Settling at Halfmoon Bay...

Trip Start Feb 17, 2005
Trip End Feb 27, 2006

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Saturday, October 1, 2005

I'd been to the supermarket the previous evening to stock up on food for Stewart Island. Unfortunately I bought too much and it wouldn't all fit into my backpacks, so I ate a full box of Tim Tams for breakfast...and toast! Now I had sufficient room for the rest of my food, and when the shuttle bus picked me up at 8.15am, I was set up for the day.

At Invercargill's tiny airport, I recognised Ally from Dolphin Lodge...he was the one who looked aghast that his peace had been broken by the kiwi Experience brigade! So after checking in, I hung around with him until the pilots ushered us out of the building and towards the 2 planes.

I was quite surprised at the size of the planes, as they only had room for 6 passengers. Once on board, I spoke briefly to a lady next to me until the engine fired up and I couldn't hear a word she was saying! Just moments later, the plane was coasting into position before suddenly...we were away!

I'd heard a lot of talk about this particular plane ride, but our 20 minute journey was "smooth as" (Kiwi expressions). It was a very scenic flight, and as we approached the Island, the vast forests and golden beaches came into view. The pilot circled around Halfmoon Bay to give us a good view of Ulva Island, before we gradually descended and landed on the narrow runway.

After another quick shuttle into Oban, the Island's main settlement, I was making my way towards the backpackers when I bumped into Anja and Annika - the 2 German girls from Surat Bay. They had just completed the 3 day Rakiura Track, saying it was more difficult than the guide books would have you believe. They were staying at the same place as me, so I'd pick their brains some more later in the day...

I wasted no time in going for a wander, accompanied by Ally who by further coincidence was in the same dorm as me, although he was only staying for one night. I called in at the Information Centre to find out more about the track, and when I saw a positive looking weather forecast, I decided to go ahead and book myself into the huts. I also had to fill in a form about my intentions so that the DOC knew when to send out the search party! Hopefully it wouldn't come to that...

Ally persuaded me to go and play golf with him on what is reputedly the world's most southerly golf course. We hired the clubs from the post office, then made our way round past Lonneker's Beach until we reached the 6 hole course. I made it clear to Ally that I hadn't hit a ball in anger for over 10 years, but he agreed it was only a bit of fun. He went first and struck one miles into the distance, although he sliced it a long way wide of the fairway! My first attempt was less dramatic, although it went straight and to be honest, I was ecstatic to have even made contact!

Despite this strong start, my form quickly deteriorated, although I only swung at thin air on a couple of occasions. On a more positive note, I found 2 golf balls along the course which cancelled out the 2 that Ally had lost, so I gained something of a moral victory in that respect!

In the afternoon, I went back to the Information Centre to pay for a locker so I didn't have to traipse 36km with all my belongings! The sun had just made its first appearance, so I asked about walks in the immediate vicinity, and the advisor recommended a 2-3 hour stroll that sounded ideal. So off I went...

The 15 minute Fuschia Walk gave me an introduction to the vast array of birdlife on Stewart Island, with yet more interesting sounds being made, particularly by the black and white Tui. I took a short diversion to Observation Rock which provided amazing views of the smaller islands just off the coast. The Raroa Walk was another brief affair, but I came out at the glorious Thule Bay and relaxed for a short while as it was so peaceful. The locals usually raised a hand or gave me a nod as they passed by, which was nice as it showed that they were friendly towards tourists. A 1 hour track followed the coast of Deep Bay, before I arrived back at the hostel at 5pm, very impressed with my initial views of Stewart Island.

That evening I just relaxed and watched TV, although I did have a quick stroll around Oban with Ally, hoping to see penguins. I spoke to Anja about the Rakiura Track, and she gave me some priceless advice...take your own toilet paper! In fact, she insisted that I have hers as she didn't need it anymore. I was close to tears...noone's ever given me toilet paper before!

After a long chat with Ally about music and cricket, I went to sleep at about midnight, eager to get some rest ahead of my 3 day walk...
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