By the time we arrived, I should have been exhausted. After all, I’d barely had 2 hours’ sleep the night before but for some reason all I wanted to do was wander around instead of crashing out. The South Sea hotel I’d booked into was right on the front by the bay so very easy to find. At NZ$60 a night, it was also a bargain though on arrival I found out there were several backpacker places I could probably have gotten for significantly less. Mind, once I saw the room… it was huge with two beds, a kitchen (no oven, but a fridge, toaster, kettle and microwave) and a lovely bathroom with a big shower. And as another bonus… free wireless courtesy of another leaky signal.
I unpacked then walked round to the Department of Conservation office to pay for my trip to Ulva later in the evening. I also asked about any decent walks that would take a couple of hours and was given several suggestions.
A quick trip to the local store and I had beans on toast for lunch – the first time in over two months! Then I saddled up and went walking.
Before I launch into all the details, Stewart Island is a phenomenally beautiful place. It has a tiny human population and the vast amount of it is unspoiled nature. Given how close it is to the Antarctic, the woods look almost like rain forest with thick trees everywhere and the birdlife is magnificent. At the start of my walk I was deluged with birdcalls, from the R2D2-like bleeps and farts of the Tui to squawks from huge parrots. As one point, I turned a corner to see an enormous bird with a scary beak and wide claws diving in to attack me. Well, that’s what I thought when I yelped and jumped backwards. It was actually a parrot braking in midair before swooping up onto a branch.
In two hours of walking I saw three other people. They were together as a group and sat having a rest after just doing the same walk as me, but in the other direction. After that – nobody. It was wonderful. In places, the sounds of life were deafening. In others, there was no sound, especially on some of the beaches. Two birds wading about stabbing into the ground for insects or whatever and the sea barely whispering as it washed gently up and down on the sand. Utter silence.