The old Dunedin train station is an eclectic piece of architecture, dating back to 1903.
|"Age to Perfection.....Positive Aging in Action".......great tagline, they saw these old farts coming!|
After Dunedin, we said farewell to Glen and Carol, and pointed Dirt Bravo back south, to cross to the southernmost of New Zealand's 3 largest islands. Stewart Island, we'd heard, is THE place to go to see kiwis, New Zealand's most famous and iconic birds.
We met up in the little town of Bluff with cruising mates John and Kathy from m/v 'Mystic Moon'. Like us, John and Kathy were doing a long road trip exploring and hiking around the country. Bluff was an interesting place, definitely "the end of the road".
|Stewart Island in the distance, from Bluff overlook|
|Official bottom of New Zealand's south island|
The stretch of water between Bluff and Stewart Island is considered among the roughest in the world, as the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea, on a natural ocean shelf only about 100 feet deep. The little catamaran ferry was specially designed for the rough seas that occur in all seasons.
|Workers at Bluff cannery "wet fish department" on their "smoko"|
After the short ferry ride, we arrived in the town of Oban, the only real town on Stewart, and were met by Ang, who drove us to our hotel/cabins. Pretty sweet spot, we got to sleep on a real bed, in a building, no less, for the first time since leaving Auckland several weeks earlier. What a concept, gotta say, we get it, that bed was comfy!!!
Lots of kaka's, a New Zealand parrot, hung around our cabins. Yes, there really is a bird named the kaka !!! And these bad boys are not at all shy!!!
We spent a nice morning on neighboring Ulva Island, hiring Ang through Ulva's Guided Walks. She was a great guide and naturalist, and did a terrific job of showing us a lot of the birds and plants of the island. Ulva is a national park and bird sanctuary. It was declared rat free in 1997, and, with no predators, has been used since as a sort of holding pen for many of New Zealand's rarest birds and plants, some of which are nearly extinct anywhere else. It was a beautiful spot, though we were a bit underwhelmed at the populations of critters. But a great hike nonetheless.
|Water taxi (blue boat) waiting to shuttle us over to Ulva|
|A "weka", a large brown flightless bird. The closest thing we came to seeing a kiwi|
|Mother weka and two chicks|
|Supposedly a kiwi footprint, we're convinced that the guides tramp around after the tourists leave with "kiwi stamps"|
Though we heard that Stewart Island is home to 15-20,000 kiwi birds, we went out kiwi spotting all three nights we were there, and never saw one!!! We're convinced that the damn things are just chickens with a Photoshopped beak.....who knows???
But we did several nice hikes on Stewart, and recommend the visit to anyone exploring the south island. It's not a cheap trip, but the overall laid back spirit of the small isolated island community is really pretty cool.....
|Kathy and John, with his favorite Stewart souvenir and trusty compadre.|