Rakiura / Stewart Island

We woke this morning and went to the kitchen for breakfast where we soon were met by Riki, our host. He was quite voluble telling us about his rather checkered past. He referred to himself as an old hippie druggie, who after 12 years found Jesus and it turned his life around. Considering he’s been married for over 30 years with 3 children, a lovely wife who’s a nurse and a beautiful home, I guess he was right. Quite the morning conversation.

After that I was ready to hit the road going back to Bluff, this time going the correct way. We arrived early, which was a good thing, as we snagged free parking for the day, thanks to the advice of Marcia, the delightful clerk who made our reservations the day before and clued us in to everything. We quickly got checked in and had a brief conversation with a pair of hikers from Columbia and Germany. Then we met a NZ woman, Denise, from Nelson, who was on a tour with her husband. Totally charming. She and Dian figured out that they’re not only the same age but born only one day apart. That seemed to seal things, as she’s invited us to cone visit when we get up that way. Talk about a hospitable citizenry!

Soon we boarded the boat which was to take us across the way to Rakiura, also known as Stewart Island. It’s the third largest and most southern of New Zealand’s Islands. It also hosts only 380 permanent residents and has 97% of the island as a conservation area / national park. It’s known for it’s amazing bird population. Now it sounds easy to hop a boat there but not so fast! The passage over crossed where the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea. Sort of a rough waterway. We started rocking and rolling as soon as we got away from the headland. And this was a so called calm, beautiful day. After an hour’s ride, seeing albatross and titi birds, who annually roost on 38 outer unpopulated islands after transiting from Canada, Alaska and Japan, we pulled into Half moon Bay, up to the pier in Oban. And there was clearly a half moon showing above the place! We had booked a bus tour, as there’s limited places one can reach without hiking, there’s only 27 km of paved roads and we had no car. It turned out to be very enjoyable and most informative, with our driver/guide being a young, local woman who used to work with the conservation effort. We saw some gorgeous outlooks before coming back to the wee town. We walked over to the little museum then headed to the blue caravan that was reknown for its blue cod fish and chips. We sat outside in the blustery wind, smacking our lips, enjoying the island specialty. We next hoofed it over to the island gift shop and ended at their theater. There we were totally amused to find the showing of the local story announced by Lola, the dog, ringing a bell! Incredible. And then we found the movie was narrated by none other than Lola! Histerical!

By then it was time to mosey back to the pier for our ride back to Bluff. Well, by that time the wind had picked up considerably making the passage somewhat more exciting. Imagine a Disney World ride combined with a water park ride within a car wash. Oh, my. It was an hour of up and down and sideways and water splashing all over the place. The good news was we were snug inside.

Back on sold ground we headed for the market to buy dinner ingredients and a nice bottle of wine for yours truly, then on the hunt for our night’s Airbnb. An unusual place, but hosted by a charming, welcoming couple, Dan, who’s Maori and his wife, Sonya.

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