After hearing all about our experience doing the Routeburn Track, one of the things Gwendolyn and Tim (Miriam’s parents) absolutely had to do while they were in NZ was complete a Great Walk. Lucky for them, our boots had been getting dusty so we were yearning to embark on another one of these journeys.
Miriam, Tim, Gwendolyn, Brett, Sarah and I decided to do a 3-day, 32 km Great Walk called the Rakiura Track. We loaded up our packs with the usual snacks, wine and a few articles of clothing (Yes, everyone carried their fair share! We don’t allow wimps!) and took a 1-hour ferry ride from Bluff to Stewart Island. Next we had to hike from where the ferry docked in Oban to the start of the track.
Stewart Island tends to be colder, rainier and windier than the South Island, but as you can see from the photo above, our first day was picture-perfect. As we walked through town to the start of the track, we excitedly awaited a day spent hiking along beaches in the sunshine.
Our gang making our way into Kiwi bird territory. Due to the remoteness of Stewart Island, the absence of predators and the abundant food supply, there are an estimated 20,000 kiwi birds. We set out on a kiwi finding mission one night but didn’t have any luck.
There wasn’t much change in elevation on the Rakiura Track but occasionally we would get to the top of a hill and have an overlook over a beach and the ocean. Here’s a view of Horsehoe Bay.
There was one section on the walk where the trail splits and there’s a low tide path and a high tide path. Here, Brett and I are taking the low tide path. Judging from the water line, we just barely made it. During high tide, this part of the path would’ve been underwater.
Unfortunately there was no path leading down to these beaches. If I could have found my way down there somehow I think I would have laid down on this beach and never left, making a new life for myself. So on second thought, maybe it’s good that I couldn’t find a way down to that beach.
Here’s Gwendolyn and Tim making their way down Maori Beach. These two had heard tales of our wine, cheese and salami feasts at the huts at night, so they were always out in front. I think they were afraid that if we beat them to the hut there wouldn’t be any left for them.
As we got near the end of Maori Beach I spotted this blob in the sand. But it was just a rock so I’m just…
Nevermind! Not a rock! It was a Seal/Sea Lion taking a nap on the beach. This guy wasn’t all cute and cuddly like the ones we saw in Kaikoura and he growled at us when we got to close. Message received big guy.
Not wanting to get my hand bit off, I left this loose seal alone. Actually I don’t know if it was a Seal or a Sea Lion, I just couldn’t resist the opportunity for an Arrested Development reference. COME ON!
After 4 hours and 8.1 km we made it to the Port William Hut to spend the night. This beach was just a short hike from our hut. As we recovered with wine and cheese, Tim seemed to be thinking “I’ve made a huge mistake.”
Day 2 started with Miriam locking herself in a bathroom with a bee. Apparently the bee was claustrophobic and took its fear out on Miriam.
Our hike wasn’t as picturesque as day 1 as we spent the day hiking 13 km through the lush forests on the interior of the island instead of on sandy beaches.
“Daaaad. Can you make us a tree house???”
After about 5 hours and 13 km we made it to the North Arm Hut where we were going to spend the night. At this point, the Williamson parents realized completing this trek was doable, and were in the mood for a celebration. Paterson Inlet was a short walk from our hut and we were told that at low tide you could scoop fresh mussels up out of the water. Always fans of fresh seafood, we decided to see if we could forage for some food.
It turns out we are better at finding Mussels than finding kiwi birds. If I had to pick one to be better at finding I would choose Mussels because you can’t eat kiwi birds. Were these mussels good, you ask? I’ll let Brett answer that one…
It poured all night so we were expecting an extremely soggy third and final day. Lucky for us, the rain slowed right before we left in the morning. Which always goes to show, the early bird may get the worm, but the last group to leave the hut in the morning gets the least wet.
After an hour or so, the rain stopped and it was an easy hike from there on.
You would never know that this was Tim and Gwendolyn’s first multi-day hike. They blazed the trails like seasoned hikers.
Cool pants, Miriam.
Stewart Island was a very unique environment to do a Great Walk. Up until now, all of our hikes had been through mountainous terrain, so it was nice to do one where we got to hike on beaches and through an island. It was also heaps of fun having a big group to enjoy the experience with.