The Stewart Island debate

Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
Trip End Feb 26, 2011

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Where I stayed
Curio Bay Camp Ground

Flag of New Zealand  , Southland,
Monday, November 1, 2010

We woke up fairly early and decided that we didn't want to hang around as the sand flies were ominously eying us through the windows intent on making us their breakfast. We continued South along the Southern Scenic Route to the coast and stopped at McCracken’s Rest (someone of course had added 'Phil’ to the sign) for breakfast.  We had cereal and tea while we chatted to another tourist from Watford who was travelling in a huge camper which dwarfed the Gimp – bless.  The views were great and it was a lovely day which made it even better.  Back on the road we passed through surfing favourite Colac Bay where Andrew felt the urge to try out the children’s playground and especially the slides – let’s just say they weren’t well polished and someone got stuck quite a few times, hehe!  The next town we arrived in was Riverton with a large harbour dominating the centre.  This was enough to get Andrew’s interest and he instantly started to talk about getting a fisherman to take us out as volunteers for the day.  Hmmm, I wasn’t so sure.  I didn’t think a fisherman would be too keen on letting us get in the way so we pushed on towards ‘The Rocks’ a highlight in one of our guide books.  Very, very uninspiring – better maybe on a hot day in summer...just.

At Invercargill, the ‘big smoke’ (by big smoke we should clarify despite its name it only has 50,000 people which seems a lot when you are travelling here) of the Southland we visited the Southland Museum and Art Gallery attached to the i-site to see the ancient Tuatara, a species of reptile that hasn’t changed for 220 million years and which can live for over 100 years.  Unfortunately wild Tuatara no longer live on mainland New Zealand due to predators  so the only place that you can realistically see them is here.  We even got to meet ‘Henry’ who is 120 years old and only became a father at 105.  The curator called him out and he even seemed to recognise his name!  Still he has had a long time to learn.  The rest of the museum was really interesting and had memorabilia belonging to Burt Monroe the legendary motorcyclist.  Some great photography too depicting white baiting and the Kiwi obsession with it.  As we’ve seen this going on everywhere it seemed so apt to be showcasing it at this time of year.

Outside again Andrew got excited as we realised that there was an important bike race about to start at the entrance to the park.  Andrew told me that it was the New Zealand equivalent of the Tour De France.  We watched the major (I think that was the mayor my love not the major) handing out the stage jerseys and handing out flowers to the winners from the previous day.  It did seem very professional I think it was a big deal so we watched the start and marvelled at all the cyclists waxed legs – that reminds me.  When all the excitement was over and the cyclists were on their way we found the library and started to read some blogs about Stewart Island, New Zealand’s third biggest island.  We just couldn’t decide whether to go or not.  Andrew was for it with the intention of completing a New Zealand great walk the top of the agenda but everything that I read put me off a bit, the cost to get over there, the mud, the sand flies etc.  I even saw a picture of a man’s sandal and sock disintegrated by the deep mud and it didn’t fill me with joy.  Despite it being the best place (the most likely) to spot a Kiwi bird the cons ended up drubbing the pros so with Andrew in a bit of a sulk, not sure why we were saving money, we went to Countdown to stock up with food as apparently The Catlins, where we were headed doesn’t have a supermarket or ATM, oh my god it’s Burma all over again – not quite, they have plastic notes here!

We got to Bluff, where the ferry leaves for Stewart Island as I’d told Andrew that this was where he could buy oysters direct from the factory, what we didn’t realise was that oyster season ended 2 months ago so the factory was shut up – the sulk got worse.  We found Bluff to be a cute little place though and we took the obligatory photograph at the signpost on the not quite southern most point of the South Island looking out to the South Pole to go with the one from Cape Reigna on North Island.  We got back in the van and my map reliably informed me of a campsite not too far away so I directed Andrew to what turned out to be a scout camp, we decided to stay anyway but everywhere was locked up with signs warning of private property do not enter.  It looked a bit dodge in the end so begrudgingly we drove on in to The Catlins.

Now as we have had no choice but to come out of the closet as fully fledged (get it) Twitchers despite it being late we couldn’t resist stopping off at Waituna Lagoon to see which wading birds we could spot.  It was a bit of a disappointment really we only saw one heron type bird and some ducks, still we had got some exercise in to our old legs.  We arrived at Curio Bay Camp Ground and found the office locked up with a message that the shop would reopen again at 10.30am the following morning.  The location of this campsite was perfect, nestled in between Curio Bay and Porpoise Bay with the most private pitches in between tall grass it was wonderful.  We made our camp and cooked rump steak and pasta with plenty of fried onions before watching The Bounty Hunter before bed without a sand fly in sight – it was good to be on the South Coast.
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