jen yu: new zealand 2007 - day 9

new zealand 2007 - day 9

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stewart island, ulva island
march 26, 2007
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Leaving Invercargill by 8:10 am, we arrived in Bluff at the south end of the South Island by 8:30 and parked in the ferry long term car park. The terminal had several brochures for activities on Stewart Island and the kayak hire caught my eye. The ferry was a catamaran that held about 80 passengers. This day had somewhat rough seas and the ride across the Foveaux Straight to Stewart Island was exciting. Unfortunately, it was a little too exciting for the poor woman sitting behind us, and she spent the entire hour vomiting into a bag.

When we unloaded at the wharf in Half Moon Bay on Stewart Island, the air was almost chilly and the skies overcast. Jeremy picked up our bag and we walked a short distance to the South Sea Hotel, where I had booked a motel room for two nights. We had to wait for our room to be cleaned, so we registered with the DOC office for our hike the next day. I went to inquire with Rakiura Kayaks for a kayak hire, which Liz said she could arrange for a half day. People on the island tend to be short on words and not terribly interested in feigning... interest. The woman at the South Sea Hotel desk definitely made you feel like you didn't exist. When our room was ready, we dropped our belongings and prepared sandwiches for lunch before setting out to meet Liz at something bay. I didn't quite catch what she had said.

Jeremy and I walked up and down the steep roads to the other side where various wharfs were located. We were headed to Golden Bay when I saw Liz's van pass us and honk. We were supposed to meet her at Thule Bay, but she muttered, "turlee" when I would have pronounced it "toolee" and I assumed it was golden. Way to endear myself to the islanders... We got set up in the double sea kayak and were planning to paddle across Paterson Inlet to Ulva Island, the bird sanctuary. After a two-minute crash course on emergency procedures, Jeremy and I were even more daunted by our crossing. The winds were up and the chop was bigger than any we had paddled before (this was our fourth paddling trip ever). So when we set out, we paddled as if our very lives depended on it.

It wasn't so terrible, but the chop in the middle was definitely cause for some anxiety. We managed to get across to West End Beach just fine and beached the craft on the shore. Wekas came up to greet us and inspect everything as we tethered the boat to a tree and changed into our hiking boots. We only had a couple of hours to hike the trails on the island and return, so we hiked quickly. The forested trails were lovely and they all led to some beachy destination. The main reason for coming to Ulva Island is to see the birdlife. There are no predators on this island, except for rats who eat the eggs. We did see a rat terrier in an orange vest with its DOC handlers - clearly it was in search of those very rats.

We spotted several wekas, South Island robins (one attacked my boot because he wanted me off his track!), kakas (parrots), tui, wood pigeons, and bellbirds. We heard more birds than we saw, but couldn't believe how fearless they all were! Several other people were hiking the trails as they had taken the water taxi over. A few hikers at West End Beach watched us with great curiosity as we changed shoes and launched back into the inlet. It was wet and cold, but I preferred exploring Ulva Island this way - and I got an extra paddle in! The winds had died down on our return trip and the waves were smaller. We had some time to kill before arriving at Thule Bay, so we paddled about the shoreline, exploring tiny little islands littered around the inlet.

Liz gave us a ride back to the hotel and we washed up before going to dinner in the hotel dining room. The food was meh and the majority of the patronage sported the silver hairstyle of an older generation. Feeling the beginnings of a cold coming on, I retired early.

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