Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Catlins to Stewart Island, the third Isle of New Zealand

Yipee, I get a go at the blog!

(Glen, about time!)

So we are on our second night in the Catlins, last night we stayed at Tawanui and tonight at Purakaunui Bay campsites. Both in great locations, we had a walk this morning along the Catlins River Track where we encountered a nice swingbridge, lots of fantails, one walking with me for a good 10 minutes. And so many different mushrooms, none of which were edible .... Great place for a fun guy ... Get it?

We took a short walk to Purakaunui Falls

Purakaunui Bay is a beautiful light sandy beach with some great waves, complete with a tagged fur seal splashing itself with sand (K789).

There are signs something may be going into the dunes and we wait for this evening to see if there are penguins, it's raining now though.

Tomorrow we plan on heading to Invercargil, via Papatowai, McLean Falls and Curio Bay.

The something into the dunes ended up being the seals.

McLean falls were quite spectacular, lots of water coming down, easy access to get in amongst the rocks, Curio bay had a Petrified Forest (so scared because it couldn't swim), there were also yellow eyed penguins, but we didn't see any.

Tomorrow we fly to Stewart Island.

The flight was awesome, Glen had the co-pilots seat, and I chose the back (safest place to be! They never reverse into mountains) it was a little plane with 6 seats but we were the only passengers.  Flight was nice and smooth and the pilot had a little fun when coming into land pulling 2G's banking and dropping down to the beach landing which was nice and gentle.  It was the pilots 1000th flying hour, he was a mere 23 years old!  (Thank you for the advice Ralph).

Masons Bay Hut is just a short distance behind the dunes, we left our bags there and went up the big Sandhill where we saw the footprints of a Kiwi. We are going to head out when it gets dark see if we can spot one.

No luck Kiwi spotting last night but keep reading ...
We had a slow start this morning (it's my birthday!), leaving at 1030 for the walk to Freshwater Hut, this we were warned would be a muddy walk and it was, but nothing too bad. It was rainy but we arrived at the hut about 4 hrs later to light the fire, pending the arrival of our tramping buddies also coming from Masons Bay hut.  
The walk was mostly on a track between two man made canals, the track being the mound of earth taken out of each.  
After about 2 hours of walking I spotted a Brown Kiwi, about 15 metres from us, I quickly took a photo approaching slowly and taking photos in fear of it running away.  Eventually we were only 5 meters from it, whilst it was aware of us it wasn't bothered and was feeding and walking around, we stood still as it walked a couple of feet around us, sniffed Glens shoe and then pottered off down the track.  You can see why it was known as a Weka with a walking stick, I think without its long beak it would fall on its face!

Hard to photograph as it doesn't stay still!

The hut is fairly full now and most of us get the water taxi in the morning to Oban, I've had a few lumps of coconut ice as a birthday treat.

Glen - Sherren disturbed a deer when she went to the toilet last night. It must have been a red deer as it crashed off into the bush without the grace that the white tail have.

Taxi to town was pretty cool. Weaving up the channel of the river out into the harbour. I even saw a blue penguin on the way. Guess it proof wildlife does exist, even if it is in dwindling numbers. 

As the water taxi turned each corner we saw another beautiful bay, I was half expecting to see a Hilton International perched on a hill, but thankfully not. Oban (the town) is tiny and all about the walkers, you can even get a foot rub! We said goodbye to our intrepid friends and began the Rakiura Great walk straight away.  The sun really warmed up and it was a relaxing walk to the first hut where we now sit basking in the sunshine, batting away bumble bees with a stick and splatting sand flies which sadly you don't feel until they are biting!

Tomorrow's forecast is warm again, and we have a 6h walk to the next hut. Every day my pack gets lighter as we eat more food, Glens got heavier today as we bought 6 apples and a bag of liquorice.

Glen - We stopped at Maori Bay campsite to use the toilets only to find people have been shitting on the lawn outside and throwing their toilet paper in the bush. If I catch one of these filthy fuckers I'll get out my machete and make them eat it! The only inherently filthy animals on this planet are people. Reported it to the DOC ranger at Port William Hut and she didn't seem too bothered either. Not really the attitude you'd like to see on the great walks.

