some pretty spectacular vistas at various points. As I started hiking along the roads first (there are a total of 27km of roads on the island, and yet tourists still flock to rent cars. It was very funny seeing the same people in the same cars at all the same spots I visited on foot), the weather shifted, and before I knew it, I had to peel off layers and put on sunscreen. Yup, the sun decided to help me out yet again on a tramping day, and warmed me up and gave me some pretty good views. It wasn’t perfect weather, but damn near. Getting to Maori Beach was pretty awesome, as they say that hike alone is 6-7 hours, but I did the round trip in much less. I had lunch out there (a cold pie and some fruits), surrounded by whale bones and sea shells in a little shelter. There was another little sun shower during that time, but it stopped again when I set out on foot once again.
Around Stewart Island, there is actually a great walk of 9 days duration, of which I basically did the first days hike and back. Had I more time, I might have done the whole thing, but I’m not sure I’d really need to circumnavigate this whole island to get a sense of it. I’m more than happy to have just done the day trip. At least I saw a lot of the island. From Maori beach, I made my way back to town via a couple routes, and passed a few other hikers on their way out. Arriving in town, I had about 2 hours left to make my next trip to Ringaringa point. My reason to head there? Well, it was just a wee bit further, and I wanted to make my offering as far south as I could.
Offering? Yep. Well, I’ve been carrying a little stone with me that I picked up in Cape Reinga, and has been with me on all my adventures thus far. The idea was to take it all the way south then pitch it into the ocean or ground as an offering for the Maori. I got the idea in South America, where when climbing mountains, you are supposed to take a stone from the bottom and leave it at the top as an offering for the Pacha Mama, or mother earth. This was my NZ version of that. The picture with this post is of me casting the stone into the bay from Wohler’s monument area. I had mixed feelings doing this. It felt partly like the end of my journey, even though I’ll probably do another 1000km or so before I finally rest in Christchurch. However, it was a cool moment, and I was glad to be able to enjoy it on my own at that spot. Sort of symbolic of my trip, of which I’ve mainly been on my own.
After the rock toss, I hurried back, just in time to grab some food at the grocery store, and check in for the last boat, departing at 6:30. Wouldn’t want to miss that. The return trip was just as fun, with lots of rocking and rolling as we powered along. Glancing back at Stewart Island, I was amazed to see massive dark clouds, and what looked like torrential rains pouring down in the vicinity of Maori Beach. I felt sorry for the people I had seen pitching a tent as I left, but glad that it wasn’t me. Arriving in Bluff, I hurried off with my little sign, in the hopes of snagging a ride with one of the passengers. However, even before they had time to get to their cars, a local couple heading to Inver-Vegas picked me up lickety split. I was very glad, and thankful. They insisted on driving me right to my doorstep even! Kiwi hospitality I tell you. I was back at the house by 7:50, 20minutes after arriving in Bluff. I probably wouldn’t have gotten there that fast if I had my own car!
To end the story, I’ll just say it was a great day, with lots of high points from my journey’s point of view. Although the ferry was quite expensive for what it was, the ride was as thrilling as any jet boat or luge, so from that perspective it was worth it. It was also worth it to experience such a quiet, peaceful and desolate place as Stewart Island can be. Now I can say that I did it. I made it all the way to the deep deep south of New Zealand! Next day, it was back on the road, so I wanted a good night’s sleep, but I ended up staying up too late again putting up the pictures for y’all. However, tomorrow is for another story, which you can read next! Adios.