After a good night’s sleep everyone was woken to the bird song including some insistent kaka outside the motels hoping for snacks (a no-no) and happily posing for photographs.
Having kayaked, tramped and boated around parts of Stewart island it was quite novel to find myself organizing everyone onto a bus for a tour of the few kms of road on the island.
Our guide was extremely engaging and informative and had everyone enthralled with stories of the area, history of the fishing and fishermen, and the recent demise of the fleet. Talk too of the disappearance of unregistered vehicles as the mainland rules encroached on island life. The scenery of course, spoke for itself. We drove out to the gateway to Rakiura National park at Lees Bay where some took a short walk to the actual entrance while others just enjoyed the tranquility of the place.
Talk shifted to the chance of seeing a kiwi and our guide told us of kiwi frequenting the local rugby field at night, so plans were made for any night owls to join me that evening in search of these nocturnal beauties.
The afternoon boat cruise was in glorious conditions and access on and off the boat was easy even for those with aging hips and walking sticks. As we sailed out around the Ackers point and into Paterson Inlet the boat paused as Bullers Mollymawks and Cape pigeons swooped and dived around us. Our destination was Ulva Island a predator free Island nestled in the inlet and free to visit for all. The tracks are wide and in places board walked so accessible for everyone in the group. Our guide took us through beautiful native forest and back along a stretch of beach answering questions and pointing out the island's special residents….the sociable South Island Robin, Saddleback scratching away in the undergrowth, Greywarbler singing in the trees along with Tui, Bellbirds and the ubiquitous Weka.
The afternoon flew and before we knew it, we were back on the boat heading for Oban and some free time. For some a beer at the pub and chatting to locals, others a walk along the foreshore, a visit to the visitors centre and yet others to the Glowing sky store for merino clothing. This little business was the brainchild of a Stewart Island fisherman whose foray into the clothing manufacturing started as screen printing in his garage and eventually expanded to wonderful woolen garments made in NZ and sold locally.
Dinner at the pub again, good hearty Southland meals and lots of chatter. Later a couple of the group joined me as we headed out into a misty evening in search of kiwi. The ruby field was soggy underfoot more suited to kiwi than rugby. We heard Kiwi calling but alas they eluded us while others walking down the road nearby saw one stroll across in front of them. The end of a good day.