4. Invercargill – Oban

Tuesday, February 14: Heavy rain overnight, heavy showers, lightning on Stewart Island

Walking: 3.2 km

Bunkers Backpackers, 13 Argyle St., Halfmoon Bay, double room upstairs, all amenities downstairs ($74)

Sleep was still fairly fragmented but I let everyone else get up and underway before I went down at 8:15. All were almost ready to go when I started on breakfast. Pretty soon the house was quiet. Had a quick look on the internet, could see that the rain was going to clear over the next couple of days.

Had my remaining two peaches & started to organise the stuff for today. Found five eggs that could be boiled, although they were very different sizes. Tried to avoid eggs that were already cracked, brought some water to boil and plonked them in, waited 30 seconds after the water had returned to boil, threw about half of the ice cubes in and took the heat off for the remaining 10 minutes as the water appeared to be at the right temperature. One of the larger eggs had lost a bit of white (but not too much), removed the water, added the remaining ice cubes to cool the eggs, and when the ice had melted I dried the eggs and packed them away in a plastic container (no egg cartons to be found).

Bit by bit everything seemed to fall into place. Decided to wear the singlet, jumper and raincoat to avoid overfilling the pack. The suitcase looked positively deserted; one last look on the net and the computer was in the second backpack; then everything else had to go into the hiking backpack, which closed quite well.

The shuttle was pretty much on time & I checked in @ 17.4 kg (again!), possibly because of the second camera, the camera kayak harness and Michael’s bag of batteries (too many batteries in all – this will have to be better organised in future), and had the mains adapter with me in the coat.

Windmills before Bluff
Windmills before Bluff
Switched on raw shooting in the camera and took bad pixel photos and pretty soon we were ready to go. Only one seat – next to me – was free, and the wind was quite gusty. Got a couple of photos. It started pouring as we landed and there was a flash of lightning in there as well. Down in town I chatted with Christine from Munich who was starting on the Rakiura Track and considering taking in Mason Bay as well. Gave her a couple of tips for the tracks.

Eventually found my way to Bunkers, unpacked some stuff and am now sitting in the fire-warmed living room of the hostel while two groups of people practice their pastimes: Yoga and watching the phone, as the rain and hail continued. One woman at the dining table is reading Carl Sagan’s Demon Haunted World, which at least is promising.

Landing at Oban
Landing at Oban
After the weather had cleared I went down to check first of all the water taxi times, but there the promise was lacking. Doc painted the devil on the wall of unmaintained tracks prone to flooding (which would also include Freshwater to Mason Bay, which was one of the better sections). In any case the weather looks to improve in the next day or so; and faced with an impenetrable bushbash I can always turn back, even if it means walking 12 hours a day. In the course of the afternoon it became clear that I would have to try for Freshwater tomorrow, and then towards Fred’s Hut the next day; if nothing comes of that, then to continue on to Mason Bay and try reaching Doughboy’s from that end; there and back in a day if necessary. It has become increasingly clear that this tour was planned with the kayak sections in place; and when Dusky Track came along that planning was cemented. It will be a challenge.

Had a bit of a look at the supermarket; most things seemed available. Took a detour via Kamahi Rd and the bathing beach to get some walking done. Changed places a couple of times with a woman who would have liked the temperature a bit higher & the wind a little more moderate. Picked up a bag and went shopping for the remainder of the food: No Uncle Ben’s rice in bags; instead a choice of 1 kg of rice or 500 g of spaghetti. Managed to think of some dried fruit, and sultanas were not that expensive, so I settled for 60 g of crackers/60 g of salami with 80 g of sultanas each day for lunch. Collected a bottle of wine for tonight as well and with that the bill passed $25 which would have given me a free carrier bag which I gratefully declined.

After depositing the goods at the hostel I decided to reserve a table for the last supper at the pub; they eventually agreed that I could have a table for one @ 5:30, which is fine by me. Back at the ranch the next item on the agenda was a shower (the next one would be when I’m back) and then some minor washing. Started the drying outside on the line; then under a roofed section of the deck, then finally in the room.

Turned on the spot and only the green light blinked. Left it for 15 minutes and sent an OK which was promptly successful. Tried calling Michael to ascertain what the plan is; he wasn’t in, but reached him a little later and confirmed that the OK button should be pressed immediately on being switched on. The only question left is the “cycle” consideration – whether the machine should be left on for longer to ensure transmission. Will have to note down the starting times for the next couple of days.

In the meantime I had been down to the pub and had blue cod (battered) with crinkle cut chips, salad, a sauce of choice (I had vinegar) for $30 & a handle for $6. Quite tasty and a well measured portion. Of course, there’d be a premium of this being Stewart Island, but all in all recommendable (South Sea Hotel, The Waterfront).

Fun evening in the hostel writing the diary, discussing thinking & everything else with Marie, Lena, Sarah & Lorenzo, and later in the night politics with Jamie.