Stewart Island

Date of Adventure: 4-7 April 2021

If you read our Rakiura Track post, you know that we didn’t spend much time in Oban when we first got to Stewart Island. Fortunately, we gave ourselves some time after the Great Walk to see the little settlement of Oban and it’s surroundings!

I’ll overlap this post a little with the Rakiura post, starting at the large chain sculpture at the end of the track. Though the path ends there and road begins, we decided we didn’t want to pay for a shuttle to take us the 4km back to town. We road walked around a few bays, enjoying the coastal town feel of the vacation homes, all but abandoned in the late fall.

Not a black and white photo; bleak in the rain

We walked to Kai kart for delicious fish and chips that night, where we met a couple people out looking for kiwi in the dusk.

The next day, the hostel we stayed at allowed us to store our backpacks in the back shed while we walked around, so we could walk with just a camera and a water bottle!

Our main attraction for the day was Ulva Island, a wildlife sanctuary island in the adjacent bay.

The ferry across to the island was a quick, cold journey. The older couple that ran this particular service was super cute though: when you purchased your ticket, they gave you a large leaf with ‘Ulva Island’ written on it, which was collected two minutes later as you stepped on the boat!

I accidentally deleted the image I took with my phone 😦

Ulva island has been cleared of all introduced mammalian predators: rats, stoats, ferrets, and cats, so it is an incredible bird sanctuary!

Kereru, the forest pigeon
New Zealand wild parakeet
South Island Robin
Kaka, the forest parrot, cousin to the Kea

Though Kiwis are naturally nocturnal, Stewart Island (and Ulva island) are noted for the possibility of seeing these rare birds during the day!

Kadi found both kiwi that we saw that day. Their long, slender feathers blend in well with the underbrush they cruise through, so we discovered that it was easier to listen for them as they root through the leafy blanket on the forest floor in search of food.

As the morning turned to afternoon, more people arrived on the island and the birds shied away from the footpaths (and shouting children), so we just enjoyed the beautiful scenery before taking our return ferry shuttle.

We had spent longer than anticipated on Ulva, so we were a little rushed for time to get onto the large ferry back to the mainland! We got the key for the shed, picked up our bags, and had to run with them to get to our next stop, a special store in town!

Glowing Sky is a brand of merino clothing that we had originally seen at their shop in Wanaka. However, it was started on Stewart Island, as Rakiura is the Maori word for ‘Glowing Sky’, since the Aurora Australis is seen often on the island.

Though it is more aimed at fashion clothing, we love their wool half-gloves and wear them all the time! We spent a few minutes talking with the owner and browsing the store, but soon had to head out to get on the ferry!

We ran into our hut/hostel friends again as we were queueing for the boat. We ended up sitting next to them, and are very grateful for them sharing their big mint patties with us, they were a life saver for Kadi’s stomach!

At the backpackers, there is a sign with all the tips and tricks for combatting sea sickness on the ferry. Some are kind of strange, but Kadi did all of them to try to make the trip back more pleasant than last time:

Sit in the middle, in the back

Watch the horizon

Suck on a mint

Take ginger tablets 1 hour before

Put an earplug in one ear, opposite your dominant hand

And finally… Go on a day that is sunny, calm, and pleasant.

Whether all of these tricks were needed, we don’t know, but Kadi felt much better all throughout the journey back to Bluff!

The captain pointed out some albatross soaring adjacent to the boat, but they were too fast for me to get good photos of. We could see Bluff hill growing ever larger, and finally we got back into the port, off the boat, and back to the van!

Bluff itself is an interesting town with murals everywhere, so keep an eye out for our tour of the murals on our next post!

Thanks for reading!

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