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Journey to Wiapara

Still on the Farm

Grapes & Wine


Stewart Island


Picton & Wellington

Home Again

~ The Caves of Oban & Stewart Island ~

And so begins the next leg of my journey. When I first set out for New Zealand, reputable sources had recommended that I explore the caves of Stewart Island. Upon questioning the locals, I learned that Oban, the region where I first landed, is of Scottish origin and is literally translated as "the bay of little caves." Although I failed to find any large caves, the shore was indeed lined by many small inlets where overhanging rock had created a cave like effect. Not quite as spectacular as I had originally envisioned but accurate, none the less.

After a one hour boat ride aboard the Stewart Island ferry, we arrived at a small port in Halfmoon Bay. If I hadn't researched the island's population before arriving, I would have been greatly surprised by the site which met my eyes. Only 350 people live on Stewart Island year around making it a very remote location. However, within a few hours time, I found that those people who do live there can be very hospitable.

After stepping off the ferry, I walked only a few steps from the dock before encountering a row of signs pointing to the island's hot spots. One sign in particular caught my eye which directed me to "Dave's Place," only 2 minutes away. The view which can be seen past this computer is of the same bay as can be seen in the above photograph. Dave was very gracious to allow myself and other travellers to use his house much like a playground (for only $15 a night!).

After staying a couple of days and nights at "Dave's Place," I set out along a hiking trail called the Northwest Curcuit. This photograph may seem a bit obscure, but it is of one of the many small rivulets draining water from the lush inland jungle to the ocean. As you may be able to see, the sand was very, very fine. I can only assume that the discoloration is due to an excess of decomposing organic matter.

After only an hour's hike along the trail, I came upon this beautiful tidal flat. In addition to this elaborate bridge, it was not uncommon to see planks across the path on other parts of the trail as well due to the excessive moisture on Stewart Island. In fact the day before I arrived, I spoke with a young lady who had hiked the entire Northwest Curcuit over the course of 12 days. She told me that although the first part of the trail was boarded, the rest was covered in an even layer of about 1 foot of mud, making it nearly impossible to traverse. Thanks to her advice, I chose to hike the 3 day loop instead.

Over the course of my hike, I walked across four or five wire bridges like this one. If they hadn't been securely anchored on either end, I would have felt uneasy using them.

This was the first of three camp sites along the Northwest Curcuit. Although I met very few people on the trail that day, that night the cabin where I slept was nearly full. There were two groups of trampers. One had just come from the northern tip of Stewart Island. They were all wearing gators and their boots were soaked. The other had spent the past two days at this very spot fishing for their dinners.

In my opinion, this was the most beautiful part of the trail. After reaching a summit between the first and second cabins, I descended into this diverse landscape. If I'd had a zoom lense, I would have taken close-up photographs of the foliage.

This photo was taken at another campsite just a few minutes away from the above photo. Overall, the campsites and cabins were in excellent shape. Since trails are the only means of transportation besides boats and helicopters, the park service pays hut wardens to live at intervals along the trail and maintain them. Stewart Island reminded me of the Ray Bradbury story in which Venus has been populated by humans. Since, much like on Stewart Island, it never stops raining, the inhabitants are forced to build "sun domes" to create artifical heat. If it weren't for the cabins along this trail, I'm not certain whether I would have risked the elements.

Ahhhh...what a beautiful afternoon. I discovered this small patch of grass on the water's edge just before completing the last leg of my hike back to Halfmoon Bay. If I had decided to stay the night, this certainly would have been my spot of choice. On another note, I was very lucky to encounter so little rain. Despite its reputation, Stewart Island treated me admirably.

Here's the dock from which the ferry returned to the mainland. Before leaving, I spent another day in town, wandering about the Wildlife Foundation's information center, drinking coffee at the bakery with my newly made English friend, Caron Malloy, and thanking Dave for his generous hospitality.