For my last big trip, I decided to finally get down to Stewart Island. It was my top destination all semester. Alayna, a fellow IES’er also wanted to get there before she left the country, so we made plans to hit it during study break. I know most people at UC use that period to actually prepare for final exams. To this notion we responded, “YOLO”, ditched the books, and caught a bus down to Invercargill. Another friend, Hailey, decided to join us at the last minute.
After our friend Nico, an Italian guy who we met at the hostel in Invercargill, drove us down to Bluff the next morning, we boarded the ferry in the light rain. The choppy ride ended in the smooth waters of Halfmoon Bay adjacent to Oban Township—the village of 400 people and the only permanent settlement on Stewart Island. We hit the Rakiura track a bit after twelve and enjoyed the coastline views, getting to the first hut at about five. Then, I headed for a swim in the chilly bay. Pasta and beans for dinner. We shared the hut with no one except for a couple from Germany.
The next day we awoke to a beautiful blue sky. Alayna made breakfast while I mourned over my socks, which had become charred and crispy due to being left on the stove to dry for too long during the night. I was down to two pair of dry socks.
We started hiking at around eleven. Almost immediately, we noticed the deep mud on the trail that makes Stewart Island notorious among trampers. However, once we realized that staying clean and dry on the trail was not a realistic expectation, the mud became one of the most fun things about tramping on the island. I myself created a game by trying to step into the deepest pockets of mud. Thank God we all had gaiters.
That night, we struggled to build a fire in the hut. However, we found that wool socks, especially those with no further realistic use as footwear, make a great fire starter when dipped in stove gas. We were all exhausted from a long day of tramping and slept like rocks.
The next morning we set off on the final leg of our journey, again through the mud. Finally we reached town at around four o’clock in the afternoon, just in time to hit the grocery store and head up the hill to Marc’s place, rented by a guy who I met on Couchsurfer.org, a website that matches travelers to people all over the world that are willing to provide accommodation in exchange for some company. It was quite an interesting first experience with the free service. Marc, a Swiss transplant who works at an oyster farm on the island nearly didn’t show up. He was late from work and I had not contacted him for the past few days. So while assuming that he wasn’t on the island and simply forgot to tell us, we started walking back into town to find a place to stay for the night. While walking through the dark, we saw headlights approaching. It was him! The three of us rejoiced, knowing we wouldn’t have to spend a night out in the cold.
The next morning, the three of us wanted to go to Ulva Island, which is a bird sanctuary across the inlet from Oban. A man named Peter, who runs a ferry service, brought us over on his boat. I’m not an ornithologist, but it was really cool seeing some rare bird species digging for bugs in the dirt right next to you. We then hung out on the beach and ate lunch. That night, the three of us sat next to the fire and listened to Marc tell about his European-Asian-African road trip odyssey, in which he and a buddy drove from Switzerland to South Africa overland in eight months. The next morning, we hustled to catch the ferry back to Bluff.
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<div><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">My name is Robbie Latta and I am a junior studying civil engineering at Purdue University in lovely West Lafayette, Indiana. I am also a member of the Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity on campus. I like to spend time outside, bike, play hockey when I am home in Minnesota, write, and spend time with my friends. I am coming to New Zealand to explore the Kiwi lifestyle and have some fun!</span></div>