So we woke to a sunny but cold morning, we shared the hut with schoolies from Dunedin, 14 kids in total, international students, all very well behaved, from good class families who can afford NZD 7500 tuition fees per term.  To miss them on the trail we left early and with lots of rest stops and a lunch stop we still made it to the hut by 2pm.  It was a good trail, but quite boring, through young forrest which was a bit samey, we saw very little bird life quite disappointing but given they were extensively logging the area I figure it will take time for the trees and birds to come back.  Glen's beady eyes spotted a White Tail Deer which I caught a glimpse of as it bounded away, far too quick for a photo!

Tomorrow we walk the short track back to Oban and maybe treat ourselves to chips for lunch ....

Glen - Got up to use the facilities in the night (it's a sign of old age) and saw a possum and a ferrel cat. We've seen possums on the 3 great walks we've done now. Just not acceptable. Of all places these should be pest free. As for the ferrel cat, they will eat Kiwi chicks and although they probably won't go for an adult, I doubt they'll share the same space. Rumour has it, that although there are good numbers of kiwi around, their population is rapidly ageing as a result of such incidents. 

All bird or egg eating pests. Cats, rats, ferrets, stoats, weasels, possums, pigs, although not inherently evil creatures (they only live by the laws of nature), wreak havoc on the wildlife here and need to be eradicated. And national parks should be on the top of the list. I know they're not to blame. People put them there but if they don't remove them we'll see the extinction of almost all New Zealand bird life. Then on top of those we have pests that destroy the flora too.

(Sherren - a weed is just a flower in the wrong place, I'm not convinced on the pest control measures, aren't they just animals in the wrong place ... Perhaps repatriation is the answer.)

More possums last night, caught them eating the new shoots off young Rimu tree. Then awoke to a deer on the lawn. Another white tail hind again. I sat and watched it at the window for nearly 10 minutes. It new I was there and walked up to the glass and kept peeking in. Too dark for photos. I know they are also a pest but numbers a kept low by recreational hunting and thus minimises the impact on the environment.

I may always sound like the cynic on this trip. It's not all that bad but the state of New Zealand's environment has deteriorated so much it's hard to not say anything. I think I notice more so due to my absence as apposed to someone living here witnessing a much slower rate of change.

On the up  side. The people we've met in the huts are mostly amazing and interesting folk you can talk to for hours. Not the sort you find crapping all over great walk trails I hope. And the environment is still beautiful even if some of it is in a state of decline or regeneration.

Sherren - Our walk out to Oban was quick, only 4 hours later we were sitting down for some hot chips in town. Didn't see much wildlife on the way out, and I am hoping that Ulva Island tomorrow will be the sanctuary it promises to be. 
We bought some fresh veg in the local shop and prices aren't too bad. It's a small town of just over 300 people, almost the entire population of the Island is in this town, and everyone knows each other by name.  It's industry is built around tourists and the tramping, everyone is super friendly.  We have been so lucky with the weather and other than the rain overnight last night it has been sunny and warm out of the wind, hopefully more of the same for the next few days.
We are staying at a backpackers tonight and tomorrow night, it's actually one of the nicest we've been in, and has awesome hot showers.
Oh! I nearly forgot, I was stung by a wasp today, right behind the knee, boy did that hurt, it's okay now though, just another red lump to add to the mosquito and sandfly bites.

Glen - St Patrick's day today. A real hoot for a tee totaler. It's freezing cold and the locals are out in t-shirt and jandals (that's flip flops or thongs for you skippies and pomes). Seen an abundance of bird life on Ulva Island today. Albatross (little ones, 2.2M wingspan. They get to 3.6M), Kaka, Wood Pigeon, Tui, Rifleman, Parakeet, Saddleback, Weka, Bellbird and Stewart Island Robin.
Now there's no danger of me becoming a bird watcher by any stretch of the imagination. I'll forget most those names in a week or so but it is great to see them flourish somewhere.
For anyone intending to visit Ulva Island, this is not an avery. Life only exists in proportion with what the nature of the land will allow. I hear some folk come away disappointed. Perhaps they need to visit the zoo!

Only saw 2 types of pests on Ulva, people (hand feeding robins bread and seeds which don't form part of their natural diet) and wasps.
Sherren - ditto, it was fab! Freezing cold though.  Back to Invercargil tomorrow.

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