Nov. 17, 2012 We spent yesterday traveling from Te Anau to Stewart Island. It is not easy to get to. We took the Intercity bus to Gore where we had to switch to another bus bound for Invercargill. At Invercargill we had a 5 hour layover, but, as it turned out, there was plenty to do. At the I site was a museum that was most interesting. There were displays on the sub Antarctica islands and on the history of their failed colonization. It was not just those people who found their way to the island but also castaways whose only hope of survival lay on the islands. At that time, the islands were uninhabited. However after it became apparent that ship wreck victims were reaching these places, the New Zealand government placed small survival huts on them and would check these southernmost lands periodically. G and I also did a historical building walking tour.
It is enjoyable looking at the old facades of these buildings. Most remind me of the buildings of the 1900’s in small town Texas.
We also got to see Henry the tuatara who is the oldest living lizard in New Zealand. They are also endangered and the museum has a breeding program for them.
In fact, besides the lizards and the historical museum, this complex also housed an art gallery. Outside of this building were the city’s gardens. Unfortunately, we did not have time to see this as we had to take a small bus to get our ferry to Stewart Island. The trip to the island is known to be upsetting to one’s stomach so G and I prepare by taking our friend, Bonine. We both did the crossing fine and were able to stand up and view the approach to the island.
Today, we did the hike to Horseshoe Point which goes up one side of Half Moon Bay then around the Tasman Sea and then up Horseshoe Bay.
It was like a mini hike of Abel Tasman with small coves mysteriously appearing at regular intervals through the rainforest.
The water here is not the aqua blue of the AT area but is more of a brown with blue appearing close to the bottom in the shallow water. There is also large brown seaweed which is held afloat by ping pong size balls filled with air. The beach sand is similar in consistency and size with that of AT; however, it is not nearly as pretty being light tan in appearance in contract to the gold highlights of AT.
Nov. 18, 2012 We caught a water taxi which looked like a toy boat to Ulva Island, a small island straight off of Stewart Island.
It is one of the islands that is now predator free. It is really interesting how they did this. They covered it with hollow tubing. In the tubing was poison bait for the rats and stoats. They did this in a cross pattern and after 4 years Ulva was rodent free. This has allowed the native birds to proliferate and the trees and shrubs to grow back. It is now a wildlife sanctuary. Ulva has 4 hiking trails which are themed—conservation, history, and scenic hikes.
The island is so small we were able to do all of them in 4 hours at a really slow pace. As many of our walks have been, this one was through a forested area replete with ferns and native trees.
Our taxi driver said that the key to seeing birds on the island is to wait for them to come to us. We did that and it worked wonderfully. We saw the woodpigeons, tuis, Stewart Island robins, brown creepers, wekas, tomtits, parakeets and parrots. There we were waiting on the path when we saw a large bird fly to the top of a tree and start pulling bark off of it. It was a kaka, which reminds me of blond parrot with a curved beak. Another time we were surprised by two redheaded birds flew directly in front of us and alighted on a limb. They were New Zealand parakeets which are rarely seen. The sounds of music were all over the forest—screeches and caws, tweets, and symphonies. We only saw 6 other people while we were on the island.
We did have a different sort of encounter with a bird when we returned to the hostel. The owner came in as we were having coffee and said that the keas (mischievous parrots) were removing a yellow shirt from the clothes line. Greg had to rush outside and save his shirt!
We went to quiz night at the pub. This seems to be a popular activity in numerous communities but this is the first time we went. The pub was full of players. We were automatically made players and assigned to a group composed of two native Stewart Islanders, Lois, our 75 year old friend, and one Argentinan. The quiz included identifying 10 movie stars and then answering different categories of questions—history, liquors, movies, etc. Good thing there were movie buffs on the team since G and I could not name a one them. G did get the military question; it was about the CIA. No questions about aliens though. There were 36 questions and our team got 31 correct. That put us in 5th or 6th place. Go us! Not too bad for our first time out!