Debriefing: Stewart Island

Granted: The short stay on Stewart Island was designed for a kayak-in/kayak-out version of the Southern Circuit in five days:

  • Oban, Golden Bay – Rakeahua Hut (kayak, pick up by water taxi in the evening)
  • Rakeahua Hut – Doughboy Bay
  • Doughboy Bay – Mason Bay
  • Mason Bay – Freshwater
  • Freshwater – Oban, Golden Bay (kayak, delivery in the morning).

Whether or not that would have been realistic – especially from the kayaking side – is another question. The tides were right, but not spending a day on the water getting to Rakeahua would have meant hanging around a whole day for the water taxi to take me there.

Topo Map with GPS

Still plenty to explore: The land, and the sea
Still plenty to explore: The land, and the sea. Stewart Island: Oban – Mason Bay, Topo+GPS (105 downloads)
In any case, having no partner for either kayaking arm meant doing a trip out to Mason Bay on foot, even if the last leg of the return journey could be undertaken by water taxi. Read more…

Debriefing: Satellite Tours

An additional degree of freedom when travelling was the use of “satellite tours” where a stop would be used as a starting point for a longer tour, with an intermediate base. This meant carrying less luggage to the intermediate point, but it also required a good deal of planning and organisation.

A classical tour, such as the Dusky Track, required only a place to leave most of the luggage, while taking only what was absolutely necessary (for eight days!) on the tour. Since the starting point was Te Anau, and most accommodation hosts there are used to dealing with tourists going on longer or shorter tours, then it was just a question of asking whether storage facilities were available. At Steamers Beach/Lakeview Holiday Park, a vehicle can be parked safely for $10, and another $10 will get you a locker for as long as you need it. Everything else was packed into the backpack weighing in @ 18 kg for the tour.

The first real satellite tour, however, had already been undertaken on Stewart Island. Here the idea was to spend one night in the secondary base at Oban before beginning and after ending the tramp across the island. This would mean leaving a small bag with some fresh clothes at the hostel in Oban, as well as leaving the main suitcase in Invercargill. As there is a strict weight limit on luggage on the plane (15 kg) some of the tramping food would have to be bought in Oban (not much more expensive than the mainland, but anyhow). And this is how it went: Read more…

8. Mason Bay – Freshwater

Saturday, February 18: Sunny & hot

Tramping: 14.0 km

Freshwater Hut (Doc)

Managed to sleep in until about 9:00 (the others only had to get up to catch their flight back), so the morning was rather relaxed packing. I was ready to go soon after 10:00 and planned on making a number of hydration breaks along the way.

Stopped first of all at the homestead for a sip, then charged along the somewhat muddy section, which, however, was rapidly drying out, so that most of the mud required no major detours or planning. Ran into a German, Frank, who was doing Freshwater-Mason Bay and back again in a day, followed by an American couple who were staying at Mason Bay tonight and wanting to be back tomorrow morning for the water taxi at 9:00. Finally, a Dutch woman who was doing a more leisurely pace but had everything with her including a bed roll. After that just empty track. Read more…

5. Oban – North Arm – Freshwater River

Wednesday, February 15: Sunny with variable cloud, light rain showers towards evening

Tramping: 22.9 km

Freshwater Hut (Doc)

Rippled clouds at dawn, Oban
Rippled clouds at dawn, Oban

Today was the day to try to redeem the tramp on Stewart Island. I had slept four hours in one go for the first time on this trip, and was up soon after 7:00. With the first of the hiking breakfasts out of the way – the egg was well cooked, yolk was not dried out, but one or two pieces of shell were a bit tenacious – I pushed what I could into the pack, and everything else went into the small sports bag. Unfortunately my key didn’t open the room labelled “Storage” so I put a note on the bag and left it on the bed. Then it was off to the track. Read more…

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). Read more…

2. Invercargill

Sunday, February 12: Some rain in the early morning, windy & overcast

Swimming: 1600 m
Walking: 13.8 km

Randa’s

Sleep was more like napping for 2 hours a go, until about 5:00 when the mode changed to dozing. In any case I was up just after 7:00 when Randa & Gonsalo were finishing breakfast. I was introduced to the kitchen and got hold of some cornflakes, coffee & toast. Gonsalo was on his way to Queenstown for a couple of days and left soon after. Randa started on her story – at least in the brief version – and I was able to start walking on the way to the swimming pool for what I hoped was pool practice with the local kayak club. Was greeted every now & then by joggers, and just before reaching the pool asked a passerby where exactly it was, and was directed to it, not far away, but not where I thought it was. Paid about $4.5 (which would have been for a senior!), went into the building, waited around for the kayak people to turn up, asked around every once in a while, admired the boats, went back to the reception & asked to call them to see what they were up to as it was passed the time they had told me they were starting at. The session had been cancelled, pity they hadn’t told me anything about it. Read more…

Tamaki Makaurau

The Old Christchurch, February 16, 2009. This time only briefly through the airport, though
The Old Christchurch, February 16, 2009. This time only briefly through the airport, though

Over the years, on buses, at motorcamps, in backpackers, I’ve stumbled across people spending their two weeks’ worth of holidays trying to see all of New Zealand, such is the call of the place desired by many. And yet here I am again, standing in front of the expanse of two months, squeezing the days into plans and realising how much there is still to do after five trips down under. But not to worry. There will be plenty of new stuff on this trip. Read more…