New Zealand Travelogue – Sunday, 25th October 2015

Soundtrack: Blame It On Me by George Ezra (this was playing in the gift shop when we were there)

Google Fit stats:

  • Activity: 4 hours 4 minutes
  • Distance: 15 km
  • Calories: 2,339
  • Steps: 22,007

We had a lie-in!

The sheer luxury of a lie-in at this stage in the holiday is hard to describe. We’ve had flights, appointments, tours, we’ve been shuttled back and forth, we’ve queued, we’ve waited… The freedom to just lie in today was great.

That said, we were woken by the ka kas.

‘Get up you lazy sods!’

You know you have been overexposed to nature when an endangered species comes to your window to sing you awake and you want it to shut up!

We got up gradually instead of in a rush and headed out for a breakfast of crepes at the Kiwi-French Café (KFC, geddit?)

Kiwi-Frech Café

Had a wee walk around the town and the shops.

Even the oystercatchers here are All Blacks

Then we decided to walk out to Lee Bay to see the other end of the chains. They’re 6km away (the guidebook says 5km). A 12km walk is a long walk for me, but I guess it’s nothing for the locals and the Serious Walkers who come here.

“There’s a voice, that keeps on calling me…”

The scenery on the walk was – and I know I’m over-using the word – stunning.

A gorgeous bay

The Bathing Beach

Another gorgeous bay

SWMBO and bay

After 6km we got to the chain. And I did tell you earlier there was a story behind the chain…

The story behind the chain

And in case you can’t see what that picture says, here’s the text:

Te Puka – the anchorstone

Maori creation stories tell how Maui, a legendary Polynesian voyager, pulled up from the sea floor the anchor stone Te Puka a Maui (Stewart Island/Rakiura) to act as an anchor for the great ancestral canoe Te Waka o Aoraki (South Island of New Zealand)

The stylised anchor chain is secured firmly on land by a shackle but disappears beneath Foveaux Strait/Te Ara a Kewa to remind us of the physical and spiritual connections between Stewart Island Rakiura and Bluff/Motu Pohue, the traditional tauripa or stern post of Te Waka o Aoraki.

The chain links also symbolise a history of inter-relationships that have given the peoples of Stewart Island/Rakiura a strong sense of heritage and identity.

The chain going into the water

Ain’t that nice? A chain that is welded to the earth on the Stewart Island, disappears under the sea to reappear at Stirling Point in Bluff, where it’s tethered to the South Island.

SWMBO and chain

Me and chain

And of course we took a Feetstagram.

Chain feetstagram!

And finally for the chains – a picture that was literally days in the making:

SWMBO in the chain on the South Island, me in the chain on Stewart Island

The guide book said it was 5km from Halfmoon Bay to Lee Bay but it lied.

5km my arse

After our 12km walk we had lunch (soup) in the hotel and went to the Foot Massage stall beside the KFC so I could get a foot massage. And I failed. The girl doing them said she had a sore shoulder but wanted to keep the sign up for visibility and promotion. She wouldn't be able to do a foot massage until next month. I said I won't be here next month... Ah well. My sore feet and I (and SWMBO!) went back to our room for a cuppa.

Just some ducks, walking across the path

Then it was dinner in the Kai Kart. We had to phone Phillip again at 7pm for the go/no-go for the kiwi tour but it was looking likely. We met a couple at the Kai Kart who were also taking the kiwi tour -  they’d spoken to Phillip more recently than us, and they said he said it was looking good for tonight. So we went to the pub for some of the quiz, although if the tour was on we’d have to leave before it finished.

The pub was packed with teams – I think a lot of the island turns out every week for this quiz. One of the bar staff – she was from Derry! – added us on to a team of folks from the DoC. They seemed to have the quiz well in hand but we did manage to answer a few questions. And the girl from Derry was the one asking the questions, so all the locals complained they couldn’t understand her. Poor girl! We had no trouble making out what she said.

Mid-quiz, SWMBO popped out to phone Phillip and we were told the kiwi tour was on! So we headed to the docks to get the boat before 9pm.

Ready to go!

The beach where we were going to spot kiwis was on an island about half an hour away by boat. (It’s the same island David Attenborough went to film kiwis for the Life of Birds series!) The aim was to get there at the feeding time for the kiwis, which is just after dusk.

Heading out

There’s never a guarantee that people will see a kiwi on these tours. They’re hard to spot, and sometimes you just don’t get to see one. Phillip was hopeful we’d see a kiwi, and said the odds were in our favour, but that he had had a few trips when they just didn’t see any kiwis at all.

Snapper SWMBO

We arrived and were loaned torches for the trip from the jetty to the beach. We were told not to use the torches on the beach (it annoys the kiwis) and not to talk if there were kiwis around (kiwis are very sensitive to sounds). We were also told how far to stay away from the kiwis, but that no-one had told the kiwis this so if they came towards us we had to stay still until they got bored and left us alone!

The trip to the beach was through the bush (I’m still not used to being able to say that!) and it was far enough. The paths which have been terrific so far were still good here, mostly – although there was one area with a rope bannister to help.

We got to the beach and started walking along it. The guide would sometimes stop us and investigate an area further, and then dismiss it and we’d walk on.

This went on for the full length of the beach. No kiwis.

There were some deer prints in the sand. I didn’t know this, but sometimes deer go swimming! The white-tailed deer here are, of course, an import, but they’re wild on this island.

And there was a seal. A seal on the beach minding its own business, who greatly (and loudly) protested at a group of humans wanting to use the beach at the same time. The guide chased him or her off.

And then, on the walk back along the beach, the guide spotted a kiwi! She was out on the fringe of the beach, feeding away. I was impressed that the guide was able to spot her – it was dark and there wasn’t much movement to see.

We moved in for a closer look, being sure to keep the appropriate distance. And we stood there and watched as the kiwi just went about doing kiwi things.

Photos and drawings of kiwis don’t really do them justice. They’re lovely creatures, and when you see them you just want to protect them and make sure nothing bad happens to them. I can really understand the fondness New Zealanders have for the bird now. They’re flightless, they’ve no real wings to speak of, no tail at all, huge feet, and very long beaks, but they’re just beautiful in real life.

I could’ve stood there watching them for days if they’d let me. And if I didn’t swing for the idiot who kept talking. (Seriously? Why would you do that? We paid to come here and maybe see a kiwi and you want to talk and scare it away?)

People are idiots.

So we watched the kiwi some more, and then watched as she walked away. The guide then dug up where the kiwi was feeding to show the bugs she’d been able to eat with her beak. Fascinating that the kiwi can smell the bugs even when they’re buried.

I didn’t take any snaps of the kiwi spotting because it was dark, and flashes/lights/torches would upset the kiwi. But I do have the memory of this adorable creature feeding on a beach, with a bunch of humans watching on.

We got the boat back and then headed in to the pub for a wee drink before bed. Turns out the DoC folks had won the quiz! I don’t think we answered enough questions to make a difference, I’m pretty sure they’d have won anyway. But still, a nice end to the evening.

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