Woke this morning to squalling wind and rain. Whilst not entirely desirable for a sea voyage, I don't suppose one can venture into the heart of the 'Roaring Forties' and expect it not to be a bit breezy.
We drove down to Bluff, the oldest town in NZ which was established in 1824. We visited Sterling Point, the most southerly point on the South Island accessible by road. As far as tourist attractions go, it's right up there with the world's tallest filing cabinet and Hawera water tower, though admittedly the view was better.
Back in town we parked the car, grabbed our overnight bags and headed for the ferry terminal. At 9:30am we set sail across Foveaux Strait bound for Stewart Island.
Stewart Island is NZ's third largest island. Check out a map, it's that chunk of land floating around right down the bottom.
The ride across was pretty rough, we saw one wave that crested higher than the boat. Most people sat in silence praying for it to be over. One guy barfed most of the way, another girl clung to the seat in front of her in absolute terror. Lil Sis just dealt with it, and me? I bloody loved it.
We docked in Oban an hour later, the only town on the island, with a population of about 400.
First up we dropped our bags at the South Sea Hotel, an icon of the island and the only pub (and not unlike the Seaview in John O'Groats). Then we headed over to Golden Bay, (and when I say over, I mean we walked straight up 350 metres and then straight down 350 metres), Stewart Island certainly is a hilly place.
Golden Bay is now officially the furthest south we have ever been.
After consulting the map, we decided that the three kilometre walk around the coastline would prove the better option because as well as being a lovely walk through the rainforest it would be flat. Wrong. I don't even know how it's possible for a walk to be uphill all the way and next to the water at the same time but it seemed to be.
And the weather here is erratic. They say you get four seasons in one day and they're right. When the sun comes out it's quite warm, but then the clouds roll over and the rain starts and gale force winds whip up, but even that only lasts five minutes before the sun is shining again.
Along the walk we did spot a couple of new birds including a curious Weka (a flightless type of rail) and a Kaka (a large olive green and pink parrot). We also had the chance to watch a pair of pretty Red-crowned Parakeets feeding.
Towards the end of our tramp we popped out of the forest back into town, and yep, we were at the top of a big hill. It started to rain (again) so we tramped back down to our hotel and got some lunch.
During our meal we had views looking out over Halfmoon Bay, and I lost count of the times the weather alternated between sunshine and squalling rain.
After lunch we wandered around town a little, finding shop porches to shelter under each time the rain blew in.
Eventually we decided we needed to find an indoor activity so we headed for the Bunkhouse Theatre where a forty minute film made by the locals about the history of the island was showing. It features Lola the dog, a blue and while Staffordshire Terrier, and is a funny look at life on the island. Whilst waiting in the foyer we noticed a picture of Prince Harry meeting Lola (he visited Stewart Island on his latest tour of NZ and even attended the pub quiz which happens every Sunday night).
The theatre itself was quite cute, a little 36 seat cinema.
The island began as a whaling station, then was used for milling timber and then as a base for fishermen. There are a few farms, mainly to supply the locals with meat, and now the economy is based around salmon, mussel and oyster farming.
When the movie finished the actual Lola the dog was waiting in the foyer so we met her and got photos and an autograph.
By this stage it was about 5:00pm and the weather wasn't looking too bad so we did a short tramp through a patch of rainforest in town up to Traill Park just in case the rain had brought any kiwis out. It hadn't but there were some oystercatchers feeding on the footy field and a few Kaka flew over.
On the walk back down we decided to change our ferry booking, which originally we had for 3:30 tomorrow afternoon but this afternoon's ferries were cancelled due to bad weather and the weather is expected to be the same for tomorrow. Being stuck on the island wouldn't be the worst thing in the world but we have an exciting excursion booked for the day after tomorrow that we don't want to miss.
We had dinner (Stewart Island salmon which was delicious) at the South Sea (where else?) with views of the bay again and this time a beautiful rainbow was thrown in.