A visit to Ulva Island...

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

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Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Whilst resting my weary bones at the hostel, I got talking to Simon from the Lake District who was without doubt the most serious tramper I've ever met. He was about to embark on a 10-14 day tramp around the whole Island, and had just completed the Colorado Trail in no less than 40 days! At just 20 years of age, I was impressed by his dedication, and my mutterings about my aching legs seemed insignificant in comparison to some of his experiences!

We did a 2 hour return walk to Acker's Point that evening, stopping at some nice look outs along the way. We did a little detour to the pretty Harrold's Bay, home to Acker's Stone House, the oldest building on Stewart Island. The track followed the cliff tops until we reached the lighthouse, and there were great views of the ocean and Ulva Island in the distance.

After an early night, I woke the next morning to the sound of heavy rain, although I didn't mind this time as I knew I could stay in bed! Simon, on the other hand, had to brave the conditions, but he wasn't perturbed in the slightest as he had lots of first class waterproof equipment. I wished him luck, and I may see him again in the Fjordland area but it's unlikely.

I was delighted when the rain eventually stopped at midday, as I really wanted to visit Ulva Island before I left. So I booked my water taxi for 1.30pm and made my way to the departure point at Golden Bay wharf. It was still cloudy, but it looked like it was going to brighten up so I was looking forward to seeing the birdlife on the Island...

There are no predators on Ulva Island due to a successful eradification programme that took place throughout the '90s, and so it is renowned for its abundance of birds. We saw a lone penguin in the ocean on the short journey across Paterson Inlet, before arriving at Post Office Cove. The driver described the various walking trails on the Island, although I'd bought a guide book from the Information Centre that had provided me with all I needed to know.

I was disappointed with the first trail as it seemed to be completely devoid of any wildlife! My spirits heightened when I reached the gorgeous Sydney Cove which had a lovely long beach and clear blue water.

The trail to Boulder Beach was much better, and I started to see and hear the birds that were described in my guide book. I saw a lot of Toutouwai (Stewart Island Robins), and heard many Tui and Bellbirds. Once at the beach, I got my first glimpse of the Weka, rummaging through the seaweed and showing no fear towards passers by like myself. I already knew of this bird's bold nature after I encountered it on numerous occasions on the Queen Charlotte Track.

The trail from West End Beach was by far my favourite, as I encountered so many attractive birds, including the bright green Kakariki and about a dozen more Weka. However, my favourite bird is definitely the Kaka, and I was lucky enough to see 5 or 6 of them before I returned to Post Office Cove. The first time was the best, as I glanced to the side and stared at one of the huge birds, before he flew off into the distance, demonstrating what a huge wingspan he had. I found out that the Kaka pecks at the bark with their strong beaks to lick up the sap as it oozes out, explaining the actions of the one I'd seen on the last day of the Rakiura Track.

I relaxed at Sydney Cove for a short while, accompanied by another inquisitive Weka, before heading back to Stewart Island at 5pm. I stood at the front with the driver, and I asked him about the best place to see the penguins. He said Acker's Point, so I walked there again that evening as the sun was shining, and I could appreciate the scenery more as I'd be on my own.

I witnessed the sky turn red as the sun set, and I could hear the penguins in the ocean beneath me, but it was difficult to see them as the water was quite choppy and it was getting dark. So I turned around and enjoyed a very relaxing walk back to Halfmoon Bay, walking along the coast with noone else around and the starts becoming brighter in the night sky.

It was a lovely, fitting end to my short stay on Stewart Island.
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