New Zealand February 1999  
At the other end of the world
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 Stewart Island 11 - 13 February
 
We enjoyed the great beds with the nice blankets, they were so comfortable, we got up very late ..
but it was no problem because our bus was leaving at 10:30 am. After a nice breakfast we organised the trip to Stewart Island and stored our luggage. The bus was late but that's the way it is in NZ. No worries about that. We reached Invercargill a bit late for our plane but the driver was very helpful; he stopped at an outdoor shop where we could buy some insect repellent and waited to take us right through to the airport. We checked in for our flight to Mason Bay, Stewart Island. The plane had space for five passengers but eventually we were just four. The flight was nice and we got some good views of Stewart Island's west coast. We landed at the beach - that was exciting. A very nice, long beach in the middle of nowhere and we came there with a plane! :)
It was very warm there and the sun was shining. I felt like I was on a tropical island. The way to the hut was short, so we dropped our bags off and went back to the beach. We spent some time exploring the sand dunes and walked along the shore but don't dare to take a seat - the sandflies are going to eat you up. Actually, they didn't bite us but they were still annoying. The hut was in a spectacular setting with palm trees and lush bush around. It looked like a holiday home and it had a hammock outside - very nice to relax in and read a nice book on the veranda.
In the evening, just half an hour before sunset, we went out to the beach again because the pilot told us that the Kiwis would be wandering there at night. We watched the sun set. It was a bit cloudy but still nice and then we strolled along the grassline where the dunes begin to see if we can find some Kiwis. We saw lots of Kiwi footprints but no Kiwi. After dusk we walked back to the hut, still looking for Kiwis but there where none. :( We got ready for the night and I was already in bed when some other trampers returned and told us that they saw a couple of Kiwis just 1km from the hut. We grapped our jackets and off we went to see Kiwis. After a short while we saw the first one, it was picking and tapping right on the way. The light from our flashlight didn't seem to bother it. We watched this Kiwi quite a while, in fact it was going the same way - so we were following it at about a 10 meter distance. Then it found something near the way and stopped. It didn't walk away as we came closer, so we got a really good view, less than one meter away. We watched it for one or two minutes then we decide to let it alone and went on. We saw two other Kiwis - one really big one, which we could see quite well through the branches of a bush, where it was sitting and picking a while. Another one jumped off right in front of me, but this one disappeared in the bush very fast. The last animal we saw was not a Kiwi, it was a possom and it was sitting in a tree right in front of us. We stared at the possum while it stared back at us until it decided to climb up to the top of the tree where we lost sight of it. What a night!
The next day was our walking day - we had to walk from Mason Bay to Freshwater Landing but it was an easy walk - all flat, no hills to climb. On the way we saw some nice areas and some New Zealand birds, like a Fernbird and a NZ Robin. We had to cross a swamp but there was a boardwalk all the way so it was no problem. At the end of the track, just 2 meters from the hut there was a weird bridge to cross..
It was made out of wires - nothing else - just wires. I felt a bit scared to cross that bridge. It didn't seem very stable to me and it was located high above the river and the water level was very low ..
but it didn't break and it was kind of fun to walk across the bridge.
Because we reached the hut quite early, I went off to climb Rocky Mountain. It is a one hour steady steep climb but many people say that it is well worth the effort because of the view. I thought about returning to the hut several times on my way up but I didn't wanted to give up. Eventually I  reached the top and I was disappointed because the top of the hill was stuck in a cloud. There are rocks everywhere on the top - at least I found out why it is called Rocky Mountain. Not much of a view though. In fact, I was scared of getting too far away from the path. This was because just 50 meters away I couldn't see the marker. That's why I started to walk down just ten minutes after reaching the top. The way down was of course much easier than the way up.
The next day we were the last people to leave the hut because we had to wait for the water taxi. We crossed the bridge again and had a look at one of the paths in another direction.
The watertaxi was late, so we were a bit worried about our kayaking and flight schedule; but then a special shuttle - a very fast boat - came to pick us up. We raced down the freshwater river, that was exciting because the boat had no seats, so we stood on the deck .. :)  and the river was very twisty. When we reached the kayaking base we met Jo, our guide. She told us that it was just a two hour paddle and we would reach Halfmoon Bay in time. After a brief instruction we were off paddling down the coastline towards Halfmoon Bay. A little blue penguin was swimming and diving very close to us but my camera was in the dry bag and I was too slow getting it but who cares, we had seen it. That's more important than a picture. We paddled into some sheltered coves and inlets for example Ryans Creek where Jo showed us some tree orchids, that was very nice. We had lunch at a beach along the way. Just the last part of the way was a bit rough but we had the wind at our backs which made the going very fast. As we reached the end of our kayaking trip at Golden Bay we helped Jo to clean up and put away the kayaks. After that we jumped into her Landrover and had a fun drive across the hill to Halfmoon Bay where she dropped us off at the check-in for our flight.
We had some time to walk to Halfmoon Bay Beach and sit down for a while to enjoy the view.

A few minutes later they called us for our flight and a van took us to the airstrip. It was a big plane with space for eight passengers. The man who was sitting next to me was from England and we had a nice talk. After takeoff we got some views off Stewart Islandís Eastcoast and while we crossed over to "Mainland NZ" we passed two people in a sea-kayak. They were crossing the strait also. The pilot had some fun - and we enjoyed it too - circling above them :)
Back at Invercargill Airport we got a ride into town from the pilot's wife.
We had some time before the Bottombus was going to pick us up in Invercargill, so we went to the southernmost McDonalds and ate some very good tasting Chicken McNuggets - I've never enjoyed eating fast-food more. After two days without hot food it was a great meal ;-)
Then we meet Chris again, doing the next Bottombus-Circle and bringing us back to Riverton where we stayed in the Riverton Rock again. This time there were some more people from the bus staying in the Rock and Chris told them to follow us because we already knew the way ;-)
  


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